Cheverus junior Julia Kratzer heads the ball as Portland senior Claire Anton defends during the Bulldogs’ 1-0 victory Friday night.

PORTLAND—Portland’s girls’ soccer team learned how to win a year ago.

This season, the Bulldogs expect to win.

Regardless of how much or how little success they’ve had against the opposition.

Friday evening at Fitzpatrick Stadium, Portland hosted recent nemesis Cheverus, a squad no current Bulldog had beaten, but on this night, history didn’t matter.

After some near-misses in the first half, Portland got the only goal it would need with just over 30 minutes left in regulation, as sophomore Elizabeth Littel finished after a nice run.

The Bulldogs weren’t able to add to their lead, but they didn’t need to as their defense and senior goalkeeper Caroline Lerch held the Stags at bay, closing out a 1-0 victory.

Portland improved to 2-0 on the season, dropped Cheverus to 1-1, handed the Stags their first regular season loss since 2018 and beat its crosstown rival for the first time in four years.

“We want to maximize every game,” said Bulldogs coach Curtis Chapin. “Our goal is to into every game expecting to win. We’re no longer the program that is happy to win. We want to be the program that steps on the field and no matter who we’re playing, we think have as good a chance as anyone else.”

Best in Portland

Cheverus was nearly perfect a year ago, winning its first 16 games before running into Scarborough in the Class A South Final and losing, 2-1, to wind up 16-1. The Stags opened the 2020 season Tuesday with a 10-0 home victory over Westbrook.

Cheverus has a lot of new faces this season, but the team was ready to go when word came a season would be possible.

“It’s great to be out here,” said Stags coach Craig Roberts. “It was hard to stay positive when we couldn’t play, but our captains did a great job connecting through text and social media. We have 19 freshmen, six who are on varsity, and they felt connected even though we didn’t have a summer (season). To find a way to have a season has meant the world to them and their mental health and their sense of community.”

Portland was a very pleasant surprise in 2019, posting an 11-3-1 record, its best since 2003, but the Bulldogs were upset, 2-1, by Noble in the Class A South quarterfinals. Portland opened the 2020 campaign last Friday by edging visiting Deering, 1-0, on senior Lydia Stein’s goal in the second overtime session.

Last year, Cheverus edged host Portland, 1-0, on Riley O’Mara’s goal, to take an 11-7-1 all-time lead in the series which dates to 2004 (see below for previous results).

Friday, on a cloudy, chilly evening (55 degrees at kickoff and dropping), the teams met at Fitzpatrick Stadium for the third straight year and for the first time in four tries and the first time since a 3-0 victory Sept. 2, 2016, the Bulldogs emerged victorious.

Cheverus had the better of play the first 10 minutes, but junior Julia Kratzer, after taking a pass from her sister, Mia Kratzer, missed just wide and three corner kick opportunities didn’t result in a shot, although one saw the ball land untouched in the box.

Portland then went on the attack, but sophomore Eliza Stein was denied by a sprawling save from Stags senior goalkeeper Neve Cawley, Cawley punched away free kicks from sophomore Kendall Sniper and Eliza Stein, Eliza Stein missed just wide and just before halftime, Eliza Stein had another shot saved by Cawley, sending the contest scoreless to the break.

The Bulldogs enjoyed a 6-1 edge in shots on frame in the first half, but had nothing to show for it.

Portland would continue to pressure in the second half and would eventually be rewarded.

After Cawley denied Eliza Stein once again, the Bulldogs got the ball back and it came to Littel on the right sideline just inside midfield. Littel got a step on a defender, raced in and when Cawley came over to cut off the angle, Littlel fired a low shot to Cawley’s right and the diving keeper couldn’t stop the ball from rolling into the corner near the front post, putting Portland on top, 1-0.

“I knew I had to go for it,” said Littel. “I had to take it. It worked out perfectly. I was just looking for any opening, but once I got down to the corner it was obvious I had to go far post. We were frustrated not scoring, but we built momentum and after halftime, we were ready to go.”

“(The Stags) do a good job frustrating you, but I felt the goal was coming,” Chapin said. “The first few minutes of the second half were wobbly, then we settled down, then we took hold of possession. We stopped trying to go through the middle and good things were happening. Elizabeth did a great job. She was frustrated because her first touch wasn’t there, or she took a touch too many. At halftime, we talked and I told her to keep making a run, put your foot through the ball and pick your corner and she did beautifully. That was a very strong finish.”

Thirty minutes is a long time to hold a potent team like Cheverus at bay and sure enough, the Stags pushed hard for the equalizer.

With 14:15 to play, a one-timer from senior Helena Bolduc went just wide.

Five minutes later, Lerch raced out at the last moment to break up the rush of junior Olivia Bradford.

With 4:18 to play, a cross from Bradford came to sophomore Lilly Hoyt near the far post, but Hoyt couldn’t settle the ball for a shot before it was cleared.

Portland’s defense clamped down from there, didn’t allow another shot and at the final horn, the Bulldogs celebrated their 1-0 victory.

“We came in thinking Cheverus might beat us, but we wanted it and you could tell that on the field as we were first getting to every ball,” Lydia Stein said. “We were all positive and encouraging. It feels amazing to beat them. I’ve never played center-back before and I wasn’t very confident, but it was so fun beating Cheverus my last year. We all communicated with each other on the back line, we connected with the midfield and the offense and you could see that.”

“Kudos to Cheverus,” Chapin said. “They’re an outstanding program. Great coach. Well organized. They make it hard on us every year. It’s not easy to hold them off. We didn’t want to sit back. We have some brand new players in the back. We didn’t have much of a preseason. We’re figuring it out on the fly. Lydia was huge for us in the back.”

Portland finished with a 9-2 edge in shots, a 5-3 advantage in corner kicks and Lerch stopped both shots she faced, while using her aggressiveness to come and break up other scoring chances.

Cawley made eight saves for Cheverus, which last lost in the regular season on Oct. 5, 2018 (3-1 to Scarborough).

“Portland deserved to win,” Roberts said. “They have an aggressive goalkeeper, so we talked about playing the ball wide and attacking from the wings. We did a better job controlling the middle, but we didn’t really get the ball wide to start an attack from there. We’re a young team and we’ll work on that and get our movement down.”

Game three

Cheverus returns to action Friday at Gorham. The Stags then go to Waynflete Oct. 13 for a first-ever countable girls’ soccer meeting between the schools.

“Hopefully we’ll improve,” said Roberts. “We graduated nine seniors and we really only have six varsity players from last year. In some ways, it’s an opportunity to get younger players varsity experience without them feeling the pressure of trying to go undefeated or get to a regional final. We have to build and learn how to play at the varsity level. I think you’ll see by the end of October we’ll be miles from where we are today. It’s a good program. We have good kids. We’ll take some lessons from here and hopefully get better.”

Portland stays home to meet South Portland Wednesday of next week.

“Just having a season is awesome,” Littel said. “We go into every game wanting to win. We’re treating it like a competitive season.”

“Just being out here together, working hard every day, that’s everything,” Chapin said. “The girls are treating every day like a gift. We’re excited to be out here. We have a very good team. A lot of strong seniors who deserved something this year. No matter how many games it is, I feel privileged to coach them and watch them make progress.”

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

Previous Cheverus-Portland results

2019
Cheverus 1 @ Portland 0

2018
Cheverus 3 @ Portland 0

2017
@ Cheverus 2 Portland 0

2016
@ Portland 3 Cheverus 0

2015
Portland 4 @ Cheverus 1 

2014
@ Portland 3 Cheverus 1

2013
@ Cheverus 0 Portland 0 (tie) 

2012
Cheverus 3 @ Portland 0

2011
@ Cheverus 5 Portland 0

2010
Cheverus 6 @ Portland 0

2009
Portland 1 @ Cheverus 0

2008
Cheverus 1 @ Portland 0

2007
@ Cheverus 1 Portland 0

2006
@ Portland 2 Cheverus 1
Western A quarterfinals
Cheverus 1 @ Portland 0

2005
@ Cheverus 2 Portland 1

2004
@ Cheverus 2 Portland 0

2003
Portland 3 Cheverus 1

2002
Portland 6 Cheverus 0

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