Cheverus starts fast, ends South Portland's win streak

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Cheverus senior Hannah Abbott (14) congratulates junior Bella Booth after Booth’s goal late in the first half of Wednesday’s home tilt against South Portland. The Stags went on to a 6-1 victory.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—If one Pompeo in a Cheverus uniform wasn’t enough to strike fear into the rest of the league, rest assured that the emergence of a second Pompeo will keep opposing coaches up at night.

Like South Portland coach Leslie Dyer, who surely won’t be sleeping much tonight after seeing Stags freshman Lucia Pompeo single-handedly put her team in an insurmountable hole in the first nine minutes of Wednesday’s contest at Shea Field. 

The Red Riots, riding a three-game win streak, hoped to avenge last year’s playoff loss to the Stags, but Cheverus, coming off its first setback of the season Monday, quickly and emphatically demonstrated that it doesn’t like losing.

Just 2 minutes, 35 seconds into the contest, Pompeo scored her first varsity goal, a backhander. She added a second exactly a minute later and with 21:21 remaining in the first half, Pompeo completed her hat trick in under nine minutes and the Stags were rolling, up, 3-0.

Junior Bella Booth added to the Cheverus lead in the 18th minute and while South Portland got a goal from senior Sara Axelrod and nearly got another, it still trailed, 4-1, at halftime.

The Stags’ “other” Pompeo, then ended all doubt a mere 83 seconds into the second half, as junior Sophia Pompeo finished off a penalty corner.

Senior Hannah Abbott added one final goal with 22:45 on the clock and Cheverus went on to a decisive 6-1 victory.

The Stags scored on 40 percent of their shots, got goals from four different players and improved to 3-1, dropping the Red Riots to 3-2 in the process.

“We talked about the loss and we knew that we had to let it go and refocus and figure out what we could do better,” Lucia Pompeo said. “South Portland was scrappy, but we just had it today.”

Rematch

Last October, the teams met in the Class A South preliminary round and Cheverus prevailed at home, 3-0, before losing to Marshwood in the quarterfinals.

This fall, both teams are off to a fast start, having lost just once apiece entering play Wednesday.

The Stags started with wins at Kennebunk (1-0) and Biddeford (2-0) before falling just short Monday at home against defending regional champion Massabesic, 3-2.

South Portland began with a 3-1 loss at Scarborough, then beat visiting Noble (3-1), host Bonny Eagle (4-2) and visiting Windham (3-1) for its longest win streak since closing the 2014 campaign with four victories in a row.

Entering play Wednesday, Cheverus had won nine of 12 all-time meetings (see sidebar, below). The Red Riots were hoping to beat the Stags for the first time since 2014 regular season finale (2-1 at home), but instead Cheverus made it four in a row in the series.

The Stags immediately went on the attack and 34 seconds in, a cross by Abbott right in front of the goal went untouched.

Lucia Pompeo’s first look came with 28:20 left, but it was denied by South Portland junior goalie Abbie Jellison. Cheverus earned a penalty corner on the play and Booth sent a shot just wide.

The Stags kept the pressure on, however, won the ball back and Booth passed the ball in to Lucia Pompeo, who wouldn’t be denied, beating Jellison for her first varsity goal and a 1-0 lead.

“That first goal was fun,” Pompeo said. “It felt good to bring the team back up after our loss.”

The Red Riots were stunned and would be staggered exactly a minute later when Pompeo scored for the second time, this time in traffic, to make the score 2-0 with 27:25 still to play in the first half.

South Portland came to life after that goal and had some good looks to cut the deficit in half, but senior Bonge Lako sent a shot just wide, junior Molly Walker had a shot saved by Cheverus senior goalie Kat Kane and Lako’s rebound was denied as well.

Pompeo then completed her hat trick with 21:21 left in the half, as she finished a feed from Abbott for a 3-0 lead.

“The other girls got me the ball and I was just there,” Pompeo said. “It’s pretty fun. I like playing with my sister a lot. She teaches me how to be a better player.”

“Lucia was great,” said Cheverus coach Sally Cloutier. “They were on Hannah strong, so that freed her up. She rang the bell. She’s got a great stick and she’s fast.”

After another Kane save on Lako, the hosts added a fourth goal, with 12:07 remaining in the half, as Abbott set up Booth.

Lucia Pompeo made a bid for her fourth goal 40 seconds later, when she rushed three-quarters of the field, through several defenders, to go one-on-one with Jellison, but at the last second, she couldn’t get her stick on the ball.

The Red Riots finally broke through with 10:11 left before halftime, as Lako set up Axelrod, cutting the deficit to 4-1.

After senior Caroline Ford just missed on a redirect of a Lucia Pompeo shot at one end, South Portland returned to the attack, hoping to draw even closer, but a shot from senior Maeve Kelley was deflected just wide.

Late in the half, Jellison denied both Ford and junior Anna Sawicki and at the other end, a Lako rush was broken up by Stags senior defender Anna Smith and Kane robbed Lako on the doorstep, then denied her rebound as well, keeping the score 4-1 at the break.

In the first half, Cheverus had a 9-8 edge in shots, but buried four of them. Kane made seven saves to Jellison’s five and the Stags had a 3-2 edge in penalty corners.

Any hopes of a South Portland comeback were laid to rest just 1 minute, 23 seconds into the second half, when Sophia Pompeo decided to remind everyone that the older sister could put the ball in the cage just as effectively as her sibling. On a penalty corner, Pompeo took a feed from Abbott and finished for a 5-1 lead.

Abbott finally got her turn to finish with 22:45 on the clock, being denied three times by Jellison before finally getting a rebound to deflect off the goalie’s pads and into the cage for a 6-1 advantage.

The Red Riots would have some chances to answer, but Kane denied Lako, Walker and junior Kaylee Whitten, the Stags killed two South Portland penalty corners and in the final minute, Smith cleared a ball off the line at the last second, bringing the curtain down on Cheverus’ decisive 6-1 triumph.

“Sometimes it’s OK to lose early in the season,” Cloutier said. “(Massabesic was) a good team and we fought. It was a very good game. Today, we just had to get back and do what we do. We just beat them to the ball and outplayed them. We have some great players and they showed up today. Defensively, we played very well. Kat had a great game. Anna Smith had a great game. I’m proud of the girls. This is exactly what we needed.”

The Stags only held a 15-14 edge in shots on frame, but scored on 40 percent of them. Kane made a dozen saves to eight for Jellison. 

South Portland had a 5-4 advantage in corners, but had nothing to show for it as it couldn’t dig out of its early deficit.

“We knew they had star players, but unfortunately, we fell flat and gave up three quick goals,” Dyer said. “We knew they had speed, but we let them take it and they capitalized. Finishing has been an issue for us. I made a switch and put one of my strongest defenders on the offensive line. That might make a difference.”

Busy week

Neither team has much time to think about this one.

South Portland hopes to bounce back Friday at home against Kennebunk, then has to play at Massabesic Tuesday.

“We’re working on hitting our stride for a whole game,” Dyer said. “We have our spurts. I hope the girls find their passion for the game. I know they have the skills. We just have to put it together, but we don’t have time because we have quite the schedule coming up. Hopefully we can figure it out.”

Cheverus plays at Gorham Friday, then hosts Falmouth, which is new to the Southwestern Maine Activities Association this fall, for the first time Tuesday. 

The Stags know they can get even better.

“Our off-ball movement needs some work,” Pompeo said. “We just need to get the ball up the field quicker.”

“Gorham will be a great game,” Cloutier said. “We have to be ready.”

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

Cheverus freshman Lucia Pompeo races up the field with the ball as South Portland junior Kaylee Whitten gives chase. Pompeo scored three times in the game’s first nine minutes.

Cheverus senior Caroline Ford gives her all on this shot.

South Portland sophomore Lydia Grant tries to block the shot of Cheverus freshman Paige DeGeorge.

Cheverus senior Caroline Ford and South Portland junior Kiley Callow battle for the ball.

South Portland senior Bonge Lako tries to get past Cheverus senior Olivia Adams.

Previous Cheverus-South Portland results

2016
Cheverus 4 @ South Portland 1
Class A South preliminary round
@ Cheverus 3 South Portland 0

2015
@ Cheverus 7 South Portland 0

2014
@ South Portland 2 Cheverus 1

2013
@ Cheverus 3 South Portland 0

2012
@ Cheverus 6 South Portland 0

2011
Cheverus 5 @ South Portland 0

2010
South Portland 2 @ Cheverus 0

2009
Cheverus 5 @ South Portland 0

2008
@ Cheverus 3 South Portland 0

2007
Cheverus 2 @ South Portland 0

2004
@ South Portland 4 Cheverus 1

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