WINDHAM–The Lady Eagles – Julia McKenna and Hannah Kaplan propelling them forward with a goal apiece – dashed 2-0 past the visiting Red Riots on Saturday morning, Sept. 2. To their great credit, though, South Portland looked strong, and battled the top-flight Windhamites admirably.

“I would say we did get very lucky,” Windham head coach Deb Lebel said. “[South Portland], in the first half, outplayed us. They probably had more shots than us in the first half…We need to clean things up, defensively.”

Despite controlling much of the uphill 40 minutes, South Portland, a program on the rise by any measure, couldn’t get on the board. The Riots crossbarred a number of balls – Hattie Tetzlaff, for instance, rang one with 1:35 to play before the break – but simply couldn’t billow the net.

“We’re every bit as good as they are,” South Portland head coach Jeff Selser said. “The only difference between us and them, today: a little bit of the intensity in the second half. We had some unlucky breaks, in that we hit the crossbar at least five times. I thought we dominated the first half, but their goals were on two defensive let-downs. We’ve got to keep working on that; it’s plagued us all preseason.”

“We had a great preseason,” Selser said. “We tied Greely, which is a phenomenal program, 4-4. And we went into this pretty confident. But once we fell behind a team like Windham, Windham’s experience being in the top-tier is, I think, what prevailed. We got a little spooked, and what was working for us – our quick movement, our passing game – started to fall apart.”

The Eagles struck their first blow roughly midway through the opening half. Again, McKenna did the honors: From low on the left side, she relayed a feed from Maggie Lloyd past SoPo keeper Maria Buck. Windham then tallied their second at 26:42 of the latter half, when Kaplan, assisted by Meghan Hoffses, belted a successful shot through heavy traffic from perhaps 10 yards out.

“When we play together, and we play unselfishly, that’s how we’re going to need to get goals this season,” said Lebel. “We’ve talked about it a lot: ‘You can’t do it on your own.’ So when we can connect two or three passes right around the box, that’s how we scored, and that’s probably going to be how we continue to score.”

 “We’re a bit of a young team,” Lebel conceded, without seeming to think of that fact as much of an impediment. “We’ve got great leadership up top, and I feel like these freshmen come in, they give us a spark – they’ve got energy, they’ve got speed, their foot-skills are good. I’m really excited about this incoming freshman class. They’re filling some holes we had, and they strengthen us as a group. It’s nice.” Four freshmen took to the field for Windham against the Riots.

The Riots crossbarred another with 8:40 remaining; by now, Windham’s shutout looked practically predestined. Eagles keeper Kaitlyn Roberts turned her most spectacular save of the day – a leaping deflection over the top of the net – with just 16 seconds left to ultimately secure the 2-0 result.

“We took a ton of shots – the Windham goalie had a fantastic save at the end of the game,” Selser said. “Hats off to her. I would prefer that she’d make those saves against somebody else, but that was a great save. I congratulated her for it after the game.”

Lebel praised Roberts. “Our goalkeeper had a great game today,” she said. “She’s worked hard, she’s finally a senior, and I think she really wants this. She’s put in the time.”

Windham were scheduled to host Bonny Eagle on Wednesday the 6th, but administrators postponed that game. Instead, the Scots next travel to Deering on Friday the 8th. Similarly, SoPo were slated to take on Massabesic on Wednesday, but that was also delayed. The Riots visit Cheverus on Friday.

Adam Birt can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME

Windham freshman Beem Riley worked the right side of the field threateningly vs. visiting South Portland on Saturday; here, she unwinds into a shot on net. Riots senior Hannah Yesse swoops in with hopes of interrupting.

SoPo’s Kaya Backman and Windham’s Hannah Kaplan battle for a header.

Riot Juliana Selser does what she can to block out Eagle Maggie Lloyd, pressuring hard in pursuit of an airborne ball.

South Portland’s Sophie Chase tracks Windhamite Allison Kirby, pushing upfield.

Windhamite Maggie Symonds cleats the ball away, around SoPo back Isabella Cloutier.

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