PORTLAND – After starting this season with seven new starters and a 1-2 record, the Gorham girls soccer team now looks to be peaking at just the right time. Just ask Cheverus.

The Rams scored two goals midway through the first half and held off a Cheverus comeback in the second, adding a third goal on a beautiful free kick to win 3-1 Tuesday at Boulos Stadium in Portland. With the win Gorham finishes the regular season on a five-game winning streak and sit at 11-3 overall, good enough for seventh in the Western Class A Heal Points.

Last year, the Rams went 14-0 in the regular season and entered the playoffs in the No. 1 spot, winning twice before dropping a heartbreaker in the last minute to Scarborough in the regional final. While this year started rough, with losses to fellow powers Windham and the Red Storm in the first three games, Gorham is now 10-1 in its last 11 games, and with 21 goals in their last five games coach Jeanne Zarrilli’s younger squad has found the scoring touch in October.

“In the beginning of the season we were offensive but we were struggling to score but we just worked really hard on getting our scoring down,” Zarrilli said. “We’ve adjusted and fixed a lot of our problems I guess.”

Tuesday’s game was an important one as Gorham entered eighth in the Heal Point standings, with the Stags hot on their heels in ninth. A win for either would mean moving up in the standings for better playoff positioning, and after a hard-fought 80 minutes, to the Rams went the spoils.

“We’ve had a couple of non-physical games the last couple of weeks and we knew this was a really big game as the last game of the season before playoffs for both teams,” Zarrilli said. “We always battle with (Cheverus) hard.”

It was a battle from the get-go, with both teams not willing to give an inch in the midfield in the first 10 minutes of the game. The Stags fashioned the first real chance 13 minutes in, when forward Sadie Lyons turned with the ball just outside the Gorham box and hit a rocket. Fortunately for the Rams, it was straight at goalkeeper Marissa Roberts, who was able to parry the ball up and over the crossbar.

Two minutes later, Gorham created its first opportunity when Libby Andreasen made a run from her right back spot and hit a shot from a harsh angle toward the Cheverus goal. But like Lyons’ effort, the ball was straight at Stags keeper Mikayla Mayberry.

Just before the midway point of the first, Gorham got the breakthrough when forward Kali St. Germain won a battle with two Stags defenders in front of the Cheverus box. Mayberry saved her shot from close in nicely, but an onrushing Katie Tucker was there to push the rebound in for the 1-0 lead.

“I just kind of muscled my way through the defense,” St. Germain said. “I took a shot but the goalie made a good save, but Katie Tucker followed it in, which was awesome.”

Before Cheverus could recover, Gorham grabbed its second just three minutes later. Again it was St. Germain’s tenacity that created the chance, as she took the ball off of Stags defender Kelsey Dulac in a one-on-one battle and was in on Mayberry. This time the senior did it herself, slotting past the keeper’s right side to make it 2-0.

“It was sort of the same (as the first one), kind of had to muscle my way through again,” said St. Germain, who has now scored an even 20 times on the year. “Instead of near post I just hooked it around to the far post because the goalie was in the same spot.”

The rest of the first half passed by without incident as the Gorham defense locked down Cheverus starlet Abby Maker, who coming in had 26 goals of her own. But Maker could only be held in check for so long, and five minutes into the second she had her first real opportunity when the ball fell to her 20 yards out. Maker’s powerful shot was saved by Roberts, bouncing off the post and out for a corner.

Two minutes later Maker was at it again, beating Gorham’s offside trap and getting to a long ball before Roberts, who tripped the forward up. The referee played advantage and kept his whistle in his pocket, but just seconds later Maker was again hauled down in the box by a Rams defender and a penalty was called. Darby Rawcliffe stepped up to the spot and her shot to the right just beat Roberts for to make it 2-1.

“Our first half play seemed to work and then she got in a couple times and I had to put somebody back on her and man mark her and make sure she wasn’t going to do it again,” Zarrilli said.

But three minutes later it looked like Maker had won another penalty when she again beat the Gorham offsides trap and was hauled down by a sliding Roberts. However, the official ruled the foul to be outside the box and produced no card for Roberts, causing an uproar on the Cheverus bench and cheering section.

“Marissa would never do anything malicious and intentional,” Zarrilli said of the play. “I told the coach I apologize, and I think they just wanted the card and that was the ref’s call.”

Abigail Goodrich sent the resulting free kick well over the crossbar, and the Rams’ lead was safe. But with the high-powered offense starting to kick into gear, the Rams knew they’d probably need to add another goal, and got it with 23 minutes left when St. Germain won a free kick 25 yards out from the Stags’ goal. Midfielder Erin Smith stepped up to the ball and curled her shot over the three-girl Cheverus wall and just inside the post, leaving Mayberry with no chance.

Maker had her last good opportunity a minute after Smith’s goal when a scramble inside the Gorham box led to Roberts on the ground and the ball at Maker’s feet. But her shot was directly at the keeper, who hugged it to her chest to preserve the two-goal edge. The Rams defense went back into lockdown mode for the last 22 minutes, and the Rams had their 11th victory of the year.

“I thought my defense played phenomenal tonight,” Zarrilli said. “They played probably the toughest game of their season; I mean Abby Maker is a tremendous player. To hold her off and not let her score, and then Darby in the middle and Sadie, they’ve just got some great players there. So I thought we made some adjustments and the defense communicate. A lot of it in defense is communication and they did a great job.”

Gorham will now look to its preliminary round game, tentatively scheduled for Friday at home against Massabesic. With a win there, the Rams would head to Saco next week for a showdown with second-seeded and undefeated Thornton Academy.

The tough, exacting game with the Stags, which had a playoff feel throughout, was a good primer for the challenges to come, St. Germain said.

“When the team is physical and also a good competitor, I think that’s just going to get us ready for whatever hits us in playoffs,” she said.

Gorham defender Sarah Plourde tries to pull away from Cheverus midfielder Victoria Nappi early in the second half.
Gorham forward Shannon Folan and Cheverus defender Danielle Kane go for the ball early in the first half.
Cheverus midfielder Darby Rawcliffe tries to move Gorham midfielder Erin Smith off the ball in the first half. Smith scored the Rams’ third goal on a free kick in the second half as they beat the Stags 3-1.
Gorham defender Libby Andreasen tries to corral the ball in the first half.
Gorham forward Kali St. Germain fights with Cheverus defenders Nicol Pineau (23) and Abigail Goodrich in the first half.
Gorham forward Kali St. Germain puts a shot on the Cheverus goal in the first half. Stags goalkeeper Mikayla Mayberry saved St. Germain’s effort, but Katie Tucker was there to put the rebound home for the Rams’ first goal.
Gorham forward Kate Hopkins controls a long ball as Cheverus midfielder Victoria Nappi tries to catch up in the first half.
Gorham forward Kali St. Germain slips the ball past Cheverus goalkeeper Mikayla Mayberry for the Rams’ second goal.

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