GORHAM—Aliza Jordan (a Gorham native, and a graduate of Gorham High School) led the Lady Huskies in chewing through visiting Keene State on Saturday afternoon, April 13. Jordan hashed five goals and three assists as USM built to a substantial, 16-9 advantage through the first 54 minutes or so. And though the Owls surged late, the home team held on to secure a 16-13 victory in the end.

Jordan is a senior, but freshman Lindsey Keenan (Naples, Maine/Lake Region) also proved crucial to the Huskies’ triumph, contributing four goals and an assist.

“Keene is an incredibly gritty team,” USM head coach Ashley Durepo said. “Chelsea Lewis (Londonderry, New Hampshire/Londonderry) and Brigid Casey (Mont Vernon, New Hampshire/Souhegan) are both great attackers; they can drive hard and also feed their teammates who are open, which makes it very hard to defend them. Even with the extra defensive attention we gave them, they were able to score three goals (Lewis) and four goals (Casey).”

As the uphill half got underway, Keene piled up a small lead, 3-1: Casey scored just 30 seconds in on a free position to kick things off; Jordan shortly responded on an assist by Allison Irish (Lyman, Maine/Massabesic), but then the Owls notched two consecutive – Ali Daisey (Raynham, Massachusetts/Bridgewater-Raynham) added the first on a Casey assist and Lewis added the second entirely on her own.

Irish from Jordan cut the Keene lead to 3-2, and Husky Taylor Rinaldi (Freeport, Maine/Freeport) logged a back-to-back pair – the first on a free position and the second with help from Colleen Fleming (South Portland, Maine/South Portland) – to push USM out front for the first time, 4-3.

As the half wore on, Keene got goals from Marina Pappalardo (Gorham, Maine/Gorham), Erica Chareth (Amherst, New Hampshire/Bishipo Guertin) and Lewis again; despite the Owls’ tenacious efforts, though, the Huskies put up five more to remain on top at the break. Irish, Keenan, Jordan, Fleming and Rachel Shanks (Naples, Maine/Lake Region) combined to do the honors for USM.

“The biggest thing that went right for our defense,” Durepo said, “was the ability to start on the ride – the defensive transition; to slow them down early; limit the fast break opportunities; and force some early turnovers. Our entire team committed to this effort.”

Keene picked up the first two of the downhill half, thereby cutting their deficit to one, at 9-8. But then Keenan and Jordan tallied two more each: Keenan from Jordan, Jordan on a free position, Jordan assisted by Rinaldi and Keenan assisted by Rinaldi: 13-8. Casey interrupted – just briefly – USM’s momentum, scoring for 13-9, before Keenan, Rinaldi and Jordan tripled up for 16-9.

“Offensively, things have finally started to click,” Durepo said. “We’ve had the talent all year; however, it can take a while for the connections to happen and for the women to learn each others’ tendencies. While we do still have things to work on, we were really able to put it all together. We focused a lot during practice on the little things (cutting off ball, constantly moving, communication) and I think it paid off.”

Keene –to their great credit – made a run at the end, piling up the day’s last four points. Four wouldn’t do it, but four sure had to make USM nervous.

“I felt that we were in control of most of the game,” Durepo said, “and tried to manage our offensive possessions in the second half. We were able to get the score to 16-9; however, in the last seven minutes of the game, we allowed Keene to outscore us 4-0, which cannot happen. Keene came up with some really key draws and pushed the pace on us quickly with the fast break. Luckily, we’d built a nice lead. However, we need to work on closing out the game and winning those key draws and ground balls in tight moments.”

USM faced off with Plymouth State on Wednedsay, April 17.

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

Aliza Jordan battles for the draw in USM’s win over Keene State. Jordan contributed five goals and four assists for the Huskies.