– By GREG REID
Special to the Telegram
PORTLAND – With 12:12 left in the first half Saturday, Vanessa Ludka scored her second straight goal and Windham’s third in three minutes for a 4-2 lead over Cheverus.
The Stags took a timeout. It was time to turn things around. But how?
“We just had to not try to force through, be patient and play smart,” Cheverus midfielder Elyse Caiazzo said. “We had to be patient and play smart.”
That they did.
No. 2 seed Cheverus (11-3) rattled off seven straight goals, including three in the final minute of the half for a 9-4 lead. The Stags didn’t stop there, rolling to a 15-8 victory in an Eastern Class A girls’ lacrosse semifinal at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
Cheverus reached the regional final for the second straight year. The Stags will host No. 4 Cony, which knocked off top-seeded Messalonskee, 13-10.
The No. 6 Eagles, making their first voyage into the playoffs, finish at 8-6.
Meredith Willard led Cheverus with five goals and an assist, Caiazzo had three goals and three assists, and sophomore attacks MaryKate Walsh and Abby Biegel each scored three times.
Cheverus’ Alex Logan dominated on draws, winning 18 of 25, and the Stags outshot the Eagles, 32-16.
Ludka led Windham with five goals. Emily Bland had two goals and three assists, and goalie Nicole Kennedy made 13 saves, including two on direct-free positions.
“I’m proud of these kids,” said Windham Coach Deb Lebel. “We knew Cheverus was going to be tough. Their defense collapses so well. We’re not going to score if we have to go through two, three people. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went all the way.”
Not that the game didn’t have its anxious moments for the Stags.
“The big thing was that we started to maintain possession,” Cheverus Coach Jamie Chamberlain said. “When they were gaining possession early, (we) weren’t tentative or sitting back. They made some great plays and we had to start getting those possessions right from the draw. We were getting good looks, we just weren’t connecting. Eventually, we started converting those opportunities.”
Walsh, a sophomore transfer from McAuley, handled the ball behind the cage for the Stags, allowing Willard, Caiazzo and company to rotate through.
“We’ve been focusing on (set plays) and they were there today,” Willard said. “We were looking for the right cut and my team’s passes were amazing.”