WATERBORO and PORTLAND—Gorham slid past Windham 2-1 on Tuesday night, Oct. 29: Maddie Michaud elevated the four-seed Rams over the five-seed Eagles with a second-half notch, earning her girls a quarterfinals triumph.

In the semis, however, Gorham succumbed for the fall. Though the Rams outplayed No. 1 Cheverus for the better of the teams’ contest on Friday evening, Nov. 1, the Stags took the W 1-0 on PKs.

The former game took place at Massabesic, the latter at Deering.

No. 4 Gorham vs. No. 5 Windham
“We grinded that out one,” Gorham head coach Jeanne Zarrilli said. “[Windham] is young, but they’re just a phenomenal team.”

“Super-young,” Eagles head coach Deb Lebel said; “we only have three seniors. The future is bright for the girls’ soccer program at Windham.”

Windham jetted ahead 1-0 on an Emma Millett strike just 2:14 into the uphill half. Gorham netminder Lily Courtney got her hands up in time – got them on the ball, it looked like. If she did, though, the ball slipped through her grasp and in.

“That’s how we wanted to come out,” Lebel said. “We wanted to come out fired up, and they did just that. They listened to the gameplan and they executed. Then, I think we got a little comfortable.”

In the minutes following, the Rams – apparently unhappy with the Eagles’ sudden notch – cranked up their pressure. It didn’t take Gorham long to recoup the goal: Olivia Michaud did the honors, firing low and across from the right side and beating Windham goalie Riley Silvia.

“She’s actually a basketball player,” Zarrilli said of Olivia Michaud; “she’s not a premier (league) soccer player, but her heart and soul is for her team. She works so hard; she has improved so much from day one. She used to say to the team, ‘Just send it forward, because I’m fast and I can run, but my feet don’t work.’ Her feet are phenomenal. She underestimates herself – that’s what I love about her.”

A stretch of midfield action ensued; the Eagles inched forward into the top of the Gorham zone, but couldn’t get much closer than that.

Ram Madison Michaud pulled the trigger from high on the right side around 24:00, but Silvia made the grab; 75 seconds later, a Gorham corner kick got behind Silvia, but Eagle Riley Beem had her keeper’s back: Beem ducked behind Silvia and punched the ball clear.

“We sat back for a little bit, second half of the first half,” Lebel said. “Then we stepped it back up again, I felt like – put on some pressure.”

Windham pressured early in the waning half, but churned up a mere scattering of so-so attempts. Fate favored the Rams that evening, and at 16:02, Maddie Michaud broke the squads’ deadlock. Olivia Michaud blasted a beautiful, hard feed inward from the left side for her sister to settle and shoot – and settle and shoot is what Maddie Michaud did, besting Silvia with a bullet, 2-1.

Zarrilli applauded Maddie Michaud’s efforts in the game, and especially on her strike. “She was tightly marked by [Beem], so that was tough. Defensively they make life really hard.”

“Perfectly played,” Lebel said of Gorham’s second goal. “I said, tonight we kind of had to play a little more defensive game, because we do know Gorham has some speed from the Michaud sisters. We had specific people defending them, and [our defenders] did a great job – [the Michaud sisters] got away just a couple times. That led to goals, really nice goals.”

The Eagles attacked heavily as the final buzzer neared, but couldn’t find their way into the back of Gorham’s net again.

“We needed the pressure a little bit earlier,” Lebel said of Windham’s late-game fire. “If we had played that way the whole game, the results could’ve been different. But this is a good Gorham team. They’ve come so far from September.”

“Defensively, we really had to gut it out,” Zarrilli said of Windham’s late-game surge. “We made some adjustments at halftime, because defensively we were struggling a little bit, just because of the formation they were playing. I thought those adjustments went well, and I thought Lily was on her game. She was not going to let that ball go in.”

No. 4 Gorham vs. No. 1 Cheverus
The Rams and the Stags turned in a 110-minute, 0-0 fight to the death. Those minutes dragged on, and on, and on – but not boringly. Not in the least.

Gorham controlled most of the opening half – impressive, given that Cheverus steamrolled through the autumn without suffering a loss. In fact, when the Rams and the Stags first locked horns, way back on Sept. 19, Cheverus got the brutal better of Gorham, 5-2.

“I thought we had the first half, and we just didn’t finish,” Zarrilli said. “They came back in the second half, and it was a much tougher game. They had a lot of offense in the second half. We weathered some of that and came back in overtime.”

Friday night, though, the Rams seemed sure to get on the board first – and perhaps best. Gorham applied decent pressure early, but without generating any quality shots. The action moved briefly to midfield, then into the Rams’ end, before rolling back Cheverus’s way. Gorhamites Jillian Nichols and Madisen Sweatt looked sharp on defense, Sweatt and Katie Kutzer at midfield.

10 minutes deep, Kutzer pounded a loose ball OB at midfield to save a Cheverus breakaway, but after that, Stags Emma Gallant and Mia Kratzer swooped in for quick touches. Gallant soon fired, from 35 yards out, in the direction of Gorham keeper Lily Courtney from 35 yards out. The ball sailed wide.

Midway through the half, Maddie Michaud fed forward for Olivia Michaud, loitering in the Cheverus corner; Olivia Michaud crossed a shot right to left, but the Stags’ keeper grabbed it. 13 minutes later, Gorhamite Emma Callahan stripped a Cheverus opponent of control near midfield and sent play back into the Stags’ zone, but the Rams still couldn’t capitalize.

With 6:30 to play before the break, Gallant – a real speedster – zipped up the left side of the field with the ball, intending to dig up a chance. But Olivia Michaud isolated Gallant as she entered Gorham’s zone, and the ball rolled over the endline. Goal kick.

So the game unfurled scorelessly into the break, and into the second half as well. Brittney Landry crossbarred a direct kick for the Rams – a long DK, a 30-plus-yarder – a couple minutes into the downhill half, and Landry and Lauren Fotter teamed up to threaten at the Cheverus 18 after that, but no dice.

“They’re a tough defensive team,” Zarrilli said of the Stags. “A lot of that offense that we were able to finish in other games, they made it really difficult for us.”

Soon, Maddie Michaud beat her Stags opponent at midfield, juked quick and fed rightward/forward to Olivia Michaud, who immediately served back across, in front of the Cheverus net. Fotter got a header on the ball – but just missed wide.

The momentum shifted in the second, and the Stags took a long turn pinning the Rams in their half, even their third, of the field. The Stags’ best opportunity yet came around 26:25, following a Gorham defensive lapse. Courtney, though, leapt into a real firework of a save, deflecting a hard shot just over the Rams’ net.

Zarrilli nodded at her goalie’s efforts. “She kept her composure really well,” Zarrilli said of Courtney. “She was in it, mentally – like, ‘This ball’s not going in.’ That was great.”

Courtney turned in another brilliant save – a big grab on a cross shot – with just 23 seconds remaining in regulation.

“I think we weren’t winning the midfield,” Zarrilli said, asked what changed for her girls in the second half – what allowed Cheverus to seize more control over the action. “It was kind of different halves. I was surprised that we had so much run of the play in the first half.”

After that, overtime dawned. A pair of 15-minute OTs burned off; penalty kicks it would be, then.

Gallant shot first, scoring for the Stags at the top-right. 1-0. Landry followed for Gorham; she aimed right, but couldn’t find the back of the net. Lauren Jordan shot next for the Stags, belting her attempt off the right post. Gracie Forgues stepped in for the Rams, but sent her ball wide. Cheverus’s Mia Kratzer went bottom-right successfully: 2-0. Maddie Michaud tried the middle, but the Stags’ keeper never dove in either direction – simply let the shot come to her.

“Our kickers weren’t ready, I think,” Zarrilli said of the PKs showdown.

Finally, Cheverus’s Sarah Cummings unwound into the evening’s climactic kick, beating Courtney at the right side for 3-0. That sewed up the W: In the best-of-five PKs scenario, Gorham just didn’t have enough chances left to come back.

The defeat goes on the books as a 1-0 result; Gorham closes their 2019 at 11-4-1.

“We just played the game of our season,” Zarilli said. “That’s what I look for in the end. You don’t always come out with the win, but if you come out and play your hearts out and play the best soccer you can play – that’s what I just said to them. [But] they’re sad because it’s the seniors’ last game, and they’ve become a close group.”

Hayley Jordan of Cheverus tries to win the ball between Emma Callahan, left, and Anneka Bryant of Gorham in the first half. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Anneka Bryant of Gorham wins a header in front of Caroline Taylor of Cheverus. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Lauren Jordan of Cheverus heads the ball as Brittney Landry of Gorham pressures in the second half on Friday in the Class A South girls’ soccer semifinals at Deering High. Cheverus won 1-0 on penalty kicks. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Julia Ryan of Cheverus clears the ball away from Brittney Landry of Gorham. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Emma Yale unwinds into an Eagles kick. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

Cheverus’ Mia Kratzer converts a penalty kick to help the top-ranked Stags survive Gorham in last week’s Class A South semifinals. Cheverus moved on to meet Scarborough in the regional final. Derek Davis / Portland Press Herald

Olivia Michaud of Gorham contends for the ball with Caroline Taylor, left, and Mia Kratzer of Cheverus. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Gorham’s Jillian Nichols and Windha’ms Rylee Pepin do battle. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

Hayley Jordan of Cheverus keeps her eye on the ball as Madison Michaud of Gorham controls the ball out of the air in the second half. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Ram Emma Callahan and Eagle Abbey Thornton duke it out. Adam Birt / Lakes Region Weekly

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