WATERBORO—Gorham locked horns with rivals Massabesic in the playoffs on Saturday night, June 8, and – for the second time in recent years – came up short. The Rams surged beautifully on Carson Battaglia, Hailey Morrill and Mary DeWitt goals to overcome a 4-1 deficit midway through the contest, but ultimately fell to the Mustangs 7-6.

“It could’ve gone either way the entire time,” Gorham head coach Mary Guimond said. “It was so back-and-forth, the momentum. Both teams capitalized on the opponent’s smallest mistakes – which is what made it a great game.”

The bout began in a balanced enough way: The teams traded attacking stretches, and when Massabesic pressured, Rams keeper Paige Hume stood strong in goal. McKenzy Ouellette, though – with 17:31 on the clock – got by Hume with a shot, setting the scoreboard at 1-0.

Ouellette would prove challenging for the Rams to contain. “She definitely found a way to get around the defense,” Guimond said. “We were focusing on shutting down a girl that had been a real big factor in our last game. But, tons of skilled teammates can step up there, so Kenzy was definitely the one to do that today for them, which was awesome.”

Gorham battled for the next several minutes, and from just about 12:00 to just about 11:00 generated three rapid-fire free-position opportunities. But they didn’t convert – not till 8:04, when Morrill slipped a free-position ball past Massabesic netminder Katie Castle. 1-1.

The next three tallies all belonged to the Mustangs, and carried the action into the second half: Ouellette put up two for the team, and Noelle DesVergnes the other. The Rams had fallen behind, and didn’t look to have much momentum in their corner; the game was slowly slipping away from them.

That’s when Gorham found a groove: With just under 20 minutes to go, Battaglia connected with Morrill from behind the Massabesic net for a redirect strike and 4-2. Four minutes later, DeWitt made it 4-3 on a free position, and a mere 18 seconds after that, Battaglia grabbed a loose ball at midfield, drove forward into Mustangs territory, danced between multiple defenders and evened the score at 4-all.

“She’s been solid, she’s a competitor,” Guimond said of DeWitt, who’s a mere freshman. “She doesn’t like to lose, so she’s always somebody you want out there. For a freshman to come with the kind of poise and game-changing ability she has – she’s not afraid to take it. Our freshman class as a whole is really strong, so we’re excited.”

Massabesic recorded the next goal, an Emily Jacobs goal on a free position; Gorham, now fired up, soon answered, with Sarah Walker scoring out of a melee at Castle’s feet. The Rams then seized the lead 6-5 on a Hallie Shiers free-position, only to see Ouellette soon make it 6-6.

Hume continued to look outstanding between the pipes for Gorham, recording huge saves at 4:46 and – on a Ouellette free position – at 3:47. At 3:40, though, Skylar Renaud took another free position shot for the Mustangs, and got the better of Hume for 7-6.

Gorham features five key seniors: Morrill, Shiers, Walker, Sarah Stevens and Hannah Lowell. Alongside Hume, Walker is the team’s defensive linchpin. “I look at her and I say, ‘What do you want to do back there? I completely trust her judgment,’” Guimond said of Walker. “She makes the right calls all the time. So I said, ‘It’s your defense; what do you want to do?’ To lose her will be a bummer, but she’s trained her people well.”

The Rams galloped into a long offensive stretch in the ensuing minutes. They settled into a perimeter, passing the ball ably and waiting patiently for their opportunity to strike. They were man-down, it’s worth noting – Walker had somehow pulled a yellow-card – and were hoping to get back to even strength before launching their assault.

Alas, with maybe 90 seconds left, Shiers was called for an infraction, one that resulted in a turnover. (Rule-breaking often seems like a hair-trigger affair in girls lacrosse.) Shiers wasn’t charging the goal, she was merely prowling the top of the zone and peering about for pass options. But the Mustangs’ defense pushed back, forced a confrontation and came away with possession.

“We were trying to bide our time,” Guimond said. “We were trying to get back to even strength, because we didn’t like what was going to happen if we ended up back on our end. Looking back, hindsight is 20-20, maybe we should’ve taken a chance while we were man-down. Hallie took it really hard, but she played an amazing game.”

From there, Massabesic needed only kill time – which they did, securing a triumph.

Guimond talked about the free position aspect of the game – how defenses try to avoid giving them up, and how offenses try to wring them from their opponents. “Stick in the right place, body in the right place. But a good team, it wants to make you get into shooting space, give up those free-position shots. But I would rather give up a free position, because our goalie has a better chance of saving a point like that, rather than somebody right on her doorstep, ready to bang one home.”

No. 3 Gorham concludes their 2019 at 11-3. The Rams went 10-2 through the regular season – one of those two losses came against the Mustangs, in fact: 6-2 just a couple weeks back – before smashing No. 6 Noble 17-1 in the quarterfinals to earn their rematch opportunity vs. Massabesic.

The Mustangs move on to face No. 1 Kennebunk in Wednesday, June 12’s Regional Finals.

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

Determination in her eyes, Mary DeWitt unwinds into a hard shot for the Rams.

Hallie Shiers turned in an excellent game for the Rams.

Gorhamite Faith Dillon carries in her girls’ narrow loss to Massabesic.

Carson Battaglia attacks for the Rams.

Carson Battaglia approaches the Massabesic net on the attack for Gorham.

Hailey Morrill surveys her pass options.

The Gorham girls convene during halftime.

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