PORTLAND—Nothing’s come easily of late for Cheverus’ girls’ soccer team, but the Stags have managed to remain undefeated nonetheless.

Tuesday afternoon at Boulos Stadium, the Stags got pushed again by a top Class A South contender, this time the Windham Eagles, but in a game where goals were at a premium, it was a familiar face coming through at the optimal time.

After a scoreless first half, which included Windham missing a penalty kick, Cheverus finally broke through with 33:44 to play, when senior standout Emma Gallant, who has already come up huge on countless occasions this autumn, found some operating room and finished.

From there, the Stags’ defense made sure Eagles’ opportunities were few and far between and Cheverus was able to go on to a 1-0 victory.

The win was the Stags’ 10th without a loss this fall and not only kept them atop the heap in the region, it dropped Windham to 5-3-2 in the process.

“We were all excited for this game, but we didn’t come out for this game like we planned to,” said Gallant. “Our energy was low, but we picked it up more in the second half. It’s another step and we’ll learn from it.”

Getting tougher

Cheverus is now into the heart of its schedule, but heading into Tuesday, the Stags had passed every test.

Cheverus started with a 5-1 home victory over South Portland, then blanked host Portland (1-0), host Marshwood (1-0) and visiting Massabesic (6-0), before downing visiting Gorham (5-2), host Kennebunk (3-0) and visiting Deering (4-0). The Stags then eked out a 3-2 win at Falmouth, before blankin host Bonny Eagle (2-0) in their last outing.

Windham, a perennial contender under Coach Deb LeBel, began with a 3-0 win at South Portland. After settling for a 2-2 home tie versus Portland, the Eagles blanked host Sanford (3-0) and Massabesic (6-0), then lost at home to Noble, 2-1. After downing visiting Kennebunk (6-0), Windham won at Marshwood (4-0), then played visiting Falmouth to a 2-2 draw. The last time out, last Thursday, the host Eagles fell to Gorham, 2-1.

The teams hadn’t met since 2016. That year, the Eagles and Stags settled for a 3-3 tie in the regular season at Portland, the Windham upset host Cheverus, 3-1, in the Class A South quarterfinals.

Tuesday, on a 64 degree afternoon, the Stags did just enough to earn their first win over the Eagles since Sept. 20, 2011 (2-0 at home).

Cheverus had six first half corner kicks, but had nothing to show for them.

After Gallant had an early shot saved by Windham senior goalkeeper Siliva Riley, the Eagles got the game’s first golden scoring opportunity, as with 28:46 to go in the first half, freshman Abbey Thornton was tripped up in the box and a penalty kick was rewarded.

Junior Rylee Pepin did the honors, but her shot sailed over the crossbar and the Stags had dodged a bullet

“There was a little panic, but I knew if we didn’t score first, we’d come out and play even harder,” said Cheverus senior back and captain Julia Ryan. “I was hoping the shot wasn’t going in. Normally, they do.”

“If you don’t do the little things, like tracking back and moving on defense, then players who are technical and skilled will get through and get opportunities,” said Cheverus coach Craig Roberts. “It was a clear foul and we had no one to blame but ourselves. Sometimes you get lucky and we got lucky there.”

After junior Mia Kratzer and senior Lauren Jordan missed wide for the Stags, Windham had another good chance in the 24th minute, as sophomore Sarah Talon appeared primed to break in on Cheverus junior goalkeeper Neve Cawley, but Talon got tangled up with a defender at the last minute and fell with no call being made.

Late in the half, sophomore Riley O’Mara was just wide for the Stags and Riley punched a Gallant corner kick out of harm’s way, sending the game to the half still scoreless.

In the first 40 minutes, Cheverus had a 3-1 edge in shots on frame.

The Stags came out stronger in the second half and after failing to convert on a pair of corner kicks, they finally broke the ice.

With 33:44 remaining in regulation, Gallant got the ball, got past a couple defenders, then found open space and no one is more deadly in space than Emma Gallant.

Gallant dribbled in, then fired a shot which short-hopped Riley, then got past her and into the goal for a 1-0 Cheverus lead.

“I had a mark on me all game,” Gallant said. “I got the ball, spun her and found some space. I didn’t expect that much, but I took it and did what I could and put it in the net. I got a good bounce.”

“Toward the end of the first half, we played a formation we’re more familiar with and the girls got the lead out and generated pressure,” Roberts said. “In the second half, we had more of that and we moved without the ball better.”

Junior Lily Paszyc had a chance to double the lead with 31:02 to play, but missed just high.

After Kratzer and Gallant were off-target, Windham began to push for the equalizer.

With 16:25 remaining, a Talon rush was broken up by Ryan.

Junior Tellie Stamaris then broke up a Talon rush two minutes later.

With 13:16 to go, junior Julia McKenna won the ball on the left side and sent a cross that Cawley couldn’t reach. Talon got her foot on the ball, but it was blocked by a defender and Jordan cleared it at the last instant.

With 2:39 showing, a long shot from Eagles’ junior Emma Yale was easily handled by Cawley and with just over a minute remaining, a free kick from McKenna from just outside the box looked good off her foot before sailing just high.

Cheverus ran out the clock from there and celebrated its 1-0 victory.

“Sometimes it can be ugly, but effective,” Ryan said. “At the end, they had a push, but as a defense, we just tried to get the ball forward and we played 100 percent until the end.”

“I know Windham’s young, but they have a lot of spirit, they play hard and it’s a program with a lot of tradition and pride, so I knew we’d have our hands full,” Roberts said.

The Stags out-shot the Eagles, 6-2, and got a pair of saves from Cawley, while Riley stopped five shots for Windham.

Cheverus finished with an 8-0 advantage in corner kicks.

Stretch run

Windham, now sixth in the Class A South Heal Points standings, is home with Deering Thursday. The Eagles then go to Biddeford, host Bonny Eagle and close the regular season at Westbrook.

Cheverus (first in Class A South) goes to Biddeford Friday, is home against Thornton Academy Tuesday of next week, then goes to Westbrook before hosting Scarborough in a seismic regular season finale Oct. 22.

“Scarborough is in the back of our minds, but we don’t think about it when we know we have other teams to play,” Ryan said.

“As a coach, you always look for things to improve in and there’s a long list from today’s game for sure,” Roberts said. “Playing at home is really important. We’re trying each game to make another team come to us in the playoffs.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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