Senior C.C. Ritter is a top player and leader this fall for Portland’s powerhouse girls’ soccer team. File photo.

While the lion’s share of attention this fall has focused on undefeated Cheverus and two-time defending regional champion Scarborough, the most compelling story in Class A South girls’ soccer is a team that has put it all together as the season progressed, produced its best record in over a decade and is a legitimate threat to steal headlines in the days to come.

That team is the Portland Bulldogs, a reliable contender in recent seasons and a team which has taken the leap to become something special this autumn.

The Bulldogs entered the season having qualified for the playoffs in five of the past six years and having posted a winning regular season record in four of those campaigns, but this fall, Portland wasn’t content just contending.

The tone was set on Opening Day, when the Bulldogs knocked off visiting Gorham, a perennial title threat, by a 3-2 score. Portland then lost at home to Cheverus, but only by a 1-0 margin, then tied host Windham, another longtime power, 2-2.

After that 1-1-1 start, the Bulldogs stumbled only once.

Shutout wins over visiting Biddeford (5-0), host Thornton Academy (2-0) and visiting Westbrook (6-0) were followed by a 4-1 setback at Scarborough, but Portland hasn’t lost since.

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A regular season-ending seven game win streak began with a 2-0 home victory over South Portland. After downing host Sanford (6-2) and host Massabesic (3-0), the Bulldogs edged visiting Noble (1-0) and host Kennebunk (1-0), then handled host Marshwood (4-1) before downing visiting Falmouth in the finale Tuesday, 2-1.

That victory gave Portland an 11-2-1 record, its best mark since going 13-1 in 2002 and 12-1-1 in 2003.

In fact, the last time the Bulldogs posted double-digit regular season wins, the year was 2008.

Coaches talk all the time about success being a “team effort,” but according to fourth-year Portland coach Curtis Chapin, this year’s squad has truly gotten contributions from everyone.

“This year, everything has clicked, as our older players have really put everything together and with some amazing young players making a huge impact, we have grown into a very good team,” Chapin said. “We have become more dynamic out wide and our midfield has really stepped up to realize where the defense is weak and picking the right ball. Most importantly, our defenders in the back have been phenomenal at erasing mistakes and stopping counterattacks. Our program is deeper than ever and that has really helped us. Depth has been key and so has trust in each other.”

Chapin went on to praise numerous individuals who have contributed so much over the past two months.

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“(Seniors) C.C. Ritter and Hazel Praught have been incredible on defense and allowing us to play our style,” Chapin said. “(Seniors) Annika More and Isabella More have really added to their games both out wide and converting on set pieces. (Junior) Toni Stevenson and (freshman) Eliza Stein have created an unbelievable partnership up top for our midfielders to set up. (Freshman) Kendall Sniper and (junior) Lydia Stein have been truly composed and have not only played us out of pressure, but have got our attacks going as well while (junior) Mackenzie Bryant and (sophomore) Lainey Randall have brought us toughness and do so much work to keep us in the opponent’s end. (Junior) Caroline Lerch has made huge progress in goal and our back line, (juniors) Samira Doiron, Audrey Watson, and Claire Anton, has come so far and each offers so much to our team. (Freshman) Elizabeth Littel has grown into a force and (junior) Ella Reagan has become a great player on either side for us.”

Senior Hazel Praught is always in the middle of the action for the Bulldogs. File photo.

Portland enters the playoffs as the second-ranked team in Class A South, its highest ranking since the 2003 squad was seeded first in Western A.

The Bulldogs will host either No. 7 Noble (9-4-1) or 10th-ranked Marshwood (7-7) Tuesday in the quarterfinals at Fitzpatrick Stadium. Portland blanked the visiting Knights, 1-0, Oct. 12, and won at the Hawks, 4-1, Oct. 19.

The Bulldogs last won a quarterfinal round game in 2008 and last played in a regional final in 1993. They’ve never been on the biggest stage of all, the state final.

All of that could change in the days to come, if Portland’s magical season produces a fairy tale ending.

And the Bulldogs believe they can make that happen.

“We need to continue our attention to detail and playing as a team to enjoy playoff success,” Chapin said. “This team has really been special to coach because with all the talent we possess, they take care of one another and are all willing to sacrifice for the team.

“This team works to get better every day. If we can continue to do that, only good things will happen.”

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

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