Gorham pulls away from SP in field hockey opener

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South Portland sophomore Kaylee Whitten fires a shot during Thursday’s 6-0 home loss to Gorham in the regular season opener.

Adam Birt photos.

More photos below.

SOUTH PORTLAND—For 30 minutes Thursday afternoon in the regular season opener at Wainwright Farms, South Portland and Gorham’s field hockey teams were engaged in their usual close game.

Then, in a flash at the start of the second half, the Rams ran away and hid.

Red Riots freshman goalie Brianna Alley, starting in place of injured sophomore Abbie Jellison, made nine saves to limit Gorham to a 1-0 lead at halftime, but in a 3 minute, 4 second span early in the second half, the Rams rattled off three goals to pull away.

Gorham added two more goals down the stretch and went on to 6-0 victory.

The Rams got two goals apiece from senior Erin Esty and juniors Grace DeWitt and Grace McGouldrick and avenged last year’s setback to South Portland in the opener in the process.

“It’s disappointing,” said Red Riots coach Leslie Dyer. “It didn’t work out the way we wanted. We have so much potential. The girls know they need to earn it.” 

Slippery start

South Portland went just 3-11 in 2015, but the Red Riots believe they’ll find a way to turn several close losses into wins this time around and make a run at a playoff spot.

Gorham is coming off a 4-9-1 campaign which saw it earn the 11th and final berth in the Class A South postseason. The Rams were then ousted by Marshwood, 2-1, in the preliminary round. 

Last year, in the regular season opener, South Portland won at Gorham, 1-0, in overtime.

Prior to gametime Thursday, it rained fairly steadily in South Portland, but the field was deemed playable and on cue, the skies parted and the sun came out.

So did the Rams’ offense.

Alley was tested early, denying consecutive Gorham shots.

Five minutes, the Red Riots had what proved to be their best scoring chance, but freshman Lydia Grant’s blast hit the side of the cage.

After McGouldrick missed a couple of good chances, the Rams finally broke through and got the only goal they’d need with 6:48 remaining in the first half, when DeWitt’s blast from the side eluded Alley and rattled the cage for a 1-0 lead.

In the final minute of the half, Alley denied Esty, senior Karen Stemm and junior Marie Walton in succession to keep the deficit at one at the break.

In the first half, Gorham enjoyed a 10-2 shots advantage, but nine Alley saves kept things interesting.

The Rams then turned it up a notch coming out of the break.

With 28:14 to go in regulation, Gorham senior Mary Adams sent a shot on goal which Alley stopped, but McGouldrick was there to bury the rebound for a 2-0 lead.

That opened the floodgates.

With 27:10 remaining, McGouldrick scored on another rebound and with 25:10 to go, McGouldrick set up DeWitt for another blast from the side and just like that, the Rams were up, 4-0.

South Portland tried to answer, as senior Lydia Henderson got a look which was denied by Gorham junior goalie Jessica Dusseault, then Dusseault turned aside a bid from Grant.

With 7:09 left, senior Jamie Juskiewicz set up Esty for her first goal and with 2:35 left, Esty was credited with her second goal when her cross deflected off a defender and in.

That brought the curtain down on the Rams’ 6-0 triumph.

“”We seemed to play a little frantic (early),” said Gorham coach Becky Manson-Rioux. “We hadn’t been playing like that in the preseason. We took a deep breath and we told (the girls) to keep the field spread and they did that. The girls have been very coachable. The girls implement what we say with ease. I think we are pretty hungry for the goal and we look very strong at this point.” 

Gorham finished with a 18-4 shots advantage and a 5-3 edge on penalty corners. Alley made 12 saves, but it wasn’t enough.

“They got goal, goal, goal,” Dyer said. “They were hammering our goalie. Our goal was to keep the ball up above the 50, but we can’t score if we don’t shoot. My subs stepped up to the ball and played well at the end. They produced.”

Flying south

Gorham is back in action Saturday when it hosts reigning regional champion Thornton Academy in its home opener.

“I have eight seniors with great leadership and I’m hoping to we can continue our momentum going forward,” said Manson-Rioux.

South Portland has a daunting task facing it Saturday, as it battles Marshwood in South Berwick.

“We have some work to do,” Dyer said. “We need to get the hunger from within. We need to react.”

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

South Portland sophomore Kiley Callow tries to elude a Gorham defender.

South Portland senior Amelia Papi gets a step on a Gorham defender.

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