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Portland freshman Isabella More (25) is congratulated by her twin sister, Annika More (19) and senior Kate Johnson after scoring to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead over Cheverus in the teams’ season opener Friday afternoon. Portland added one more goal and won, 3-0.
Chris Lambert photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—Cheverus’ girls’ soccer team left Fitzpatrick Stadium Friday afternoon lamenting the chances that got away.
The host Portland Bulldogs, on the other hand, proved most opportunistic and as a result, gave first-year coach Curtis Chapin his first victory.
In a season opening showdown between a pair of playoff hopefuls, Portland struck first when senior standout Kate Johnson scored on a breakaway in the 27th minute.
Early in the second half, Stags freshman Emma Gallant had a great opportunity to tie the score, but Bulldogs senior goalkeeping stalwart Taylor Crosby made a dazzling save to preserve the lead.
Portland added a goal with 35:51 to play when the freshman sister tandem of Annika More to Isabella More struck and moments later, Crosby came out again to make a big save to keep a ‘0’ in Cheverus’ column.
With 19:55 remaining, Bulldogs junior Gracie Lagrange showed off her powerful foot, burying a shot from long range and Portland went on to a 3-0 victory.
The Bulldogs won their season opener for the fourth year in a row and hinted at even bigger things to come.
“It’s always great to start off with a win,” said Johnson, a captain and four-year starter. “We were really confident coming in. We had a great couple weeks of preseason and I think today shows how much we’ve come together as a team. We executed what we needed to do and it went well.”
Cheverus went 5-8-2 a year ago, losing, 4-0, to Marshwood in the Class A South preliminary round. The Stags’ young nucleus is now seniors and there’s been an infusion of youth and as a result, Cheverus believes it will be stronger in 2016.
Portland also was ousted in the preliminary round a year ago, 2-0, by Kennebunk, to cap an 8-7 campaign. The Bulldogs are being coached this fall by former assistant, Curtis Chapin, and have the pieces in place to contend.
Last fall, Portland won at Cheverus, 4-1, to cut the Stags’ all-time edge in the series to 8-6 with one tie (see sidebar, below).
Friday afternoon, the clouds came and went, but the Bulldogs were consistent in earning a victory.
Cheverus had the first couple chances, but a rush by senior Katie Gordon was broken up by Portland freshman back Cecilia Ritter and a long blast from freshman Lauren Jordan sailed just over the goal.
The Bulldogs pounced on a chance with 13:40 to play in the half, as Annika More got the ball ahead to Johnson, who beat the defense, went one-on-one with Stags junior first-year goalkeeper Katie Boynton and buried the shot for a 1-0 lead.
“A girl popped it up with her knee, Annika was there at the right time to head it forward and I got it,” Johnson said.
“I know Kate’s going to get hers, but she’s growing into finding other players as well this season,” Chapin said. “I expect nothing but big things from my senior leaders.”
Three minutes later, senior Hayleigh Blanchard nearly doubled Portland’s lead, but Boynton made the save.
At the half, the Bulldogs knew their lead wasn’t safe.
“At halftime, we told each other we weren’t secure enough and we wanted to come out strong,” Johnson said.
They did on both ends of the field.
Just over two minutes into the second half, Cheverus got a golden chance as Gallant broke free behind the Portland defense and fired a shot that appeared ticketed for the upper left corner, but Crosby, who has come up big so many times on the pitch and last spring on the softball diamond, lunged to her right and made a highlight reel save to keep it 1-0.
“I know what I can do and I just focus on that,” Crosby said. “It’s stressful, but I just react. There’s no time to think.”
“We’re confident in Taylor,” Johnson said. “She’s experienced. Having her back there is the anchor to the whole team and gives us confidence to do what we need to do.”
“There’s no worries having Taylor back there,” Chapin added. “Even when there’s a breakaway, I feel good about my chances with her coming out.”
The Bulldogs turned that close call into a goal of their own, as with 35:51 left, Annika More got the ball ahead to Isabella More, who beat Boynton to make it 2-0.
“The twin connection has been really, really nice to watch in the preseason and it carried over to the first game,” said Chapin. “They don’t look like freshmen at all.”
“We like to see as seniors that when we’re gone, the program will still be in good hands because we know our time here is limited,” she said.
With 28:53 left, Cheverus got another great chance, as Gallant fed senior Emily Turner behind the defense, but Turner’s final touch sent the ball a little too far ahead and Crosby raced out to break up the bid.
With 22:17 to go, Turner crossed to freshman Caroline Taylor at the far post, but Taylor shot just wide.
The Bulldogs clinched it with 19:55 to play, as Lagrange showed her range and power, firing a 30-yard blast past Boynton for a 3-0 lead.
Crosby was able to secure the shutout from there and when Turner just missed a couple late opportunities, Portland was able to celebrate the win.
“A shutout is a goal every game,” Crosby (six saves) said. “I’m really confident this year. For this being our first game, I’m happy and I think we have a bright future ahead of us.”
“It was a classic first game,” Chapin said. “We were feeling it out at first, but once we got that first goal and took that lead into halftime, we settled down in the second half. I know all these guys from being around the program. It’s been fun.”
Cheverus was disappointed with the result, but knows it can play with a good team.
“I told the girls that in my mind, it was a game of opportunities,” said Stags coach Craig Roberts. “Portland capitalized on theirs and we didn’t capitalize on ours. I don’t think we’re three goals worse, but that’s the result and we have to learn from it and move forward. The girls saw they could play with Portland. They want better results. We have to bring more focus to practice and finish our opportunities.”
Cheverus plays its home opener Wednesday versus Marshwood, then hosts Massabesic Friday of next week as it looks to get in the win column.
“We have a lot of freshmen playing and five started, but this year’s freshmen are further ahead than where we’ve been in the past,” Roberts said. “They’re not athletes I have to put in. They’re good soccer players who should be in.
“Marshwood is strong. I feel like we’ve improved, but so has the league. It’s our home opener. I expect we’ll come out hard. It’ll be a really good test for us.”
Portland goes on the road next week, visiting Noble Wednesday and playing at perennial powerhouse Windham Friday.
“We’re only going to get better,” Chapin said. “We go to Noble on Wednesday and we’ll be ready for that.”
Portland senior Kate Johnson fights past Cheverus sophomore Tholia Hallett. Johnson scored the game’s first goal.
Cheverus freshman Emma Gallant plays the ball up the sideline while Portland senior Hannah Callender gives chase.
Portland freshman Isabella More, who scored the game’s second goal, battles Cheverus freshman Lauren Jordan for the ball.
Cheverus freshman Alexandra Hammond tries to hold back Portland senior Hannah Callender.
Cheverus senior Katie Gordon tries to get past Portland junior Ella Altidor (12) and freshman Cecilia Ritter.
Portland senior Ellianna Boothe kicks the ball away from Cheverus freshman Caroline Taylor.
@ Portland 3 Cheverus 1
Cheverus 3 @ Portland 0
@ Cheverus 5 Portland 0
Cheverus 6 @ Portland 0
Portland 1 @ Cheverus 0
Cheverus 1 @ Portland 0
@ Cheverus 1 Portland 0
@ Portland 2 Cheverus 1
Western A quarterfinals
Cheverus 1 @ Portland 0
@ Cheverus 2 Portland 1
@ Cheverus 2 Portland 0
Portland 3 Cheverus 1
Portland 6 Cheverus 0