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PORTLAND—After being hard-hit by graduation, the Cheverus field hockey team needed its younger players to quickly come of age this fall.
To the chagrin of the Deering Rams, that’s exactly what happened Wednesday afternoon.
The visiting Rams hung tough with the Stags in the first half and almost took the lead, but a momentum-turning defensive save from Cheverus sophomore Abby Ford kept the game scoreless and with 2:26 left before halftime, Stags sophomore Becca Archer scored her first varsity goal to put her team ahead to stay.
Eight minutes, 21 seconds into the second half, another Cheverus sophomore, Emily Michaud, rattled the cage to double the lead and with 12:39 left, Archer scored for a second time as the Stags went on to a 3-0 triumph, improving to 4-1 on the season, dropping Deering to 1-4-1 in the process.
“We’ve been waiting for these sophomores to step up,” said Cheverus coach Amy McMullin. “They need to help take the pressure off the older girls. That gives the seniors confidence that they can trust the younger girls. Today was hopefully a glimpse of the future. They realize now why (the coaches) been so hard on them. I’m hoping this carries over for the second half (of the season).”
Both Cheverus and Deering were playoff teams in 2012 (the Rams were ousted by Gorham in the Western A preliminary round and the Stags lost to Scarborough in the regional final), but both have stumbled at times this fall.
Cheverus not only graduated several starters, but is also without senior Alex Logan (the school’s Spring Female Athlete of the Year), who is out with a stress fracture. The Stags opened 2013 with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Westbrook and a 3-0 victory at Biddeford, then was stunned by visiting Bonny Eagle in overtime, 2-1.
While that loss stung, Cheverus used it as a learning experience.
“Every team is going to lose and we learned what we did wrong,” Ford said. “We worked in practice on what we did wrong in that game. It really helped.”
“We talked about it being disappointing, but that it could be positive,” said McMullin. “This team was riding on the past.”
The Stags bounced back by downing host Windham, 2-1.
As for Deering, it dropped a 3-0 home decision to Thornton Academy to start, then lost at Westbrook (2-1) and at home to Biddeford (3-1) before tying host Bonny Eagle (2-2) and routing visiting McAuley (15-0).
Wednesday afternoon marked the 11th all-time meeting between the schools (please see below). In the first six, Deering won five and tied one (including a 2-1 victory in the 2006 preliminary round of the playoffs), but since 2009, it’s been all Cheverus, as the Stags won four straight meetings by a composite 16-0 margin.
This time, the Rams battled Cheverus, but the Stags were able to step up when it mattered most and blanked Deering for the fifth year in a row.
Cheverus was on its heels early and just 3 minutes, 49 seconds in, McMullin called timeout.
After Deering senior Amanda LeMoult raced in only to have Michaud break up the play, the Stags managed to pressure on offense and earned their first penalty corner opportunity with 13:45 remaining in the first half.
With 9:15 to go before halftime, the Rams almost took the lead, as after a LeMoult shot was saved by Cheverus senior goalie Libby DesRuisseaux, a follow-up shot appeared on target, but out of nowhere stepped Ford and she calmly sent the ball out of harm’s way to keep it 0-0.
“We all have to step up,” Ford said. “It was just a reaction. The ball was just there and I hit it away.”
“Abby is such a great defender,” said McMullin. “We graduated our whole defense, so she plays a huge part.”
Finally, with 2:26 to play in the half, Cheverus took the lead.
The goal came off a penalty corner. Michaud inserted the ball to senior standout Elyse Caiazzo, who sent a shot on goal. Archer stuck out her stick and managed to redirect the ball past Deering sophomore goalie Sadie Rhinehardt and it was 1-0 Stags.
It was Archer’s first goal in a countable varsity contest.
“It was a corner and Elyse took the hit and it went straight to me and I tipped right into the goal,” Archer said. “It was exciting.”
“Becca’s so good at scoring,” Ford said.
Cheverus looked for another as the second half began and after Rhinehardt denied a bid by senior Laura Bither, the Stags pushed their lead to 2-0 when Michaud rebounded a Caiazzo shot with 21:39 remaining.
DesRuisseaux protected the lead with 17:05 to go, robbing LeMoult.
Then, with 12:39 left, Michaud had a shot saved, but Archer was there again and rebounded it into the cage to make it 3-0 and essentially end the competitive phase of the contest.
“I was on the stroke line and I just hit it in,” said Archer.
Caiazzo just missed a goal in the waning seconds, sending a rocket just wide and time soon ran out on the Stags’ 3-0 victory.
“It feels amazing,” Archer said. “I’m really proud of my team. I think we all played really well today. We were so enthusiastic. We believe in each other and it showed. Everyone has a role.”
Cheverus finished with an 8-3 shots advantage and had nine corners to just one for Deering. DesRuisseaux made three saves.
“Libby definitely helps us,” said Ford. “She directs traffic.”
Deering got five saves from Rhinehardt and for the most part played the Stags closer than it has in recent years.
“I’m pleased with the overall game,” said Rams’ coach Liz Koharian. “Last year, they beat us, 5-0, and dominated the game. Today, I feel we played strong. Most of our starting lineup has whatever (illness is) going around the school. We played strong in the first half. In the second half, I think we broke down. We looked exhausted.”
Deering looks to get back in the win column Friday, when it hosts Windham. After going to Gorham for a playoff rematch Tuesday, the Rams play at Marshwood Thursday of next week.
“We’re still learning, but we’re definitely coming together,” Koharian said. “It’s still a young team. The bulk of our team is sophomores. We still have a way to go, but we’re getting there. Some wins would be nice.”
Cheverus is back in action Friday at Gorham. The Stags then host dangerous Marshwood Tuesday of next week and go to contender Massabesic two days later.
“We still have a lot to work on, but we’re getting there,” Ford said. “We still have a lot of big games. This win is a big confidence boost.”
“This team is just amazing together,” said Archer. “The JV and the varsity, we don’t feel separated. It’s just one big team. I think today showed that. I think it will be a great season for us.”
“We’ll find out more about our team going forward,” McMullin added. “(Today) couldn’t have come at a better time. It was a complete team effort. I couldn’t be more proud of that sophomore group.”
Cheverus senior MaryKate Slattery keeps her eye on the ball after swatting it up the field.
Cheverus sophomore Abby Ford tries to keep up with Deering senior captain Amanda LeMoult.
Deering sophomore Kerry Wells fires a shot while Cheverus senior MaryKate Slattery defends.
Cheverus sophomore Abby Ford stymies Deering sophomore Lili Kien. Ford made a huge defensive save in the first half of the Stags’ victory.
Deering senior Colleen Donlan defends Cheverus senior Meredith Willard.
@ Cheverus 5 Deering 0
Cheverus 2 @ Deering 0
Cheverus 5 @ Deering 0
@ Cheverus 4 Deering 0
@ Deering 2 Cheverus 0
Deering 2 @ Cheverus 1 (OT)
@ Deering 2 Cheverus 0
Western A preliminary round
@ Deering 2 Cheverus 1
@ Cheverus 3 Deering 3 (tie)
@ Deering 2 Cheverus 1
Cheverus senior Elyse Caiazzo and a Deering defender fight for possession during the Stags’ 3-0 win Wednesday afternoon.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.