PORTLAND—The Cheverus girls’ lacrosse team has made of habit in recent games of digging an early hole too steep to overcome.
Monday afternoon, against visiting Thornton Academy at Boulos Stadium, the Stags again surrendered the game’s first goal, but this time made sure the deficit never grew.
Cheverus, behind the stellar play in the draw circle of sophomore Alex Logan and the scoring prowess of her classmates, Elyse Caiazzo and Meredith Willard, forged an 8-2 halftime lead and never let up, cruising to a 10-5 victory.
Caiazzo and Willard both had four goals, Logan won 12 of 17 draws and the Stags improved to 6-5, dropping the Golden Trojans to 5-5.
“We’ve gained confidence, learned our weaknesses and we used what we learned and came out strong today,” Logan said. “We had patience on offense today and we capitalized. That’s something we’d been struggling with.”
As well as Cheverus has played at times this spring, its easy to lose sight of the fact that the nucleus of this lineup is underclassmen and that while the present is promising, the future is very bright.
The first glimpses came last spring, when the Stags stunned Gorham to end the season and earn an unexpected playoff berth. Cheverus then upset Messalonskee and Cony to reach the Eastern A Final before losing to Brunswick.
This spring, the Stags opened with a 12-9 loss at Massabesic, then enjoyed wins over visiting McAuley (14-5), North Yarmouth Academy (13-8) and Portland (10-3) and host Deering (15-10), before struggling, dropping close games to Marshwood, 7-5, and two-time defending Class A state champion Scarborough, 11-10. Cheverus then lost at Waynflete, 16-5, but got back on track with a 14-10 triumph at Windham. Then, Thursday, the Stags went back-and-forth with perennial power Kennebunk, but lost, 16-15, despite 10 goals from Willard.
A common denominator in the losses to Scarborough, Waynflete and Kennebunk was early deficits of at least four goals.
Thornton Academy, meanwhile, a semifinalist last spring, won its first three games, 12-4 over visiting Biddeford, 7-5 at home over South Portland and 8-4 at Deering, before dropping an 11-10 home decision to Gorham. After downing host Noble, 15-1, the Golden Trojans lost at home to Portland (11-10). A 9-3 win at Westbrook followed, but last week, Thornton Academy couldn’t hold a lead and fell at Scarborough (7-6) and also at Massabesic (10-7).
The Golden Trojans had won five of the previous seven meetings between the schools, including a 14-3 romp in Saco last May 23.
Monday, Cheverus turned the tables.
Thornton Academy did strike first, 2 minutes, 49 seconds in, when senior Michelle Giroux scored on a free position.
But instead of falling further behind, the Stags answered and then some.
Just 28 seconds later, Caiazzo fired a shot that hit the right goalpost, but the backspin of the ball after it hit the ground, sent it past Golden Trojans junior goalie Allie McCarthy into the net to tie it.
Cheverus went ahead to stay with 20:20 left in the first half when Willard scored her first goal.
With 13:15 remaining before halftime, Caiazzo scored assisted. Thirty-nine seconds later, after a pinpoint pass from sophomore Sadie Lyons, senior Catie Walsh finished to make it 4-1.
The visitors got a goal back with 10:40 left in the half, as sophomore Hannah Wuerthner finished a pass from Giroux, beating Cheverus freshman goalie Hope Correia, but the remainder of the first stanza belonged to the Stags.
After collecting a loose ball in front, Willard finished with 7:21 showing to make it 5-2.
That was the first of four goals in 72 seconds.
With 6:43 to go, Lyons set up Logan for a goal and a 6-2 lead.
As Logan continued to control the draw circle, Cheverus got possession back and with 6:13 on the clock, Willard scored unassisted, forcing Thornton Academy coach Craig Agreste to call timeout.
It didn’t slow the onslaught as off the ensuing draw win by Logan, Willard finished unassisted again to give Cheverus a commanding 8-2 lead at halftime.
In the first 25 minutes, Logan won 7 of 11 draws (after losing four of the first five), the Stags had a 21-13 advantage on ground balls, forced 12 turnovers and outshot the Golden Trojans, 14-7.
Perhaps unaccustomed to playing with a lead, Cheverus wasn’t able to build on its advantage in the second half, but the Stags’ defense kept Thornton Academy in check.
The Golden Trojans made it an 8-3 game when junior Amanda Cook scored wtih 22:45 to go.
A goal by senior Emily Fejedelem (assisted by sophomore Carly McKenna at 14:18) cut the deficit to 8-4, but the visitors would get no closer.
With 8:36 remaining, the Stags ended a 22 minute, 25 second drought as senior Sarah LaQuerre set up Caiazzo for a transition goal.
The visitors scored their final goal with 5:06 to play when junior Audry Puleio scored, but in the final minute, on a free position, Willard eschewed the shot and passed to Caiazzo who finished to account for the 10-5 final score.
“This will help us going forward,” Chamberlain said. “Moral victories were nice, but we had our chances against those teams. The girls saw they can play with anyone if they play well and limit turnovers. (Avoiding slow starts has) been a focus for a few weeks. The team knows that they don’t want to get behind. We’ve played some good teams. You always live dangerously when you do that, but we did great today. (Thornton Academy) made some adjustments at halftime and we didn’t really adjust to their adjustments very well, but the defense stepped up and that was great to see.”
Cheverus displayed nice balance on offense. Willard, who’s emerged as one of the top scorers not just in the conference and region, but the whole state, had four first half goals. Caiazzo tickled the twine twice in each half for four of her own. Logan and Walsh also scored. Lyons had two assists, while LaQuerre and Willard each added one.
“A lot of goals had assists,” Caiazzo said. “We all look for each other and the open area. We have so much depth. The whole team can shoot. Teams should watch out for everyone. We all have those skills.”
“Thornton always plays good defense,” said Chamberlain. “You have to be able to make good passes and good plays to take advantage.”
Correia made four saves. Logan won 11 of the last 12 draws and 12 of 17 overall.
“I just have to believe that I can win them all,” Logan said. “I’ve played center as long as I can remember. I love it. I have to have that killer confidence and believe no one can beat me. I try to be everywhere I can. I try to score, I try to do well on the draws and I play defense. You have to be good in all those areas to play midfield.”
The Stags won the ground ball battle, 37-26, as LaQuerre and Logan led the way with five apiece. Lyons, junior Laura Peabody-Harrington and freshman Nicole Pineau all had four. Cheverus committed 19 turnovers, but forced 22. The Stags had a 20-13 edge in shots (16-9 on cage).
“Alex was great on the draws, the offense was in sync, there was good passing, the defense did well and so did Hope in goal,” Chamberlain said. “It was a good team win.”
Thornton Academy didn’t have a multiple goal scorer. Cook, Fejedelem, Giroux, Puleio and Wuerthner had one each. Giroux and McKenna had one assist apiece. McCarthy stopped six shots. Giroux went 5 of 17 in the draw circle. Junior Katelyn Pierson led all players with six ground balls, while McKenna collected five.
Both teams are playoff bound, but their ultimate seeding is still up in the air.
Thornton Academy (5-5 in the latest Western Class A Heal Points standings) is home with Marshwood Thursday and closes at Kennebunk Tuesday of next week.
Cheverus sophomore Elyse Caiazzo fires past Thornton Academy senior goalie Allie McCarthy for one of her four goals Monday.
Cheverus senior Ali Saxton defends Thornton Academy junior Katelyn Pierson.
Cheverus senior Sarah LaQuerre makes a move on goal.
Cheverus junior Emily Rodrigue runs past a Thornton Academy defender.
Cheverus freshman Hope Correia is congratulated by (from left) senior Catie Walsh, sophomore Elyse Caiazzo and freshman Nicole Pineau following the Stags’ 10-5 home win over Thornton Academy Monday afternoon.
More photos below.