PORTLAND—Not a lot was expected from the Deering girls’ soccer team this fall, but as we near the midway pole, the Rams are among the best in Western Class A.
And they don’t show any signs of slowing down.
Monday evening at Memorial Field, Deering demonstrated just what makes it so tough when South Portland paid a visit.
In the first half, it was the offense, as junior Simone Lauture twice broke free for goals to produce a 2-0 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Rams relied on their defense and some acrobatic saves from senior goalkeeper Emily Mooney to preserve the advantage.
It all added up to a 2-0 victory which improved Deering’s record to 5-1 and dropped the improving Red Riots to 1-4-1 in the process.
“I’m pleased to be 5-1,” said Rams coach Kevin Olson. “There have been a lot of good things, but there’s still a lot we have to work on.”
Deering was expected by some to take a step back after graduating standout Alexis Elowitch, but instead, the Rams have continued their trend of recent seasons and remained a top contender. After opening with a 1-0 win at Cheverus, Deering blanked visiting Massabesic (2-0) and edged visiting Portland (1-0). After falling at Gorham Wednesday (1-0), the Rams bounced back Thursday to blank visiting Noble (3-0).
South Portland fell short of the playoffs last year and welcomed new coach Jeff Selser this fall. The Red Riots opened with a strong home effort against Scarborough, but lost, 3-0. After losing at powerhouse Thornton Academy (6-1) and at home versus Gorham (4-0), South Portland got its first victory last Wednesday, when it edged visiting Westbrook, 1-0, in overtime. The Red Riots then played host McAuley to a scoreless tie Friday.
Deering won the last two meetings: 2-1 at home in 2012 and 5-0 in South Portland a year ago.
Monday, the Red Riots were hoping to beat the Rams for the first time since Sept. 24, 2011 (2-0 at home), but Deering kept the good times rolling.
The Rams almost took the lead in the third minute, but a shot from sophomore Ewa Varney was tipped aside by South Portland senior goalkeeper Emma Russell.
After Russell denied Varney again, Deering got the only goal it would need with 30:21 to play in the first half.
Lauture got to a through ball from junior Cora Melcher, raced in one-on-one with Russell and in what was seemingly slow motion, Lauture got Russell on her heels, then beat the goalie to the right corner for a 1-0 lead.
A mere 46 seconds later, Lauture hit the post and Varney sent the rebound high, but with 27:43 to go in the half, Lauture struck again, beating Russell to a feed from Varney, then tapping it into the goal for a 2-0 advantage.
“We’ve done a lot of work in practice and it showed here,” Lauture said. “A lot of our practice drills, we did here today. I just keep myself in reality and remember it’s only a goalie and to stay focused. We definitely do a lot of passing. That’s one of the strongest components we have.”
“We had great ball movement,” Olson said. “Simone is deadly one-on-one. She stays composed. She’s very poised.”
Deering wouldn’t score again, but it wasn’t because a lack of chances.
After South Portland registered its first shot, a bid from freshman Juliana Selser which Mooney saved, junior Siobhan Densmore, Varney, Lauture and junior MiCary Verville all had good looks but couldn’t finish.
The Rams enjoyed a 10-2 shots advantage in the first half and had four corner kicks.
The Red Riots made things interesting in the second half, as Mooney took center stage.
In the first minute of the second stanza, on a corner kick, the ball came loose in the Deering box and South Portland senior Abby Young had a great look, but her shot went high.
Three minutes later, senior Sydney Onos tried to feed Young, but Mooney dove to get to the ball first.
After Russsell denied Lauture and Varney sent a shot over the crossbar, the visitors pressed again, but with 26:40 to play, senior Colleen Fleming sent a left-footed shot just high.
Midway through the second half, sophomore Emma Jones had a great look for the visitors off a corner kick, but Mooney went all out, dove and somehow managed to get her left hand on the ball and sent it out of harm’s way.
“I like (diving saves),” Mooney said. “It’s my job. I’m always on my toes. If something goes wrong, I’m ready.”
“Emily saved our butt,” said Olson. “She’s come up big for us. She’s very experienced and very skilled.”
With 12:01 to go, Mooney had to make one final save, denying a bid from sophomore Callie O’Brien.
After Varney (twice) and Lauture couldn’t finish in the waning moments, Deering brought down the curtain on its 2-0 victory.
“I think defensively we did a good job,” said Mooney (six saves). “(The defenders) help me. There were a few breakdowns, but we managed to stay composed and regroup.”
The Rams ended up with a 10-3 edge on corner kicks and a 14-4 shots advantage, but only managed the two goals.
“I thought we’d get more (goals),” Olson said. “I think we got out of our game plan of two-touch passing. We got a little too comfortable. When we get too comfortable, we don’t attack.”
Russell made 13 saves for the Red Riots, but it wasn’t enough.
“Soccer is a funny sport,” said Selser. “One of the mysteries of soccer is that sometimes the team that plays best in the field doesn’t come out with the goals. We had two tiny defensive letdowns which unfortunately led to goals, but I thought we dominated 60, 70 percent of the game. In my opinion, the better team did not win. We looked awesome out there. I’m very proud of how we played. We hammered away at them, but they have an exceptional goalie. They’re strong inside the box defensively.”
South Portland (12th in the Western Class A Heal Points standings at press time) has work to do if it wants to be a playoff team, namely win more than it loses the rest of the way. The Red Riots are back in action Wednesday when defending Class A champion Windham pays a visit.
“Once we figure out how to score goals, we’ll be a force to be reckoned with,” Selser said. “We have eight more games to figure out how to put the ball in the net. We’ll be there.”
Deering (third in the Heals) could find itself with a nice playoff seed if it continues to play well. The Rams are at Bonny Eagle Wednesday, then have a week off before going to Westbrook. Deering has tests remaining against Marshwood and Scarborough at home, but also has a game at Thornton Academy.
“We need to continue to practice with the intensity we have been,” Lauture said. “We want to continue to improve. I think we have a great opportunity this year if we keep making improvements.”
“We have a great team,” said Mooney. “We managed to come back even stronger this year.”
“We still have a big stretch upcoming,” Olson added. “We hope to keep winning. I like the direction we’re heading. I know the girls want more.”
Deering junior Simone Lauture finishes the first goal of the game.
Deering senior Erin Mathews races past South Portland sophomore Callie O’Brien.
Deering senior Jade Jordan tries to defend dangerous South Portland senior Sam Munson.
South Portland senior Sydney Onos kicks the ball away from Deering senior Katie Farrell.
South Portland senior goalkeeper Emma Russell makes one of her 13 saves.
Deering sophomore Ewa Varney eludes South Portland junior Emma Benington.
Deering junior Megan Violette boots the ball as South Portland junior Ingrid Boyce closes in.
Deering junior Cora Melcher (8) congratulates junior Simone Lauture after one of Lauture’s two goals in Monday’s 2-0 home win over South Portland.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.