Gorham's late goal knocks Cheverus from unbeaten ranks

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Cheverus junior Emma Gallant plays the ball in front of Gorham senior Caroline Gross during the teams’ playoff rematch Monday. The Stags weren’t able to duplicate last year’s result, losing, 1-0.

Gregory Rec/ Portland Press Herald photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—The book on the top girls’ soccer teams in Class A South is that they’re so close in talent, that it’s difficult to find separation.

That was certainly the case Monday afternoon at Shea Field, where Cheverus hosted Gorham in a playoff rematch/early season showdown.

Neither team had a great chance in a first half which featured just five combined shots on frame. While the Stags had four straight corner kicks at one juncture, they only mustered one shot, from junior Emma Gallant, which was denied by Rams sophomore goalkeeper Lily Courtney. Gorham, meanwhile, wasn’t able to solve Cheverus sophomore keeper Neve Cawley either.

The defensive struggle continued deep into the second half, but with the possibility of overtime looming, the Rams managed to find the goal and gain a measure of revenge for last year’s ouster.

Just seconds after missing high on a great opportunity, Gorham senior Hallie Shiers got a second chance, and guided the ball into the goal with 4:28 on the clock.

The Rams fended off a couple final Stags’ bids and prevailed, 1-0.

Gorham extended its regular season win streak against Cheverus to seven games, improved to 4-0 on the young season and in the process, dropped the Stags to 3-1.

“I told the girls we didn’t play a team ahead of us in the standings until late in the season last year, so to be able to play a team like Gorham this early will only help us,” said Cheverus coach Craig Roberts. “We’d like the Heal Points, but what we can learn outweighs the result. This will make us better.”

First big test

Gorham erupted for 10 goals in its opener, a 10-0 home win over Westbrook, then produced 2-0 victories at home against Thornton Academy and at Kennebunk.

Cheverus blanked Kennebunk, 2-0, in its first game, then won at Portland (3-0) and at home against Massabesic (4-0). 

The teams didn’t play in the regular season last fall, but in the Class A South quarterfinals, the Stags rallied to stun the Rams, their longtime postseason nemesis, 2-1, on Mackenzie Johnston’s overtime game-winner.

That goal gave Cheverus just its second all-time victory against Gorham in 17 outings (two games ended in ties).

Monday, on a cloudy and chilly (61-degree) afternoon, the Rams got a measure of revenge.

But it took awhile.

In the fourth minute, a long Gallant free kick nearly led to the first goal, but Stags junior Lauren Jordan couldn’t quite get to the ball at the far post.

After Gallant missed wide, Gorham’s first chance resulted in a header by senior Brooke Woodbury on a corner which Cawley managed to save.

After a nice defensive play by Cheverus junior Julia Ryan, who broke up a rush by Rams senior Emma Forgues, Gorham sophomore Katie Kutzer managed to land a free kick in the box, but Cawley grabbed the ball out of harm’s way.

In the 16th minute, Stags senior Zoe Mazur just missed from 40 yards out.

In the 19th minute, Cheverus earned a corner kick, which deflected out off a Rams’ defender for a second kick. The same sequence repeated itself twice more before Gallant put the ball on target, only to have Courtney made the save.

With 19:02 to go before halftime, Gorham sophomore Olivia Michaud landed a shot from the side on the crossbar.

Late in the half, Gallant had a long shot saved by Courtney, then Gallant missed wide, sending the game to the break scoreless.

The Rams had a 3-2 edge in shots, while the Stags had a 4-2 advantage in corners.

Good chances were almost nonexistent in the second half, until late in the contest, when Gorham finally capitalized.

Cheverus played most of the half without Gallant, who was sidelined with a head cold, but mustered a few looks, as sophomore Mia Kratzer had a long shot saved by Courtney, Mazur missed just high and junior Alex Hammond missed just wide.

With 11:46 left in regulation, Mazur headed the ball into the box and Jordan nearly got to it, but Courtney grabbed the ball first.

A long Kratzer shot a minute later was deflected, but Courtney managed to make the save regardless. 

With 5:06 remaining, Shiers had a golden chance to put the Rams on top, as she took a pass from Forgues, dribbled through two defenders and around another before firing a shot over Cawley, but unfortunately for Gorham, over the crossbar as well.

“Emma played a perfect ball to me,” Shiers said. “I just leaned back a little too much. I had to forget about it.”

Shiers didn’t have time to hang her head and instead, she kept battling, immediately got another opportunity and this time, she finished.

With 4:28 on the clock, junior Brittney Landry headed the ball ahead to Shiers in the box, to the right of Cawley. With Cawley coming off her line and two defenders converging, Shiers managed to get her right foot on the ball and guide it into the goal, just inside the far post for a 1-0 lead.

“I missed the first one and I knew I had to get it back,” Shiers said. “Even if it went wide, I knew one of my teammates would be there. Brittany hit it over the defender. I went wide and touched it across to the far post. It slipped in just in time.”

“That’s Hallie,” said longtime Gorham coach Jeanne Zarrilli. “She never gives up. That’s what we love about her.”

“I think our backs have been playing really well all year and we were really organized throughout, but before that goal, I thought our shape didn’t look good and they found an opening and put it in,” Roberts lamented.

Cheverus had its chances to rally and force overtime, but after freshman Julia Kratzer missed just wide, Jordan got the ball to Kratzer again, who missed just high with 2 minutes to play.

Cawley prevented the Rams from doubling their lead when she dove to make a save in the final minute, but the Stags couldn’t generate another attack and Gorham held on to prevail, 1-0.

“We knew it would be a tough game,” Shiers said. “We knew how they played and we knew we had to bring our best game.”

“We really wanted to play because we both came in having not been scored on,” Zarrilli said. “They’re a top-tier team and we wanted to see what we’d look like against a top-tier team. They defended well. Emma was sick and out of the game, but they still gave us everything we could handle. I was a little frustrated that they were better in the air than we were, but we’ll go home and figure that out.”

Gorham outshot Cheverus, 6-4, and got four saves from Courtney.

The Stags got five saves from Cawley and had a 4-3 edge in corner kicks, but couldn’t find the net.

“We put pressure on at different points of the game, but didn’t finish chances,” Roberts said. “Against a quality team, you don’t get a lot of quality opportunities.

“Emma’s had a head cold that’s been lingering. It’s hard to play 80 minutes of soccer when that happens. She’s a dynamic player. She can not only beat you with speed getting behind the defense, but she’ll check back, lay the ball off, move and get it back. Losing her quickness wasn’t ideal. Caroline Taylor and Alex Hammond, Lily (Paszyc) and Grace Shimansky all gave us good minutes.”

Busy week

The Rams are back in action Wednesday when Portland pays a visit. Deering comes to Gorham Saturday.

“This builds a lot of confidence, but we can’t let it go to our heads,” Shiers said. “We have to bring our best game against every team we play.”

The Stags hope to return to form Wednesday at home versus Massabesic. Cheverus then has a key test at Falmouth Saturday afternoon.

“I told the girls we have no time to hang our heads,” Roberts said. “We have to go back to work tomorrow.”

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

Cheverus junior Lauren Jordan (23) and senior Zoe Mazur converge on the ball in front of Gorham senior Hallie Shiers.

Cheverus sophomore goalkeeper Neve Cawley leaps to make a save as Gorham sophomore Olivia Michaud looks on.

Cheverus senior Zoe Mazur heads the ball away from Gorham senior Emma Forgues.

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