Portland girls ride strong defense to key win over MGA

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Portland’s girls’ lacrosse team congratulates junior goalie Abby Krieckhaus at the final horn of Thursday’s 11-6 home win over Maine Girls’ Academy. 

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.


Portland 11 Maine Girls’ Academy 6

MGA- 4 2- 6
P- 5 6- 11

First half
24:06 MGA Ca. Reid (unassisted)
21:56 P Moran (free position)
17:11 P Girsch (Smith)
16:38 P A. More (Kierstead)
14:39 P Stoddard (Kierstead)
14:08 MGA Mazur (unassisted)
11:06 P Stoddard (unassisted)
6:17 MGA Ca. Reid (unassisted)
1:41 MGA Downey (Ca. Reid)

Second half
23:45 P Moran (unassisted)
20:07 P A. More (Kierstead)
11:20 P Stoddard (unassisted)
6:30 P A. More (Kierstead)
5:36 P Bryant (Moran)
3:21 MGA Mazur (free position)
3:07 MGA Ca. Reid (Mazur)
0.1 P I. More (Bryan)

MGA- Ca. Reid 3, Mazur 2, Downey 1
P- A. More, Stoddard 3, Moran 2, Bryan, Girsch, I. More 1

MGA- Mazur, Ca. Reid 1
P- Kierstead 4, Bryan, Moran, Smith 1

Draws (Portland, 10-8)
MGA- Ca. Reid 6 of 14, Mazur 2 of 4
P- Girsch 5 of 9, Cox 3 of 7, Kierstead 2 of 2

Ground balls (Portland, 51-33)
MGA- Mazur, Ca. Reid 10, Downey, Toohey 3, DiPhillipo, LaCasse, Cl. Reid, Reischmann, Smith, Spies, Wheeler 1
P- Cox, A. More 6, Kierstead 5, Edwards, Girsch, Praught, Smith 4, Bryan, Clifford, Moran, I. More, Stoddard 3, Brown, Green 2, Bessire, Bryan, Krieckhaus 1

MGA- 21
P- 21

MGA- 14
P- 23

Shots on cage:
MGA- 13
P- 17

MGA (LaCasse) 6 
P (Krieckhaus) 7

PORTLAND—Portland’s girls’ lacrosse team has shown steady growth this spring and with a possible postseason spot beckoning, the Bulldogs put forth their best effort to date against dangerous Maine Girls’ Academy on a sweltering Thursday afternoon at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

The Lions took the lead on a goal in the first minute by sophomore Catherine Reid, but Portland roared to life and shot to a 4-1 advantage behind tallies from junior Caitriona Moran, sophomore Sydney Girsch, freshman Annika More and junior Georgia Stoddard.

After MGA sophomore Zoe Mazur and Stoddard traded goals, the visitors got tallies from Reid and sophomore Grace Downey to pull within 5-4 at halftime, but the second half would be dominated by the Bulldogs.

At both ends of the field.

While Portland’s defense and junior goalie Abby Krieckhaus were holding the Lions at bay, the Bulldogs gradually pulled away on the offensive end.

After Moran and More helped stretch the lead with goals early in the second half, Stoddard, More and junior Sarah Bryan all struck to make it 10-4.

Goals from Mazur and Reid cut the deficit to four, but MGA couldn’t draw any closer and just before the horn, freshman Isabella More delivered the punctuation mark and the Bulldogs defeated the Lions, 11-6.

Stoddard and Annika More both had three goals to pace a balanced attack and Portland improved to 3-6 on the year, dropping MGA to 4-5 in the process.

“We tend to be a second half team and coming off a loss Tuesday, we thought the heat would get to us, but we stepped it up and we came out ready to go,” Stoddard said. 

Eye on the postseason

After missing the postseason a year ago, MGA and Portland are two of five teams fighting for the final three playoff spots in Class A North this spring and both entered the game needing a win.

The Lions started with a 17-4 home loss to Marshwood, then defeated host Noble, 13-7. After 14-12 losses at Cony and at home to Biddeford, MGA beat host Westbrook (11-5), visiting Sanford (17-10) and visiting North Yarmouth Academy (17-4) before dropping an overtime heartbreaker at home to Gorham Tuesday, 10-9.

The Bulldogs hadn’t had much luck getting in the win column, but had been competitive. Portland lost its opener, 18-2, at Biddeford, then rallied late to stun visiting Scarborough, 9-8, its first win over the Red Storm in 13 seasons. The Bulldogs dropped their next four outings, 8-3 at Lewiston, 15-1 at defending Class A South champion Massabesic, 7-6 at home to Cheverus and 12-5 at South Portland before downing visiting Gardiner in a crossover, 11-8. Tuesday, Portland lost at home to Windham, 10-5.

Last year, the Bulldogs’ lone victory came at the Lions expense, 15-13, on the road.

Thursday, on by far the hottest day of the season yet (92 degrees to start, 86 to finish), Portland beat MGA for the eighth straight time.

Early on, it appeared as if the Lions might have their way, as Mazur won the opening draw, MGA settled the ball on offense and once Reid got it on her stick, she got past the defense and beat Krieckhaus for a 1-0 lead just 54 seconds in.

But that would be the Lions’ highwater mark.

With 21:56 to play in the first half, Moran tied the score with a free position shot.

With 17:11 left, Bulldogs junior Maria Smith had the ball behind the cage and threw it in front to a cutting Girsch, who one-timed a shot past MGA freshman goalie Lily LaCasse to put the hosts ahead to stay.

Goals from Annika More (set up by junior Morgan Kierstead) with 16:38 remaining before halftime and Stoddard (again from Kierstead) two minutes later pushed the lead to 4-1 and forced Lions coach Eric Wales (who formerly coached the Bulldogs) to call timeout.

It helped, as after a nice spin move, Mazur finished with 14;08 on the clock, but after the game was stopped for a heat-necessitated water break midway through the half, Stoddard scored again on a shot which LaCasse never saw with 11:06 remaining.

“I usually play in the back and it was really exciting to have some shots today,” Stoddard said.

Portland wouldn’t score again before halftime and MGA made things interesting.

With 6:47 left, Reid scored unassisted.

With 1:41 to go, Reid set up Downey for an easy look in front and the Bulldogs’ lead was cut to 5-4 at halftime.

The Lions had a 10-7 advantage in shots on cage in the first half, but six saves from Krieckhaus kept Portland on top.

The Bulldogs would then control play in the second half and pulled away to victory.

A little over a minute into the second half, Moran scored unassisted for a little breathing room and with 20:07 to go, Annika More finished a feed from Kierstead to make it 7-4.

With MGA unable to get possession, Portland wore down the Lions’ defense.

With 11:20 left, Stoddard scored unassisted.

With 6:30 to play, Annika More scored her third goal, from Kierstead.

Moran set up Bryan 54 seconds later and the lead was 10-4.

MGA finally snapped a 23 minute, 20 second drought with 3:21 to play, when Mazur converted a free position, and 14 seconds later, Mazur passed to Reid, who finished to make it 10-6, but the Lions couldn’t get the ball back and just before time expired, Bryan set up Isabella More for a goal which made the final score 11-6.

Six different Bulldogs scored in the win.

Annika More and Stoddard led the way with three apiece, Moran had two and Bryan, Girsch and Isabella More all tickled the twine once. Kierstead quietly played a huge role as well with four assists. Bryan, Moran and Smith all assisted on one goal.

“We had good scoring balance,” Portland coach Beth Broderick said. “We’ve worked in practice on spreading the ball around. We have some new kids who have joined us.”

Krieckhaus made seven saves and she got plenty help from her defense, which stymied a high-flying MGA offense.

“We’re great at communicating on defense,” Stoddard said. “We have great chemistry. We talked before the game and had a strategy. We knew they had two great shooters. We played tight on them and Abby is amazing.”

“They have two fantastic players, but I think we have some of the best defensive players in the state and we marked them up,” Broderick said.

Portland had a commanding 51-33 edge in ground balls (Annika More and senior Grace Cox had six apiece), won 10 of 18 draws and had a 23-14 shots advantage (17-13 on cage).

The Bulldogs overcame 21 turnovers.

The Lions got three goals from Reid, two from Mazur and one from Downey. Mazur and Reid also had an assist and tied for game-high honors in ground balls with 10. LaCasse stopped six shots.

MGA was hindered by 21 turnovers.

“It was pretty basic, we didn’t pass or catch,” Wales said. “Things are going good overall, but we have to pick up ground balls and pass and catch.”

End is near

MGA (seventh in the Class A North Heal Points standings at press time) visits Deering Tuesday and Windham Thursday of next week before closing at home versus Cheverus May 31. 

Portland (sixth in Class A North) hosts Thornton Academy Tuesday of next week, then goes to Bonny Eagle two days later before closing at Deering May 30.

“There’s a lot of passion on the team and it’s showing on the field,” Stoddard said. “We have a good shot the rest of our games. If we can get in (to the playoffs), anything can happen. We’re excited.”

“We hope our best game is still to come,” Broderick said. “Our goal is to fight our way into the playoffs and we’re on track. We’ve got three games to be competitive.”

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

MGA sophomore Zoe Mazur circles behind the goal. Mazur scored twice.

Portland junior Morgan Kierstead, who had four assists, possesses the ball.

Portland senior Grace Cox passes the ball.

MGA freshman goalie Lily LaCasse makes a save on a shot by Portland junior Morgan Kierstead as Lions sophomore Catherine Reid looks on..

MGA sophomore Catherine Reid has the ball knocked away by Portland defenders (from left) junior Charlie Green, junior Sarah Bryan and sophomore Sydney Girsch.

Portland freshman Annika More shoots and scores one of her three goals.

Portland junior Sarah Bryan is congratulated by classmate Morgan Kierstead after scoring a goal.

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