Deering senior goalkeeper Tina Dang goes all out to make a save during Tuesday evening’s scoreless home tie versus rival Portland. Despite the draw, it appears the Rams will fall just short of a playoff berth.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—For Portland’s girls’ soccer team, the playoffs begin Friday.
For Deering, Tuesday evening’s regular season-ending home showdown against its ancient rival was an opportunity to win and get into the postseason and while the Rams impressed with their play, they fell just short of their goal.
The two teams battled for 90 minutes with little separation and while good scoring chances were few, Deering senior Tina Dang and Portland senior Taylor Crosby stopped every single one and the game ended in a scoreless draw.
With that result, the Bulldogs finished 7-3-4 and project to be the No. 7 seed for the Class A South playoffs, while the Rams ended the year 5-8-1 and fell just short of qualifying.
“It was a classic Deering-Portland rivalry game,” said Portland coach Curtis Chapin. “Throw everything out the window and two teams went at it. I didn’t have to say anything because it was Deering. The girls were up for it.”
“At the end of the day, the girls played hard and dug deep,” said Deering coach Kevin Olson. “They left it all on the field. Whatever happens (with the Heal Points), happens. I can’t be disappointed. I’m very proud.”
The rivalry has been streaky over the years. After Deering sprung a semifinal round upset in the 2003 playoffs, Portland went 4-0-1 against the Rams over the next five seasons. From 2009 through a regular season meeting in 2014, however, Deering went 6-0, outscoring the Bulldogs, 15-2, in the process, but in a memorable 2014 Western A prelim, Portland turned the series back in its favor with a scintillating 2-1 victory (2-1 on penalty kicks). Last fall, the host Bulldogs held off the Rams, 3-2.
While Portland has been a pleasant surprise under first-year coach Chapin this fall, Deering hasn’t won as often as in recent seasons.
The Bulldogs opened with a 3-0 home win over Cheverus, then settled for 1-1 draws at Noble and at home against perennial powerhouse Windham. After beating Thornton Academy, 1-0, Portland dropped a controversial 2-1 overtime decision at Marshwood, then blanked visiting Massabesic (6-0) and Westbrook (3-0) and held off visiting South Portland, 2-1. A tough three-game stretch ensued which saw the Bulldogs lose at Scarborough, 3-0, settle for a scoreless draw at Bonny Eagle, then lose at defending regional champion Gorham, 4-0. After getting back on track with an 8-0 romp at Biddeford, Portland blanked visiting Sanford on Senior Day Saturday, 3-0.
The Rams lost their opener, 3-1, to visiting Scarborough, then won at home over South Portland (2-0), at Maine Girls’ Academy (3-0 and at Biddeford (6-1). Losses at Sanford (5-0), at home to Bonny Eagle (2-1), at Gorham (3-0) and at home to Windham (4-2) were followed by a 2-0 home victory over Noble. After falling at Marshwood (6-0), the Rams beat visiting Massabesic (6-1), but lost in double overtime (2-1) at Thornton Academy and fell at Cheverus Friday, 2-0, to fall out of the final playoff spot.
Tuesday evening, amid the fog and mist, Portland didn’t have a lot to play for, playoff position-wise, although pride was very much stake.
Deering, meanwhile, was looking to extend its postseason streak to eight years.
It was clear from the onset that goals would be at a premium, but there were some quality chances.
Just 57 seconds in, Bulldogs freshman Isabella More had a shot from the side which Dang saved.
In the 11th minute, Dang denied the other freshman twin phenom, Annika More.
The Rams’ first good shot also proved to be the closest they came to scoring, as with 23:01 remaining in the first half, junior Candy Odhiambo’s redirect sailed over the head of Crosby, but luckily for Portland, hit the crossbar.
The Bulldogs then went back on the attack, but a shot from junior Gracie Lagrange was saved, senior Kate Johnson missed just high and a long bouncing shot from senior Hayleigh Blanchard was momentarily bobbled by Dang before she corralled it.
Late in the half, Deering senior Meghana Clere sent a cross just wide, senior Abby Elowitch shot just high and Crosby initially bobbled a Clere free kick before grabbing the ball.
After Dang broke up an Annika More rush with just over a minute to play, Portland earned its sixth corner kick as time wound down, but the ball rolled through the box untouched, sending the teams to the break deadlocked, 0-0.
The intensity continued in the second half, even if neither team could find the net.
Dang had to stretch to deny Annika More with 36:23 to play.
Three minutes later, a Blanchard shot forced Dang to leap to make the save and seconds after that, Annika More got a look with Dang out of the cage, but sent a one-timer just high.
The Rams then transitioned and got a golden opportunity with 32:45 left, but freshman Mia Sargent was robbed on the doorstep by Crosby, who made her finest save of the night.
“Taylor had one huge save,” said Chapin. “They would have scored there on most goalies. Not her.”
After Blanchard just missed high and Deering senior Ewka Varney sent a header just past the far post, little happened for 10 minutes until with 14:44 remaining, Johnson’s header to the far post was saved by Dang.
Less than a minute later, Varney had a good look from the side, but her blast hit the side netting.
Late in regulation, Johnson had a shot saved, Varney was denied by Crosby, Rams freshman Kiaya Gatchell shot missed wide and Johnson was off target again, sending the game to overtime.
In high school girls’ soccer regular season games, teams play two five-minute, “sudden victory” overtimes and if no one scores, the game goes in the books as a tie.
Neither team managed a shot in the first OT.
In the second, the Bulldogs earned a pair of corner kicks, but had nothing to show for them.
With 1:28 left, Clere appeared in position to do damage, but Portland freshman defender Cecilia Ritter broke up the chance.
As time wound down, Bulldogs sophomore Grace Stacey tried to break in, but Deering senior Sophia Silva knocked the ball away and that brought the curtain down on the 0-0 tie.
“We played with them, but we just couldn’t string it together and play our game as much as we wanted to,” Chapin said. “A 0-0 result here in years past may have been good enough, but today it feels disappointing. We had our chances, but their goalie stood up very well. She controlled a wet ball on a wet surface.”
“We were right there, but we couldn’t put it away,” Olson said.
Portland finished with an 8-5 edge in shots on frame, but Dang came up huge with eight saves (Crosby made five).
“(Tina) played great,” Olson said. “She stepped up. We figured with Meghana up top, it gave us more opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net. Tina worked hard this week to get prepared.”
The Bulldogs took 11 corner kicks, while the Rams managed just three.
Portland has qualified for the postseason for the fourth consecutive season and will host a preliminary round contest Friday against Sanford at 5:30 p.m.
The Bulldogs just beat the visiting Spartans, 3-0, this past Saturday. Portland is 2-2 all-time against Sanford in the playoffs. The last meeting came in the 2004 Western A preliminary round, which the Bulldogs won, 1-0, but it took four overtimes to do so.
“All in all, we have to look at it as a successful season,” Chapin said. “We wanted to host a playoff game. We now have to focus on whoever we play. We want to take the next step and this group can absolutely do that.”
Deering will miss the postseason for the first time since 2008, but its final chapter this fall will be what is remembered most.
“It has been a tough season, but the way they came out tonight, to put it all out on the line, the girls did a great job,” Olson said.
Deering freshman Kiaya Gatchell shoots as Portland freshman Cecilia Ritter, left, and senior Maggie Hosmer defend.
Portland senior Hayleigh Blanchard heads the ball out of harm’s way.
Portland senior Hannah Callender and Deering freshman Sahar Habibzai fight for possession.
Portland junior defender extraordinaire Ella Altidor keeps the ball from Deering senior Ewka Varney.
Portland senior Kate Johnson tries to fight past Deering senior Phoebe Bell.
Portland junior Gracie Lagrange shields the ball from Deering senior Meghana Clere.
@ Portland 3 Deering 2
@ Deering 1 Portland 0
Western A prelim
Portland 2 @ Deering 1 (2-1 PK)
@ Deering 1 Portland 0
Deering 5 @ Portland 0
Deering 2 @ Portland 1
Portland 2 @ Deering 1
@ Portland 1 Deering 0
Portland 1 @ Deering 0
@ Portland 1 Deering 1 (tie)
Portland 1 @ Deering 0
Western Class A semifinals
Deering 1 @ Portland 0