Portland girls pull away from Oxford Hills, advance to semis

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Portland senior goalie Abby Krieckhaus makes a save as seniors Sarah Bryan (8) and Georgia Stoddard look on during the Bulldogs’ 12-6 win over Oxford Hills in Wednesday’s Class A North quarterfinal. Portland advanced to meet Cheverus in Saturday’s semifinal round.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Portland 12 Oxford Hills 6

OH- 5 1- 6
P- 6 6- 12

First half
23:58 OH Colby (Dieterich)
19:59 P Kilbride (unassisted)
19:38 P A. More (Kierstead)
17:20 OH Dieterich (Hartnett)
16:09 OH Colby (Smedberg)
14:08 P A. More (unassisted)
13:11 OH Burns (free position)
6:20 P I. More (unassisted)
3:53 P Kierstead (unassisted)
1:41 OH Hartnett (free position)
0.0 P I. More (Merrill)

Second half
24:50 OH Walo (Dieterich)
22:36 P Kierstead (unassisted)
15:50 P Praught (unassisted)
15:15 P Clifford (I. More)
14:40 P Kilbride (unassisted)
10:43 P Clifford (Kilbride)
7:21 P Kierstead (Kilbride)

Goals:
OH- Colby 2, Burns, Dieterich, Hartnett, Walo 1
P- Kierstead, A. More 3, Clifford, Kilbride 2, I. More, Praught 1

Assists:
OH- Dieterich 2, Hartnett, Smedberg 1
P- Kilbride 2, Kierstead, Merrill, I. More 1

Draws (Portland, 13-6)
OH- Burns 2 of 9, Smedberg 3 of 7, Dieterich 1 of 2, Hartnett 0 of 1
P- A. More 9 of 12, Girsch 2 of 2, Brown 1 of 2, Stoddard 1 of 1, Merrill 0 of 1, I. More 0 of 1

Ground balls
OH- 31
P- 50

Turnovers:
OH- 29
P- 21

Shots:
OH- 21
P- 31

Shots on cage:
OH- 15
P- 27

Saves:
OH (James) 15
P (Krieckhaus) 9

PORTLAND—After losing its regular season finale at home to Cheverus two weeks ago, Portland’s girls’ lacrosse team could only sit and wait and bide its time before taking the field again.

The Bulldogs got that opportunity Wednesday afternoon at Fitzpatrick Stadium in a Class A North quarterfinal against Oxford Hills and while Portland wasn’t able to gain separation in the first half, it certainly looked like a title contender in an emphatic second half showing.

The third-ranked Bulldogs, whose seniors graduated earlier in the day, had a hard time solving the freshman goalie of the sixth-ranked Vikings, Tiana James, for much of the first half.

After Oxford Hills scored first, on a goal from sophomore Julia Colby, Portland got goals from junior Chloe Kilbride and sophomore Annika More before the Vikings answered to go ahead, 3-2, on goals from sophomore Cecelia Dietrich and Colby.

More tied the score, but senior Caroline Burns put the Vikings back on top.

Sophomore Isabella More and senior Morgan Kierstead scored to give the Bulldogs the lead, but when sophomore Maggie Hartnett scored with 1:41 to go, it appeared the game would go to the half tied.

That didn’t happen, as Annika More scored at the horn to give Portland some momentum and a 6-5 advantage.

Just 10 seconds into the second half, Oxford Hills drew even when junior Cassidy Walo scored, but the rest of the game would belong to the Bulldogs.

With 22:36 to play, Kierstead scored unassisted to put Portland ahead for good.

Sophomore Hazel Praught, sophomore Elena Clifford and Kilbride then struck in a 70-second span for a 10-6 lead.

With Portland’s defense and senior goalie Abby Krieckhaus holding the Vikings in check, the Bulldogs put it away behind goals from Clifford and Kierstead and went on to a 12-6 victory.

Portland got three goals apiece from Kierstead and Annika More and improved to 10-3, ending Oxford Hills’ season at 9-4 and in the process, advancing to the Class A North semifinals, where they’ll go to No. 2 Cheverus (8-4) Saturday at 11 a.m.

“We woke up a little slowly today,” said Bulldogs coach Beth Broderick. “We’ve had a long break and we were a little rusty. I’m glad all the kids got in the game and contributed today. For us, this season has been about doing it as a team and not having one or two stars. I’m really excited about how we worked together.”

First step

Portland lost two of its first three games, then caught fire, winning eight in a row before closing with a 12-8 home loss to Cheverus. That setback dropped the Bulldogs from second to third in Class A North and gave the Stags a bye, forcing Portland to host Oxford Hills in the quarterfinals.

The Vikings won nine of 12 regular season games, losing only to Lewiston, Brunswick and Messalonskee, and grabbed the sixth and final playoff spot in the region, as they qualified for the postseason for the first time in a decade.

The teams didn’t play this year and had never before met in the playoffs.

Wednesday, in a game that began and ended in sunshine but featured some raindrops as well, in Portland’s first home playoff game at Fitzpatrick Stadium since 2012, the Bulldogs put together a strong effort to stay alive.

Annika More won the opening draw and 16 seconds in, got a good look at the goal, but James made the save.

Oxford Hills then transitioned to offense and with 23:58 to play in the first half, Colby took a pass from Dieterich and beat Krieckhaus for an early 1-0 lead.

Annika More then tried to tie the score, but hit the post and after Krieckhaus denied Walo on a free position and saved a shot from sophomore Jade Smedberg as well, Portland drew even with 19:59 on the clock, as in transition, Kilbride beat the defense and James.

It took only 21 seconds for the Bulldogs to take their first lead, as Kierstead set up Annika More for a 2-1 advantage.

Isabella More then had a free position saved before the Vikings drew even on Dieterich’s goal (assisted by Hartnett) with 17:20 to go before halftime.

With 16:09 left, Smedberg set up Colby for a 3-2 Oxford Hills lead.

James momentarily preserved the lead, robbing Praught and saving a free position shot from Annika More, but with 14:08 to go, Annika More rebounded her own shot past James to tie it again.

The Vikings retook the lead 57 seconds later, for the final time, as Burns scored on a free position, but after James denied Praught again, Isabella More tied the game, 4-4, finishing unassisted after a long run with 6:20 remaining in the half.

James continued to frustrate Praught with a nice save before Kierstead fought her way through the defense and finished unassisted with 3:53 on the clock for a 5-4 Portland lead.

The Vikings answered back with 1:41 remaining, as Hartnett buried a free position.

When James saved an Isabella More shot with 36 seconds left, it appeared the game was destined to go to the half deadlocked, but as time wound down, freshman Emma Merrill threw the ball to Annika More, who grabbed the ball on a hop before firing it past James as the horn sounded.

The officials ruled the goal good and at halftime, the Bulldogs clung to a 6-5 advantage.

“That goal gave us energy,” Krieckhaus said. “We have this thing called, ‘Green light,’ which means go to goal as fast as you can. We used that to our advantage.”

“Annika did that in the first half a couple weeks ago too,” said Broderick. “Both twins are fantastic, but they’re really great when they game’s on the line. It’s nice to count on sophomores who can step up.”

In the first 25 minutes, Portland won eight of 11 draws and had a 16-11 shots advantage, but seven James saves prevented the hosts from pulling away.

When Walo finished a Dieterich pass off the draw 10 seconds into the second half, it appeared as if the back-and-forth would continue the rest of the way, but instead, the Bulldogs finally seized control and the Vikings never scored again.

It would be Kierstead putting Portland on top to stay, as she took advantage of some daylight and finished unassisted with 22:36 remaining for a 7-6 lead.

Oxford Hills had some chances to pull even, but on a free position, Burns hit the crossbar and Krieckhaus denied a shot from Dieterich.

Then, the Bulldogs scored three quick goals to gain some separation.

With 15:50 to play, Praught finally solved James and made it 8-6.

Thirty-five seconds later, Isabella More set up Clifford for her first goal.

With 14:40 on the clock, Kilbride scored unassisted and Portland’s lead was up to four.

After Krieckhaus robbed Hartnett on a rush, Clifford further extended the lead, finishing a feed from Kilbride, with 10:43 to go.

Vikings coach Jaimee Smith called timeout, but it didn’t inspire a comeback, as with 7:21 remaining, Kierstead scored for the final time, from Kilbride.

Late in regulation, Krieckhaus made saves on free positions from Dieterich and Walo and the Bulldogs closed out their 12-6 victory, their first postseason triumph since 2015.

“I think we just figured out what we need to do,” said Kierstead. “We were a little frantic having a home playoff game. We took a deep breath and figured it out.”

“The loss to Cheverus gave us the energy we needed today,” Krieckhaus said. “We were frustrated, but we used that energy and put it on the field today.”

“We came out to play the full 50 minutes, regardless of the score,” Broderick added.

Portland showed great balance on offense, as six different girls scored.

Kierstead and Annika More led the way with three goals, while Clifford and Kilbride tickled the twine twice and Isabella More and Praught each had one goal.

Kilbride also had two assists, while Kierstead, Merrill and Isabella More had one apiece.

“All of us are shooters and all of us can play anywhere,” Kierstead said. “Once we figure it out, we get in and find lanes and score goals.”

“What makes our team unique is that we have players who are good everywhere and we play to our strengths and we utilize ourselves as a team, not individual players,” Krieckhaus said.

“We have a lot of kids who can put the ball away,” Broderick added. “A seven-person attack is a seven-person threat.”

Krieckhaus made nine saves and often came out of the cage to make things happen.

“I was on top of the ball,” Krieckhaus said. “I felt energized and ready. I wanted to get in front of the ball and it worked out. I get a little aggressive sometimes.”

“Abby plays on the field too and takes risks,” Kierstead said.

“Abby made some big saves,” Broderick added. “She came out of the crease, which makes me nervous, but it hypes up the team. She just hustles to the ball, wherever it is, all the time.”

Portland won 13 of 19 draws (Annika More was nine of 12), had a 50-31 advantage in ground balls (Isabella More led the way with 11 and Annika More collected seven), enjoyed a 31-21 shots advantage (27-15 on cage) and overcame 21 turnovers.

Oxford Hills got two goals from Colby and one apiece from Burns, Dieterich, Hartnett and Walo.

Dieterich had two assists and Hartnett and Smedberg each added one.

Dieterich had a team-high six ground balls.

James turned heads with 15 saves.

“Tiana worked really hard today,” Smith said. “She played really well. She’s a competitor.”

The Vikings committed 29 turnovers.

“They definitely pulled away,” Smith said. “A couple goals caught us by surprise. It was one of our lower scoring games this season. We usually score a lot, but their goalkeeper did a fantastic job. They caught us off guard in transition.

“We have a positive outlook for next season. I only graduate a couple. Everyone else is back. We hope to build on this. We’re ready to take the next step.”

On to Cheverus

Saturday, Portland and Cheverus will meet in the playoffs for the third time. In the 2010 Eastern A quarterfinals, the Stags prevailed, 9-6. In the 2015 Eastern A quarterfinals, the teams played an epic four-overtime contest, that the Bulldogs took, 16-15, en route to the program’s only appearance in the regional final.

In Portland’s loss to the Stags May 24, the Bulldogs never led, but the statistics were pretty close. Portland believes it can avenge that setback if it plays well.

“We’re hungry to win,” Kierstead said. “We don’t play up to our level sometimes, but we’re ready to play them again.”

“We respect Cheverus as a team, but one of our mottoes is to ‘Play like Bulldogs’ and if we do that, we can beat anybody,” said Krieckhaus.

“Cheverus is a good contest,” Broderick added. “They have some great players. I think we’re going to change how we do the draw. That was a big factor in the first game. We have to play smarter. We beat ourselves the first time. Hopefully, we’re cleaning things up.”

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

Portland sophomore Isabella More shoots and scores on Oxford Hills freshman goalie Tiana James.

Portland sophomore Elena Clifford scoops up a ground ball.

Portland junior Isabella Edwards tries to get past Oxford Hills sophomore Maggie Hartnett.

Portland sophomore Hazel Praught battles Oxford Hills freshman Ella Kellogg for possession.

Portland senior Morgan Kierstead shoots and scores one of her three goals.

Portland sophomore Isabella More throws a pass as Oxford Hills freshman Ella Kellogg defends.

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