GORHAM — Both teams were out to prove their merit and in many ways, both did just that.

The Gorham High girls’ soccer team supplied plenty of evidence it has the toughness and desire to beat a strong team with Wednesday night’s 3-0 Southern Class A victory against previously unbeaten Sanford.

“This was a huge game for us,” Gorham Coach Jeanne Zarrilli said after her squad improved to 5-1. “Our (1-0) loss to Scarborough made us fired up and Sanford was coming in undefeated and worth a lot of (Heal) points, and we’d heard a lot of great things about them.”

First and foremost was that Sanford (3-1-2) had earned a 2-2 tie against Scarborough. Then the Spartans came from two goals down against a quality Deering squad for another 2-2 tie.

The Spartans’ first loss did not diminish their improvement. Sanford was 4-9-1 in 2014.

“We wanted to compete and beat a quality team,” Zarrilli said. “And Sanford is a quality team. I thought that was like a playoff game. That was probably the toughest game we’ve played all season.”

Sanford forced Gorham keeper Emma Smith to make 12 saves on 16 total shots.

Two would-be goals in a 30-second span midway through the second half – with the score 2-0 – were stopped by Gorham defenders Noelle Dibiase and Cady Houghton.

Throughout the game feisty Sanford forward Vanessa Hodge produced nervous moments for the Gorham back line, and freshman outside back Megan O’Connell impressed with her ball distribution and tactical throw-ins.

“I think we definitely are for real this season,” Sanford first-year coach Chris Coleman said.

“With a new coach and some new girls the mindset is completely different from past seasons.”

In the opening minutes of the game, Nichole LeBlanc of Sanford sent a shot barely wide.

Later in the half a strong cross from Hodge found an open Julia Allen on the far post. Allen had to take an extra touch to settle the ball and that gave Smith time to come out for a save with a slide tackle.

Between Sanford coming up empty on its top-drawer chances, Gorham scored twice.

Meghan Perrin set up the first goal when she got the ball on the wing and was able to advance to and across the end line before sending a rolling pass to the front of the goal that Emily Bragg shot past the dive of standout Sanford keeper Kyla Bragg (11 saves) at 5:46.

Gorham freshman Hallie Shiers, who had replaced Emily Bragg, scored at 16:42.

Shiers converted after using speed and balance to run on to a long Perrin pass.

With Sanford continuing to pressure, the game wasn’t truly decided until Gorham defender Narissa Libby struck a 55-yard direct kick goal that bounced behind the wall of players at the top of the penalty box and skipped past Kyla Bragg.

“I was trying to send it back post for Lizzie (Sullivan) or Emma Forgues to run on to but it bounced and then went in,” Libby said.

“It was three goals and three errors from ourselves and Gorham punished us for them,” Coleman said.