GORHAM—Molly Murray and Sydney Connolly put up points for the Rams vs. visiting Westbrook on Monday afternoon, Sept. 9: Murray tipped hers home on a feed and Connolly capitalized out of a scramble.

Those notches proved sufficient to push Gorham past the Blue Blazes – who, happily, did get on the board by the end.

2-1 the final.

Katie Champagne had Westbrook’s lone goal in the 2-1 defeat. Adam Birt / American Journal

“In the first half,” said Gorham head coach Becky Manson. “we were able to capitalize on a couple of breakaways…We were able to use the width of the field, even though our transition game wasn’t as evident as we’d like.”

“We knew they were going to be a good team,” said Westbrook co-head-coach Rachelle Violette, asked about the Rams. “They were ranked second coming into the season. They’ve got a ton of numbers, which is great; I’m very, very happy for Gorham in their program. Because we have such a lack of numbers. And their coaches are awesome.”

Gorham churned up a series of corners early in the first half – to no avail – and about eight and half minutes in, Ram Faith Dillon took a penalty stroke. Westbrook goalie Aria Brunner turned Dillon’s attempt away with a nice pad save, but Gorham continued pressuring for several more minutes.

“We were confident,” Manson said. “And we’re in great shape. But we’re still in the beginning of our season, trying to gel together as a team, and sometimes if communication is off, that trickles down.”

With 18:00 (give or take) on the clock, Westbrook finally broke the Rams’ attack, pushing back through midfield for a turn on offense. They couldn’t capitalize, but as play seesawed from end-to-end for a stretch, neither could Gorham.

Faith Dillon fires off a penalty shot for the Rams. Adam Birt / American Journal

At 10:15, Ram Jillian Morrill shoveled inward hard from the right side; Murray got a stick on the feed, but Brunner blocked the redirect. Less than 30 seconds later, Murray got a second chance on a similar play – and converted. 1-0, assist to Lydia Gaudreau.

“The first goal was off of a set play, off of a 25-yard free hit,” Manson said, “and we’ve been practicing some tips, and the ball went in. We had an awesome, beautiful goal off that.”

Manson took a moment to applaud a few of her girls, including Murray. “Molly is three goals into it now, two goals last game. She’s been super-consistent. She played the entire game; she keeps the ball on her stick, she gets those opportunities in there. My right-mid, Lydia Gaudreau, had a pretty good game keeping control – she has great stick skills. Her drive can get us out of some sticky situations. And then Sydney came in and she’s just lightning-fast – she sparks that offense. She can make up a lot of ground fast.”

Westbrook picked up a pair of corner opportunities late in the uphill half, but couldn’t wring a point from either one. In the seconds before the break, the Blazes did pound the ball into the back of the Rams’ cage – only to see the notch waved off.

Violette also paused to applaud a handful of her athletes. “Mary Keef,” she said; “she’s just been playing great. She’s an animal on the right side of the field. She owns the sideline. We were able to keep the ball on our right side of the field, and for most teams, the right side is the stronger side – because it’s the stronger side of your stick. Katie Champagne is doing great at forward; she’s great at getting into the circle and getting something off, whether it’s a shot, pass, corner – doing something with the ball.

“And then Ariana St. Clair, she’s kind of holding that center-d role. And for a little girl – you would underestimate her. And then Ella Morris, we have playing out back, another senior, and she’s just been playing great too.”

Kate Cavallaro drives toward the net, attacking for the Blazes. Adam Birt / American Journal

Gorham grabbed control to begin the latter half. A mere 45 seconds in, Connolly earned the team’s second of the afternoon, hammering the ball home out of a melee on Brunner’s doorstep.

“The second goal was off of a rebound,” Manson said. “Just being able to get that ball in the net, with everybody having their sticks down and being in that right spot.”

The Blazes suffered another waved goal with roughly 20:30 to go. Violette accepted both calls without question.

“The two goals that got called back weren’t goals,” she said. “I’d much rather win by deserving the win. I don’t want a goal if it’s off a girl’s foot; only with the right ethics behind it.”

At 12:48, the Blazes finally sunk a ball that stuck. Morgan LeBeau launched the initial shot off the grass, and Katie Champagne relayed it home out of midair. 2-1.

“It was a nice goal,” Violette said, “but also a lucky one. It’s a game of bounces, and you’re going to have some days where you’ll get the bounce and some days where you won’t. Both teams got bounces today, and that goal for us, we definitely got one there.”

Ram Julia Edwards navigates between a pair of Westbrook opponents. Adam Birt / American Journal

Both sides generated opportunities as time wound down. Gorham couldn’t convert on a corner, and Westbrook applied heavy pressure late – the Blazes were desperate to even things up and force OT – but their best shot, in the last second, sailed just wide of the Rams’ cage.

Time expired.

“We saw Westbrook in a play day,” Manson said, asked if Gorham knew what to expect from the Blazes, heading into Monday’s game. “And we knew they recently played Massabesic and that score was a pretty big score for Massabesic…But we didn’t really know what to expect. Our gameplan was just to mark as well as we did. That did go well for us for the most part. And then just to play our game.”

The win bumped Gorham to 2-0 on the autumn. The Rams followed up with a 1-0 loss to Noble on Tuesday, Sept. 10.

Westbrook, meanwhile, slid to 0-2 on the loss. Their next game turned out to be another defeat, unfortunately – this one a real nailbiter, a 1-0, double-OT endurance trial at Falmouth. That game also took place on Tuesday.

Mary Keef dominates the ride side of most any field she steps on. Adam Birt / American Journal

Lily Ranco unwinds for the Blazes. Adam Birt / American Journal

Molly Murray leads Gorham’s offense. Adam Birt / American Journal

Mackenzie Yaskula bats the ball inward, on offense for Gorham. Adam Birt / American Journal

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