Katie Champagne duels a Stags opponent. Adam Birt / American Journal

WESTBROOK—Blaze Lily Ranco converted twice for her girls vs. visiting Cheverus on Tuesday, Oct. 22., first snapping a 2-2 deadlock and then recording an insurance goal. After 60 minutes of play, Westbrook claimed a 4-3, quarterfinals triumph over their guests.

“Lily’s stepping up,” Westbrook head coach Rachelle Violette said of Ranco, a sophomore. “She’s such a firecracker, she’s such a spirit on the field…We have inexperience on our team. There’s no secret that we have inexperience; other coaches see that, other coaches know that.”

The Blazes charged onto the field looking fiery. Morgan LeBeau tallied Westbrook’s first of the day – and the first of the day, period. Following a Ranco corner insert around 17:35, the ball bounced Katie Champagne’s way and Champagne fed for LeBeau. LeBeau unwound into a blistering shot from the top-right of the Stags’ circle. The attempt found the back of the Cheverus cage on the left side.

A minute and a half later, Champagne assisted Kaitlyn Talbot on the 2-0 notch. Champagne dumped the ball inward and Talbot deflected it home.

“We’re very good at setting the tone to a game,” Ranco said. “We’re still working on keeping it. But when we feel a sense of urgency to get it back, we definitely can do that as well.”

Westbrook were – or so it seemed – totally in control. But the Blazes know, and better than most, that Cheverus are good at what they do: Stags head coach Theresa Hendrix formerly helmed at Westbrook, helping to lead the program to the heights it’s achieved in recent years. (When the teams met in the regular season, they battled to a 3-3 draw.)

Hendrix called timeout, and when the sides reengaged, the Stags pushed the action – which the Blazes had largely controlled – back to midfield and beyond. Cheverus charged to 2-2 on contributions by Taylor Tory and Lucy Pirone.

“Cheverus is a very, very good team,” Violette said. “In order to beat them, you have to stay disciplined for 3600 seconds. You have to stay disciplined for the entire duration of the game. After that timeout, we had a lapse. We had a lapse in our presses, we had a lapse in who we’re covering.”

Still, Ranco secured a Blazes’ W with 26:38 remaining in the second half. Again following a corner – again, Ranco inserted on the play – the ball ping-ponged through the crowd until it landed back on her stick. She’d set up at the right Stags’ post, where she hacked home 3-2.

“We started off the season 0-3,” Violette said of her girls, asked about their ferocious start. “So we were kind of coming back from a deficit all season. The just feel like they have a lot to prove.”

“When we started, we were in a rough spot,” said Blazes goalie Aria Brunner. “We were getting to know each other, and how the team plays with each other. Each game we’ve progressed, and gotten out of that funk we were in at the beginning of the season.”

Three and a half minutes later, Ranco rebounded the 4-2 final onto the scoreboard. LeBeau pulled the trigger on an initial shot, and Ranco followed her up.

“It came from the top of the circle in,” Ranco said of LeBeau’s shot. “It’s kind of hard; you have to be in a position where you’re ready to transition out or in – wherever the ball goes. You have to read the body language of the passer and hope it doesn’t go too wide.”

Cheverus pressured late, looking both able and desperate. The Blazes’ defense stood strong, though. Brunner deserves special note, as she turned away multiple hard shots in the stretch.

“She’s grown so much,” Violette said of Brunner. “I don’t have enough good things to say about her and how she’s progressed. We’re going into a semifinal game with a first-year-varsity goalie. That speaks volumes in itself.”

Brunner talked about those waning seconds: “It was crazy,” she said. “There was a lot of excitement, and the urge to want to win this game, because we’ve come so far this season. Everyone thought we were going to be the underdogs. It feels really good to get out here and show the team that we are.”

Alas, Westbrook met their match in the third round of the playoffs. The fourth-ranked Blazes traveled to No. 1, undefeated Biddeford on Saturday, where they succumbed 2-0 vs. the Tigers. They thus conclude a proud 2019 at 8-6-2.

Westbrooker Katie Champagne gallops through midfield. Adam Birt / American Journal

Lily Ranco scored twice for the Blazes in their triumph. Adam Birt / American Journal

Morgan LeBeau pounds a ball for the Blazes. Adam Birt / American Journal

Kaitlyn Talbot drives around a Stag. Adam Birt / American Journal

Mary Keef has been a force for the Blazes in recent years. Adam Birt / American Journal

Westbrook celebrates their playoff win over Cheverus. Adam Birt / American Journal

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