PORTLAND—There will be no late-October magic for the Portland girls’ soccer team this fall.
A year after taking their fans on a stirring ride, the 2015 Bulldogs entered the playoffs on a high note following a big win over Deering earlier in the week, but Friday afternoon, Portland, the No. 8 seed, couldn’t generate any offense against ninth-ranked Kennebunk in a Class A South preliminary round tilt at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
The Bulldogs had some early chances, but couldn’t convert, then fell behind for good when Rams junior Leah Dumas took a pass from classmate Sarah Thill and finished in the 27th minute.
Portland hoped to produce the equalizer in the second half, but instead of protecting its lead, Kennebunk continued to pressure and was rewarded with 23:09 to go when sophomore Leah Bridgham scored on a rebound.
The Bulldogs couldn’t rally and their season came to a close with a 2-0 setback.
Portland finished 8-7, while the Rams improved to 5-7-3 and advanced to face top-ranked, two-time defending Class A champion Windham in Tuesday’s quarterfinal round.
“We weren’t at our best today, who knows why?” said Bulldogs coach Arthur Mosen. “Credit to Kennebunk. I thought they played very well. I think they wanted it a little bit more than us today. In the playoffs, that’s what it’s really all about. Best of luck to those guys and we’ll try to bounce back next season and move forward.”
Last year, Portland beat Deering in penalty kicks in the preliminary round, then went on to give defending and eventual repeat state champion Windham a mighty scare in the quarterfinals before losing by a goal.
The Bulldogs entered Friday’s game hoping to embark on a similar run.
Portland got off to a fast start this season, but couldn’t sustain it. The Bulldogs did finish strong with a 3-2 home win over Deering Tuesday to go 8-6 and earn the No. 8 seed.
Kennebunk finished 4-7-3 against a Western Maine Conference schedule and wound up ninth. The Rams did tie and beat York, beat Waynflete and tie Yarmouth during the regular year.
The teams had no playoff history prior to Friday where Kennebunk left Portland frustrated.
With a 19 mile per hour wind at their back on a frigid 48 degree afternoon, the Bulldogs earned three corner kicks in the game’s first 11 minutes, but had nothing to show for it, as a Rams defender cleared the ball off the line, senior Isabel Stehli kicked the ball into the side netting and Stehli had a long shot saved by Rams senior goalkeeper Kyra Schwartzman.
Kennebunk then started to control possession and after freshman Caitlin Wolff and Thill had shots saved by Portland junior goalkeeper Taylor Crosby, the first goal finally came.
With 13:54 to go before halftime, Thill got things started, feeding Dumas in transition, and Dumas managed to bang a shot past Crosby, high and to the goalie’s right, for a 1-0 lead.
Late in the half, Bulldogs senior sparkplug Chessa Hoekstra took a promising free kick just outside the box, but it was blocked and junior Hayleigh Blanchard’s rebound bid was saved by Schwartzman.
In the first half, despite having the wind advantage, Portland only mustered as many shots as the visitors (six) and had nothing to show for their three corner kicks. Schwartzman’s five saves helped keep the Bulldogs at bay.
“We hoped (having the wind at our back) would have helped us more than we did,” Mosen said. “We just didn’t generate a lot offensively today, which was a surprise because we scored a lot of goals this season.”
In the second half, both sophomore Gracie LeGrange and junior Kate Johnson had shots on goal, but Schwartzman saved them both.
Then, with 23:09 to go, after Crosby managed to save a shot from the side, the rebound came free to Bridgham, who buried her chance to open things up.
Portland only had one more good chance, a Johnson cross to freshman Inez Braceras, but Schwartzman got to the ball first.
Kennebunk slammed the door from there and went on to the 2-0 victory.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better way to go into the playoffs (with the win over Deering) and I thought that would have carried us a little bit further,” Mosen said. “It’s a disappointing end to the season, but I’m very proud of the girls, especially the seniors. They left us in good shape. They’ve really taken the program from a rock bottom situation to taking it back to where it is now. I’m very appreciative of them.”
Kennebunk finished with a 21-8 edge in shots (13-7 on frame) and got seven saves from Schwartzman. Crosby made 11 saves. Each team took three corner kicks.
The Rams didn’t face Windham this season and will be decided underdogs Tuesday.
Portland, meanwhile, has to look ahead to 2016, when it figures to be in the hunt again.
“We have a lot coming back,” Mosen said. “The program overall is in good shape. It will be exciting to see how the younger kids have progressed when we meet again in the summertime. We would have loved to have gone further, but it wasn’t to be today. I’m sure we’ll be back.”
Kennebunk sophomore Leah Bridgham tucks home the second goal of the game with Portland junior goalkeeper Taylor Crosby out of the play during the Rams’ 2-0 victory in Friday’s Class A South preliminary round playoff contest. The Bulldogs’ season ended at 8-7.
Chris Lambert photos.
Portland junior Kate Johnson and Kennebunk freshman Abby Lennon battle for possession.
Portland senior Chessa Hoekstra heads the ball away from Kennebunk sophomore Hallie Schwartzman.
Portland junior goalkeeper Taylor Crosby punts the ball.
Kennebunk junior Leah Dumas, who scored the game’s first goal, shields Portland junior Maggie Hosmer from the ball.
Portland junior Kate Johnson weaves through Kennebunk junior Kendall Dolan (left) and freshman Abby Lennon.