SACO — The Thornton Academy girls soccer team didn’t get the benefit of playing a pushover in its playoff opener, instead, the Trojans faced a Gorham team that was better than its seventh seed.

The second-seeded Trojans battled for 80 minutes, but at the final buzzer, they came away with a 2-0 win in a Class A West quarterfinal at Hill Stadium on Tuesday, earning a date in the Western Maine Class A semifinals on Saturday.

The Trojans came out with the early momentum, as they had the benefit of a bye while the Rams had to make it through the preliminary round. Thornton’s star strikers Amanda Arnold and Tori Daigle each made a couple of runs deep into the right corner of the Gorham zone in the first 10 minutes, but the Trojans couldn’t generate any solid chances to score.

The Rams stole momentum from there, and they began to pressure the Thornton defense. On their first corner kick, 12 minutes in, the Rams had a solid chance at breaking onto the scoreboard, but Cady Houghton’s header missed wide. Ten minutes later, Shannon Folan found an open spot in front of the goal awaiting a pass, but Thornton goalie Emily Richard scooped up her soft shot.

The Rams continued to press, as Thornton head coach Chris Kohl pleaded for his defenders to push up and cool down the Gorham attack. The Trojans finally pushed the play back into the Gorham end late in the half, and it allowed them to break the shutout. Daigle took the ball straight up the middle, squeezed through two defenders, and tried to get a shot off. A Ram defender deflected the ball, but it went right to the feet of Katherine Gillespie, who alertly laced a shot from just outside the 18 into the far right corner of the net. The goal came with just 2:09 left in the half, and it seemed to give the Trojans some breathing room.

“Katherine’s goal was big, because it was sort of ”˜OK, we’re up. We got a little margin for error,’” said Kohl. “It was like ”˜phew.’ You go into halftime. You’re up 1-0, but you feel like you have a little bit of a margin for error, so if something happens, you’re still in the game.”

The first goal is usually critical in the playoffs, as they come more sparingly as the competition stiffens, Daigle said, adding that the team was glad to get that all-important first score.

“I was pumped,” she said. “I think everyone was pumped. It kept us going.”

Though the Trojans took the momentum into halftime, it didn’t prevent Gorham from coming out strongly to start the second half. The Rams took the ball straight into the Thornton end and pressured the Trojans’ back line, but the defense held.

“They’re the under-appreciated part of our team,” Kohl said.

Arnold nearly doubled the lead not once, but twice, 12 minutes in, as Alyssa Gilbert fed her the ball inside the Gorham box, but Arnold couldn’t get a foot on either pass.

The two teams traded and missed on free kicks a couple of minutes later. Allison Coburn had a perfectly placed free kick from just outside the Gorham box toward the top left corner of the goal, but Gorham goalie Marissa Roberts knocked it away. Gorham had a free kick of its own three minutes later, and Folan was left unmarked, but her shot rolled across the goal mouth before Katelyn Pierson cleared it.

The Trojans scored the dagger with 14 minutes left. Kaitlyn McCrum took a shot from 25 yards out that was deflected away and seemingly headed out of bounds. But Daigle raced to the ball and reached it before crossing the end line, and she snapped a pass into the goal mouth. Haley DaGraca was there to put the ball away and give the Trojans a comfortable lead that they didn’t relinquish.

Richard had to make some difficult saves toward the end, but she lofted a goal kick into the middle of the field as the final buzzer sounded and her teammates rushed toward her to celebrate the victory.

“It was a great win for us, and we’re moving on to the semifinals again,” a relieved Kohl said after the game.

Kohl said that the game was worthy of a regional semifinal or final, and that the tough first draw will only help Thornton in its semifinal matchup. The Trojans will host the winner of Scarborough-Sanford ”“ played today at 5 p.m. at Scarborough ”“ on Saturday.

— Contact Wil Kramlich at 282-1535, Ext. 323.



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