PORTLAND—What a difference a month makes.

Cheverus’ girls’ soccer team suffered a 1-0 defeat Oct. 2 at Portland, but that’s proved to be the young Stags’ only setback all season and Monday afternoon, back at Fitzpatrick Stadium, Cheverus showed the Bulldogs just how quickly they’ve improved.

After a hard-fought, defensive first half ended 0-0, the Stags got the only goal they would need early in the second half when junior Kadynne Smith scored.

After that, it was up to senior goalkeeper Neve Cawley and the Cheverus defense and they didn’t disappoint, holding dangerous Portland at bay to close out a 1-0 victory.

The Stags extended their unbeaten streak to seven games, improved to 7-1-1 and handed the Bulldogs just their second setback in eight outings in the process.

“We talked about being a super-young team this year, but look how much we’ve improved,” Cawley said. “We came in strong today.”

A postseason feel

There is no traditional tournament this fall, as COVID-19 related changes limited teams to just 10 playing dates.

Cheverus and Portland likely would have had a great shot to make a deep run in the postseason, had it occurred, as each demonstrated excellence over the course of the season.

The Stags opened with a 10-0 home win over Westbrook and after a 1-0 loss at Portland, they blanked visiting Waynflete (3-0), won at South Portland (4-0), shut out visiting Deering, 4-0, settled for a 1-1 home tie against Gorham, won at Waynflete (3-1), then downed host Deering, 3-0.

The Bulldogs started with 1-0 home wins over Deering (in two overtimes) and Cheverus, then defeated visiting South Portland (4-1), host Deering (4-0) and visiting Westbrook (17-0). After a 3-0 setback at Gorham, Portland defeated host South Portland, 3-0, Friday.

In the teams’ first meeting, sophomore Elizabeth Littel scored in the 50th minute to give the Bulldogs their first victory over the Stags in four years.

Monday, on a chilly November afternoon (35 degrees) which featured a howling wind, offense was at a premium, but Cheverus did manage to put the ball in the net once to improve to 12-8 (with one tie) against Portland all-time.

Just 50 seconds in, the Stags set the tone by earning a free kick, which Smith put on target, only to have it saved by Bulldogs goalkeeper Caroline Lerch.

After Cheverus junior Olivia Bradford missed wide, Portland got its first look, but a high shot from sophomore Eliza Stein was snared by Cawley.

After Stein set up senior Toni Stevenson for a shot which hit the side netting, then Stein had another shot saved by Cawley, the Stags tried again to go on top, but senior Mia Kratzer had a shot saved by Lerch, a cross from Bradford was just out of the reach of Kratzer and senior Ava Rausch, Bradford had a shot saved and off a corner, Kratzer had a shot saved by Lerch.

In the 33rd minute, the Bulldogs threatened in transition, as sophomore Kendall Sniper set up Stein for a good look, but she missed high.

In the final minute, Cheverus had a corner kick and a free kick which resulted in the ball getting loose in the box before being cleared and the contest stayed scoreless at the break.

The Stags had a 4-2 edge in shots on frame and took four corner kicks to Portland’s none in the first half, but instead of being frustrated over not breaking through, they stayed positive and persistent and were soon rewarded.

With 36:54 left in regulation, Smith got the ball in the midfield, eluded a defender, dribbled to her right, then shot to a diving Lerch’s right and put the ball into the net for a 1-0 lead.

“We were working well and had some nice combinations, so we had to make sure we stayed strong,” said Smith, who transferred to Cheverus this year from Biddeford. “The ball was getting knocked around out there. I ended up being able to get to it and get through. I was trying to hit the corner. I normally don’t, but I did my best to pick a spot and get it there.”

“Kadynne plays hard all the time,” said Stags coach Craig Roberts. “She brings a grit to our program that I worried we might lose after last year.”

“We stepped back a little too far and gave them too much room,” lamented Portland coach Curtis Chapin. “You can’t do that with good teams.”

Cheverus looked to double its lead, but Kratzer had a long shot saved by Lerch and junior Julia Kratzer missed wide.

With 20:45 left, Sniper put a long shot on target, but Cawley made the save.

With 15:55 remaining, the Bulldogs took a corner kick and a header by Stein was cleared.

“If it was something I could grab, I’d call (the defense) off, but it’s important to just be locked down and play defensive,” Cawley said. “We have a certain set-up on corners. Normally, (junior defenders) Hayley Jordan or Maeve Kelly will stand between me and a girl, but if the ball comes into your zone, you have to go get it and get it out of the box.”

A minute later, Stevenson set up sophomore Kate Martell for a great opportunity, but Martell couldn’t handle the ball cleanly.

With 13:20 left, Littel, the hero of the teams’ first meeting, had a shot blocked.

Stein then missed high, Sniper had a shot saved and Stein had a bid saved.

With 1:40 to go, Portland had one final chance on a corner kick, but after the ball momentarily sat free in front, it was cleared (senior Lydia Stein was shaken up on the play but no foul was called) and from there, Cheverus ran out the clock and celebrated its 1-0 victory.

“Portland’s a really aggressive, strong team,” Cawley said. “It was critical to stay focused for 80 minutes. We just focused on the next five (minutes), then the next five after that.”

“We were trying to stay strong at the end and not get pushed off the ball,” Smith said. “We really needed (Neve and the defense) a lot in this game. They didn’t let up and played strong.”

“I’m really proud of the girls,” Roberts said. “Just their competitiveness and their resilience after losing so many players last year. To have one of the better records, I’m just really proud of what they’ve accomplished. This year’s team has a little bit of a chip on their shoulder to show we can still compete. That’s showed up in every practice and almost every game.

“It was a hard day to play, but I thought we moved the ball really well and generated some opportunities in the run of play and on set pieces. (Senior) Helena (Bolduc) and Olivia played really well on the wings, getting the ball forward and putting pressure on them and getting services in. The Kratzers were very strong in the middle of the field.

“The defense and Neve were my stars of the game, if you will. Reese Belanger, our left back, is a freshman. She makes the right decisions. Her confidence has grown and grown. We played her against Gorham and Portland’s top wing players and she’s delivered. Our other backs played terrific as well. Hayley Jordan and (junior) Lillie Singleton are replacing Julia Ryan and Lauren Jordan. Lillie is a really hard-nosed, competitive basketball player who just wants to win. Maeve Kelly is the same way on the right side. Basketball’s her first sport. I saw her diving on the floor in basketball and knew she had to be a back for me. This is (junior Lydia’s Niedermeyer’s) first year getting real playing time. She went in today and even though she was cold, she still played hard. It’s a group I’m really proud of and happy to be coaching and looking forward to working with next year too.”

Cheverus finished with a 6-5 edge in shots on frame, got five saves from Cawley and held a 4-2 advantage in corner kicks.

Lerch made five saves for the Bulldogs, who just couldn’t find a way to get the ball in the net.

“We can’t put our heads down after a game like that,” Chapin said. “It was a fight between two Portland rivals. The first time around, we got the 1-0 result and (Cheverus) fought. This time, they got one and we fought. I’m proud of all my girls in the blue shirts right now. We threw everything at them at the end and we were just unlucky. The chances were there. We had chances and they had theirs and they put theirs in the back of the net. It’s not because we didn’t fight or do the right things.”

One more

Portland plays host to South Portland in its final 2020 contest Friday.

“It’s a bonus game and that’s how we’re looking at it,” said Chapin. “We’ve got one more game to look forward to. We’ve got some great kids here. The opportunity to get out here with them and kick the ball around and play the game we enjoy, that’s what it’s all about. You want these games to go your way, but when they don’t, it’s still pretty easy to look around and say it was still fun to play.”

Cheverus is back in action Wednesday, at South Portland, in its final game.

“Coming to Cheverus, I was really excited to play soccer here, so I was sad the season got cut short, but I’m glad we’ve been playing,” Smith said.

“Over the summer, everything was up in the air, so the upperclassmen and captains tried to get the younger girls super-hyped about the season,” Cawley said. “I’m happy we could play.”

“We had to work for it last time we played (South Portland),” Roberts added. “That’s a field that’s tough to play on. It’s our last game, it’s their last game. I hope we don’t have a letdown. I don’t think we will. I didn’t think we’d see a 10-game season, so this is great.”

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

Previous Cheverus-Portland results

2020
@ Portland 1 Cheverus 0

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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