Cheverus girls rally to stun Gorham in quarterfinals

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Cheverus’ girls’ soccer team exults after upsetting Gorham, 2-1, in overtime, in Tuesday’s Class A South quarterfinal. The Stags advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2010 where they’ll meet top-ranked Scarborough this weekend.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

GORHAM—A memorable season was hanging in the balance for Cheverus’ girls’ soccer team Tuesday evening, but the Stags refused to go quietly and after a dazzling counter and a fortunate bounce, they lived to play another day.

The Stags went to defending regional champion Gorham in a Class A South quarterfinal and after a relatively uneventful first half, fell behind, 1-0, as Rams junior Hallie Shiers scored on a rebound with 33:40 to play.

Cheverus was still down by that margin as the game grew late, but with 12:30 on the clock, the visitors drew even, as sophomore Emma Gallant fed freshman Lily Paszyc for the equalizer.

The game would go to overtime and there, just 86 seconds in, senior Mackenzie Johnston sent a seemingly innocuous shot on goal and after the ball took a bad bounce, it deflected into the net to give the Stags an inspirational 2-1 victory.

Cheverus improved to 14-2, won a quarterfinal for the first time since 2010, ended Gorham’s season at 10-3-2 and advanced to the semifinals where it will visit top-ranked Scarborough (14-0-1) this weekend at a time to be announced.

“It feels so awesome, one of the best feelings in the world,” Johnston said. “One thing I’ve learned about this team is that we never give up.”

Nemesis

While Cheverus and Gorham didn’t meet in the regular season, the Rams have long stymied the Stags.

Entering play Tuesday, Gorham had beaten Cheverus six straight times and in 13 of 16 all-time meetings, with the Stags winning just once (in 2010) and two other games ending in ties.

The Rams had taken each of the previous four playoff encounters (see sidebar, below, for results).

Both teams enjoyed solid seasons leading into the playoffs.

Gorham, last year’s Class A South champion, lost at home to Kennebunk and at Marshwood and settled for scoreless ties at Deering and at home against Scarborough, but won its other 10 games to wind up fourth in the region.

Cheverus started with a last-second loss at Kennebunk, then rattled off nine straight victories. After falling at Scarborough, the Stags won their final three contests to finish with a program-best 12 regular season wins, but that was only good for the No. 5 seed in Class A South. Friday, Cheverus blanked No. 12 Sanford, 4-0, in the preliminary round.

Tuesday, with the rain staying away and the temperatures staying comfortable in the 60s, the Stags dug a hole, but saved their best for last.

Neither team could generate much in the first half, but play picked up dramatically in the second half.

Gorham turned up the pressure coming out of the break, earning a corner kick, but after the ball was served into the box, Cheverus was able to clear it out of harm’s way.

At the other end, Gallant had a promising look after getting past the defense, but her low shot rolled just wide of the far post.

The Rams would strike with 33:40 to play, as junior Emma Forgues’ cross was stopped by a Stags’ defender, but the ball came right to Shiers, who fired it past Cheverus freshman goalkeeper Neve Cawley for a 1-0 lead.

Gorham tried to double its lead, but Forgues shot just wide, a long Shiers shot was saved by Cawley and freshman Olivia Michaud missed just wide.

The Stags then looked to counter, as Gallant had a shot saved and Cheverus had a couple corner kicks, but couldn’t finish. 

After Gallant had a free kick blocked, sophomore Lauren Jordan had a shot from the side, but Rams senior goalkeeper Michelle Rowe made the save.

But just when things were looking bleak, the Stags countered with a stunning goal to tie the score.

With 12:30 left, after a turnover, Gallant, who had been dropped back from her usual striker position, threaded a beautiful pass to Paszyc behind the defense and Paszyc drew Rowe out of the goal before firing a shot just inside the right post to tie the contest, 1-1.

“Emma is such a good teammate,” Paszyc said. “She made it so easy for me. I was trying to send it bottom corner because the goalie was coming out.”

“We gave them a little different look on our attack,” said Cheverus coach Craig Roberts. “That allowed us to have more technical and attack-minded players up front. We dropped Emma off their backs so she was face up with the ball. That opened up space in the middle. Lily made a great run. She was so composed to just put it into the right side like that. It was impressive. We weren’t sure where she should play early in the season. She’s had a good last few weeks of the season. That goal gave us momentum and propelled us forward.”

The Stags nearly won it late in regulation, but Jordan shot just wide, Gallant missed just high and Jordan missed wide again.

The game would go to overtime, which in the playoffs, consists of two 15-minute, “sudden victory” sessions.

Cheverus wouldn’t need long to complete its comeback.

Johnston would end it with 13:34 left in the first OT, getting the ball in the middle of the field and eluding a defender before shooting low on Rowe. Just before the ball got to the keeper, it hit something that cause it to bounce, which the goalie wasn’t expecting, and the ball bounced off of Rowe and into the cage to bring the match to a stunning end, giving the Stags a 2-1 victory.

“I figured it was overtime, so why not?” said Johnston said. “I had some good luck. 

“Once they scored, we got amped up more. We got our goal and got momentum and it worked out well. We knew we had to stay positive.”

“We continued to attack and we got the result in overtime,” Roberts said. “I felt like we had momentum going in. I can’t say enough about MJ as a leader. She had a knee injury in the summer and missed some time, but she’s a senior captain and we tell her to be selfish and put balls on net. It’s slick out there and their keeper played a good game, but we got a fortunate bounce and capitalized.

“We’re resilient. We’re experienced. Last year’s freshmen are now sophomores and that year of experience helps give us more urgency than last year. The underclassmen want to play for the seniors. The seniors have been critical to the growth of the program. We had growing pains, but they’re resilient.”

Cheverus had a 4-1 edge in corner kicks and was out-shot, 5-4, but got four saves from Cawley. Rowe made two saves for Gorham.

Back to Scarborough

In the regular season meeting, Oct. 7, Cheverus dug a quick hole and never recovered in a 3-0 loss at Scarborough.

The Red Storm took all three prior playoff meetings against the Stags, with a 2-0 victory in the 2011 Western A quarterfinals the most recent. 

This time around, Cheverus hopes to keep its good times rolling.

“We have a really good chance of going far this year,” Johnston said. “We have to come out with the same mentality the next time.”

“We felt like we’re one of the top teams in the league,” Roberts said. “We were a little worried we hadn’t played a lot of big games and I think that showed the first time against Scarborough the first five minutes.

“This gives us a lot of confidence. To beat a program like (Gorham) on their field is impressive. To be the best team, you have to beat teams like Gorham and Scarborough.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Cheverus sophomore Lauren Jordan races up the field as Gorham junior Caroline Gross gives chase.

Cheverus senior Michaela Jordan heads the ball away from Gorham freshman Olivia Michaud.

Cheverus sophomore Emma Gallant fights her way past Gorham junior Caroline Gross.

Cheverus freshman Lily Paszyc ties the game with a second half goal.

After the goal, Paszyc is congratulated by sophomore Lauren Jordan.

Previous Cheverus stories

Season Preview

Cheverus 2 Portland 0

Cheverus 2 Bonny Eagle 0

Scarborough 3 Cheverus 0

Previous Cheverus-Gorham playoff results

2009 Western A quarterfinals
Gorham 1 Cheverus 0 (2 OT)

2007 Western A semifinals
Gorham 2 Cheverus 1 (OT)

2006 Western A Final
Gorham 5 Cheverus 2

2005 Western A Final
Gorham 3 Cheverus 0

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.