PORTLAND—You’d better believe Falmouth’s standout senior goalkeeper Jordan Wolf wasn’t happy after conceding her first goal of the season Thursday afternoon, but Wolf got a chance to do something about it.

And she did.

In dazzling fashion.

The Navigators visited recent nemesis Cheverus in a closely-contested midseason showdown at Boulos Stadium and after a scoreless first half, things got interesting in the second.

With 32:29 to play, Falmouth took the lead, as freshman Mackenzie Verlee set up junior Elise Gearan for a goal.

When junior Audrey Murray added a second tally 94 seconds later, the Navigators appeared home free, but the Stags answered with 20:25 to go, when senior Kadynne Smith scored out of a scrum, the first goal Falmouth had allowed in six games this fall.

Then, with 14 minutes on the clock, Cheverus earned a penalty kick and appeared primed to tie it, but Wolf came up huge, diving to rob Stags senior Julia Kratzer to preserve the lead.

Wolf made a couple more saves and that allowed the Navigators to hold on for a 2-1 victory.

Wolf stopped 10 shots total as Falmouth improved to 5-0-1, beat the Stags in the regular season for the first time and in the process, dropped Cheverus to 5-2 on the year.

“I think this boosts our confidence a lot,” Wolf said. “I’ve had really tough games before against Cheverus. We’re excited to beat them. It was just a team effort. Everybody put it together. The two goals we scored made us have confidence. That goal was the first one we conceded, but we shook it off quickly.”

Impenetrable

You can’t beat a team if you can’t score and Falmouth, behind Wolf and a strong defense, entered play Thursday with five clean sheets to its credit. After opening with a 4-0 win at Sanford, the Navigators blanked visiting Massabesic (8-0) and after settling for a scoreless home tie versus Gorham, shut out host Kennebunk (3-0) and visiting Bonny Eagle (3-0).

Cheverus has been very good as well this season, opening with a 2-0 victory at South Portland. After downing visiting Portland (7-2) and Marshwood (7-1) and winning at Massabesic (10-0), the Stags suffered their first setback, 3-1, at Gorham, before bouncing back Tuesday for a 5-1 victory at Deering.

The teams met in the regular season for the first time in 2017, a 2-0 home win for the Stags (the then-Yachtsmen won a 2014 Western A prelim by a 1-0 score), then in 2018, Cheverus won in Falmouth, 2-0, in the regular season and 6-0 in the Class A South quarterfinals. In the most recent meeting, two years ago, the Stags eked out a 3-2 road victory.

The teams didn’t play a year ago in a COVID-shortened campaign that didn’t allow for a postseason.

Thursday, on a breezy, but beautiful first day of fall (73 degrees at kickoff), the Navigators finally solved Cheverus, but not without some anxious moments.

Falmouth junior Abbie Ford plays the ball while Cheverus senior Kadynne Smith defends early in the Navigators’ 2-1 victory Thursday. Hoffer photos.

Neither team had a great scoring chance in the first half.

Wolf was tested for the first time in the fourth minute, when junior Caoilinn Durkin sent a shot on goal from the side, but she made the stop.

After Wolf denied Kratzer, Falmouth began to threaten, but Gearan’s rush was broken up in the box, senior Hayley Jordan denied a Gearan rush and sophomore Josie D’Andrea had a shot saved by Stags senior goalkeeper Emily Bontatibus.

At the other end, freshman Anna Vigue shot high, Kratzer took a pass from Vigue and just missed and Wolf saved bids from Vigue and freshman Jillian Foley.

The action then picked up in the second half and three goals (and nearly a fourth) resulted.

After Bontatibus denied a long free kick from senior Avery Quinn, the Navigators jumped on top with 32:29 remaining in regulation, as Verlee sent a long pass ahead to Gearan, who ran in and with a defender cutting off her angle, fired a shot that bounced off Bontatibus and in for a 1-0 lead.

After needing more than a half to get on the scoreboard, Falmouth needed just over a minute to strike again, as Murray did the honors, dribbling through the defense, then beating Bontatibus with a low shot.

“We just didn’t take the shots in the first half,” Navigators coach Andrew Pelletier said. “In the second half, the message was to take the shots and we did and good things happened.”

The Stags then awakened, as Kratzer sent a header off a corner kick on goal, only to have Wolf make the save, then sophomore back Eve Gallagher broke up a pass from Durkin to Kratzer before Smith sent a free kick wide.

Then, with 20:25 to go, after a foul just outside the box, Vigue sent the ball in, the Navigators couldn’t clear it and in a scrum, Smith managed to get her foot on the ball and send it into the net to cut the deficit to one.

“That was a gritty goal,” said Cheverus coach Craig Roberts. “That’s what we want to see.”

That proved to be the first goal Falmouth had allowed in 459 minutes, 35 seconds.

Feeling the momentum, Cheverus pushed for the equalizer and with 14 minutes to play, after Vigue was brought down in the box, the Stags earned a penalty kick and a chance to tie it.

Kratzer did the honors and fired a low shot to Wolf’s right, but Wolf dove and swatted the ball away.

Falmouth senior goalkeeper Jordan Wolf dives to rob Cheverus senior Julia Kratzer’s penalty kick with the game on the line.

“It’s kind of a guessing game, just luck,” said Wolf. “I’ve played with Julia a couple years. I saw her looking left corner and I figured she’d go to (my) right.”

“I’ve coached Julia before and she’s the most talented player I’ve ever coached,” Pelletier said. “She’s smart. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her miss a penalty. I knew we have the best goalkeeper, but I also knew we were going against the best penalty taker. The odds weren’t good, but Jordan’s in a zone. Everything’s just happening for her. She’s doing a great job.”

“Jordan and Julia know each other and they’re two quality players,” Roberts said. “Jordan got Julia on that one. If we see Falmouth again, maybe Julia gets Jordan next time. Julia cares so much about Cheverus, about soccer and about winning. I’m sure she’s kicking herself, but it wasn’t one play that lost it for us.”

Cheverus wasn’t done, as with 12:26 to play, senior Olivia Bradford got a look only to have Wolf make the save.

After a Stags corner kick was cleared and freshman Finley Brown couldn’t quite get to a feed from Durkin, Smith took a free kick from the top of the box with just over two minutes remaining, but Wolf stood tall.

The Navigators ran out the clock from there and celebrated their 2-1 victory.

Falmouth celebrates with goalkeeper Jordan Wolf following the final horn.

“Cheverus is one of the best teams in the state, so for us, a young, inexperienced team to come away with the win, I’m really happy,” Pelletier said.

Cheverus had an 11-9 shots advantage, but Wolf excelled again with 10 saves.

“I know there are a couple field players who are important to their teams, but as far as I’m concerned, Jordan’s the most important player to her team in the state,” Pelletier said. “She’s the best goalkeeper to come out of Maine in a long time. We only return two starters and she gives everyone in front of her confidence. That’s irreplaceable.”

“(Jordan) made key saves she needed to make big saves and she does it consistently,” Roberts said.

Bontatibus made seven saves for the Stags.

Each team took six corner kicks.

“We’ve had two big games,” Roberts said. “Against Gorham, the moment was a little too big in the first half and we played better in the second half. Today, we came out and played well in the first half. In the first 10 minutes of the second half, we didn’t transition well and Falmouth made us pay. It’s a frustrating to lose after having that lapse.”

Wide open region

While Class A South boasts some strong teams, it appears wide open this fall and both the Stags and Navigators hope to be among the last teams standing.

Cheverus will look to bounce back Tuesday at home versus Bonny Eagle.

“The young kids have been very competitive and driven and we need our experienced rowers to have their oars in the water and paddle at the same time because we don’t have that right now,” Roberts said. “The idea is to have that happen by the time the playoffs roll around. We want to get to the place where we want to do whatever it takes to win as a team.”

Falmouth is back in action Saturday morning at Deering. Next week, the Navigators host Windham in a pivotal showdown, then go to Biddeford.

“We all work hard and want to win,” Wolf said. “We came into the season really excited. It’s been a great season so far.”

“The girls have done really well,” Pelletier said. “It’s not the most talented I’ve had, but in 20, 30 years, this is the Falmouth team I’ll remember. They support each other and work hard all the time. It’s a special group. Defensively, we’re really good. Attacking-wise, we have to figure out to generate opportunities. We’ll do that. Teams will get more amped up to play us since we’re unbeaten. We’ll see what happens.”

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

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