Deering's late surge dashes SP's upset hopes
PORTLAND—The Deering girls' soccer team made their coaches and fans agonize for over 70 minutes Saturday morning before finally coming to life.
The Rams, hosting South Portland at Memorial Field, fell behind, 1-0, in the first half and despite myriad opportunities, couldn't produce the equalizing goal.
With an upset loss staring it at the face, Deering saved its best for last and junior Edie Pallozzi played the hero.
Palozzi tied the score with 9:28 to play, beating Red Riots sophomore goalkeeper Emma Russell, who made so many big saves on the day, to tie it.
Then, with 3:10 to go, off a corner kick from senior Samantha Sivovlos, Pallozzi banged home a loose ball in the box to give the Rams their first lead.
Deering would hold on and improve to 5-2, dropping South Portland to 2-6 in the process.
"It just took us awhile," said Pallozzi. "We knew we had to score win, obviously. It just happened. Once we got one, that got us pumped up."
At the midway point of the 2012 girls' soccer season, Deering appears to be a top contender in Western A, while South Portland is still within hailing distance of a playoff spot.
The Rams opened with home wins over Massabesic (2-0), Westbrook (4-0) and Portland (3-1). The victory over the Bulldogs didn't come easily, as Deering trailed 1-0 deep into the second half before putting it all together late, a script the Rams would follow Saturday. Deering's first loss came at powerhouse Gorham, 1-0, in overtime and after beating visiting Noble, 5-0, the Rams suffered a 4-0 setback at Thornton Academy Thursday.
The Red Riots were a playoff team a year ago, but opened 2012 with losses at Scarborough (4-0) and Massabesic (4-0) and at home to Biddeford (2-0). After getting in the win column with a 2-1 victory over visiting Westbrook, South Portland fell to visiting Sanford (3-1). A 4-3 win at McAuley followed, but Thursday, the Red Riots were vanquished by visiting Windham, 4-0.
Last year, South Portland beat the visiting Rams, 2-0.
The Red Riots almost prevailed again Saturday, on a day both teams were shorthanded, but Deering was at its best when it mattered most.
Rams junior standout Alexis Elowitch set the tone for what would be a frustrating first half when she broke free and raced in one-on-one on Russell, but shot high.
In the 10th minute, South Portland's first good scoring bid was denied when Deering junior goalkeeper Lee Ann Downs made a diving save on a flick off the foot of Red Riots junior Akadia Higgins.
With 15:57 to go in the first half, Elowitch got to Sivovlos' corner kick, but her header trickled wide of the goal.
A minute later, Pallozzi had a shot sail just high.
Then, with 13:49 showing before halftime, the visitors took the lead as senior standout Jenacee Bradbury floated a pretty 30-yard shot over the head of Downs and into the net for a 1-0 advantage.
Bradbury almost doubled the lead with 6:25 to go when her long shot resulted in a rebound, but Downs fell on the loose ball just in time.
Russell made the finest of her six saves on the day with 4:10 to go. Deering junior Heather Hodson passed to sophomore Meaghan Wells on the right flank, who one-timed a low shot which forced Russell to dive to her right to barely deflect out of harm's way.
With just over a minute remaining, Elowitch had another good look, but headed Pallozzi's feed wide.
The Rams had five corner kicks and multiple opportunities in the first 40 minutes, but found themselves trailing.
The frustration would continue for much of the second half before Deering finally broke through.
With 37:37 left, Wells fed Pallozzi for a shot, but Russell made the save.
Two minutes later, the visitors thought they'd gone up, 2-0, when sophomore Lillian Larochelle scored on a rebound, but a player was ruled offsides.
The Rams then returned to the attack and Pallozzi shot high and a shot by Elowitch was bobbled by Russell, but finally cleared.
With 22:51 to go, a wild sequence off a Deering corner kick saw two shots blocked before Pallozzi had what appeared to be a good look. Pallozzi fired a shot, but it hit Wells in the face and another opportunity had gone for naught.
After Sivovlos' shot was saved by Russell, Elowitch headed a loose ball off the top of the crossbar, a Sivovlos feed to Elowitch saw Russell get to the ball first and a Sivovlos free kick was cleared away, the hosts finally pulled even.
With 9:28 left, junior Delaney Coyne sent a ball into the box, where it squirted back out to Pallozzi in front, about 15 yards out. Pallozzi fired a low shot that Russell couldn't reach and just like that, after so many close calls, Deering had made it a 1-1 game.
The resurgent Rams then set out to win it.
With 4:15 remaining, Coyne took a pass from Elowitch and steered a shot which just went wide.
The next opportunity wouldn't go by the wayside.
With 3:10 to play, on Deering's eighth corner kick of the game, Sivovlos served a ball into the box and this time, when it wasn't immediately cleared, Pallozzi pounced and pounded it into the net for a 2-1 lead.
"Sam crossed it and it bounced around a little bit," said Pallozzi. "I just had to kick it in. It felt good."
"We got it going just in time," Olson said. "The first half, we just didn't come out with any intensity. No excuses. We have to learn to execute and settle down and relax on the ball and trust each other. Our set pieces are huge for us. We talked at halftime that services couldn't get any better. The ball was sitting there. That last corner allowed it to bend toward goal for someone to get something on it. Edie had a big game. This is her first year up at midfield. She's been a center-back. With all her talent, I didn't want to waste her back there. She dictated play and put the ball in net. She was awesome."
South Portland couldn't answer and the clock ran out on the Rams' 2-1 come-from-behind triumph.
Deering got two saves each from Downs and senior Maddy Mazjanis, who came on at halftime.
"I decided prior to the Thornton game that I was going to play both of them equally," Olson said. "They're equally strong. Lee Ann has more experience. With the help of our new goalie coach, Alex Witherall, who played for our boys' team and went to Hobart, Maddy has really stepped up. It's nice to have two goalkeepers battling every day and working on fundamentals."
South Portland had played well, but fell just short.
"I thought we played our best game of the season by far," Red Riots coach Andy Pappas said. "I thought we did a good job of keeping (Deering) to two goals. They have a lot of firepower. It's always a battle. Jenacee did a great job getting us a lead at the half."
South Portland is 14th in the Western Class A Heal Points standings. The top 13 teams make the playoffs, so the Red Riots are still very much in the hunt. South Portland is at Kennebunk Tuesday and plays host to Bonny Eagle Friday. Home games against Gorham and Portland and trips to Thornton Academy and Marshwood also remain.
"We're playing a tough schedule," Pappas said. "A lot of teams are very good. We're battling with everybody. We're capable. It's just a matter of getting some breaks. We don't seem to get a lot of breaks."
Deering finds itself eighth and has another huge test upcoming Tuesday night at undefeated, unscored-upon Scarborough, the two-time reigning regional champion. Home games with McAuley, Kennebunk and Sanford and trips to Windham, Marshwood and Cheverus also loom.
The Rams know they can play with anyone, but still have room to improve.
"We need to play 80 minutes," Pallozzi said. "We can't just be a second half team."
"We have to get healthy," said Olson. "I'm missing three starters right now. No excuses. Injuries happen to all teams. We just have to adjust. The pressure's really not on us (Tuesday), but we're up for the challenge. We scored two off them last year. No one else scored two off them the last three years."