PORTLAND — Gabby Reil scored less than eight minutes into the game and Noble made it stand up for a 1-0 victory against Portland in a Western Class A schoolgirl soccer game Wednesday at soggy Fitzpatrick Stadium.

The Knights, who opened the season Friday with a 2-0 victory against Biddeford, limited the Bulldogs’ chances to record their second victory of the season.

“We didn’t play up to my standards on Friday, and it’s nice to see them come out on this faster surface and play the game we like to play,” Noble Coach Rodney Brown said.

The slick surface made it difficult for either team to maintain possession for long.

“The wetness makes the ball skip and you can get a lucky bounce here and there,” Portland Coach Britney Dupee said. “You expect the ball to be one place and it’s somewhere else.”

Dupee, in her first season as coach of the Bulldogs, knows a lot about the stadium.

She was a member of the Portland varsity team for four seasons before playing four years at Sacred Heart University, a Division I school in Fairfield, Conn.

“Fitzy is my home,” she said. “I’ve got so many memories being back at this field.”

The lone goal came when Portland goalkeeper Mishale Nabi was unable to keep her hands on Reil’s shot from 15 yards, and the ball bounced over the goal line after falling at her feet.

“Today we didn’t have a great start and they capitalized on it,” Dupee said. “But we came out and played for the rest of the game, and that’s all I can ask of (my players).”

Noble held a 7-3 edge in shots in the first half but the Bulldogs (0-2) had their chances.

Less than 14 minutes into the game, Noble goalie Jessica Bickford came off her line to deflect Ashley Frank’s shot from 20 yards past the right post for her first save of the game.

With less than eight minutes left in the half, Bickford leaped high to snare Brianna Frank’s blast from outside the penalty box.

Portland tried to apply more offensive pressure in the second half.

“We’re moving players around and figuring out who works with who and what formation works best,” Dupee said.

“We wound up switching up formations. In the second half we needed to get more movement going forward and it worked out. We got a couple of more shots in the second half.”

But Noble, a defensive-oriented team, did a good job of keeping Portland’s forwards away from Bickford, who made seven saves to post her second shutout.

“We try to definitely build from our defense and work through the midfield,” Brown said.

“Our defense is anchored by Shannon Horton at sweeper. We have a lot of inexperience on defense and it’s nice to have her back there, for sure.”

Despite the outcome of Wednesday’s game, Dupee saw improvement in the performance of her team, which opened the season Saturday with an 8-0 setback at Windham.

“We still have some things we need to work on, but we’ve got a lot of young players and that’s to be expected,” said Dupee, who coached the Portland junior varsity for the past two seasons.

“I think what’s important is we’re coming and playing for the whole game.”

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

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