WESTBROOK – A second-half, Hallie Shiers hat-trick led Gorham in a rout of the Blazes on Friday afternoon, Sept. 1. Shiers’s lickity-split trio of points came all in the span of roughly two and a half minutes. The assault put the Rams up 6-0 after a slow first half and hurtled them onward to a 10-0 victory.
“I mentioned Hallie at half time, because I thought first half she made some beautiful runs and I didn’t think people were seeing them,” Gorham head coach Jeanne Zarilli said. “So we talked about, ‘When Hallie’s doing that, we’ve got to see what she’s doing.’” Gorham, pros that they are, made this adjustment for the latter half, and it clearly paid dividends.
“In the first half, we kept our shape a little bit better,” Westbrook head coach Andy Lefebvre said, asked what allowed his girls to hold their guests to just two points in the uphill 40 minutes. “And we were really committed to trying to be under the ball, and contain and keep numbers behind the ball and not let Gorham run through – because they’re super-athletic and fast. And we knew that going in. So we were hoping to slow them down.”
“But the second half kind of got away from us,” Lefebvre said. “We let down a little bit. Gorham’s really good; they’re as athletic a team as there is.”
Emma Forgues put the Rams up 1-0 round about 12 minutes in, slicing through the middle and around the Blazes’ defense and firing across to the bottom-right corner of the Westbrook net. Three minutes later, Alexis Fotter made it 2-0 when she split a pair of defenders at the top-right corner of the Blazes’ box and lofted a ball just over keeper KK Russell’s outstretched fingertips.
As far as offense goes, those two tallies were all she wrote for the opening half. Following the break, however, Gorham found themselves with the wind – heavy all evening – at their backs, and they surged. Roughly seven and a half minutes in, Fotter, lasering up the right side of the field, chased the ball low into the corner; she fired a beautiful cross to dead-center, just on Russell’s doorstep, where Forgues headed it home for 3-0.
Russell, it’s worth noting, turned in a pretty performance, despite Westbrook’s lopsided loss. She repelled a number of Gorham attempts, including a close one-on-one vs. Shiers, and clearly saved her girls from suffering a much uglier result.
“KK played extremely well,” Lefebvre said of his goalie. “I’m really proud of her, because she doesn’t have a ton of time in goal either, and she’s really stepped up and kind of taken it upon herself to put us on our back at times. She’s really still learning the position, but she’s naturally very good; she really isn’t an experienced goalie, but she’s stepped up and played like one. If she can continue to perform like that, I think we’ll be okay – if we can give her a little more support.”
“It’s more about the fact that we couldn’t clear pressure,” Lefebvre said, asked if there was anything his girls could’ve done differently on offense to light up the scoreboard. “We were pinned down and we couldn’t get out of the back, and we weren’t winning the ball in the middle third of the field. If you’re not doing that, there’s not a lot you can do to score goals.”
Shiers kicked off her scoring push with 29:05 still to play, slipping her first notch past Russell from the right side; she scored again a minute and a half later, and yet again 70 seconds after that.
The Rams, by now, had the game well in-hand, and piled on four more goals before the final buzzer: Fotter added another in the dustup following a throw-in, Brooke Greatorex struck around the 10-minutes-remaining mark, and Courtney Cushing tallied two in the last minute or so.
“We got the wind,” Zarilli said, asked about her girls’ huge second half. “I thought we were going to have a better second half, once we got used to the size of the field. And having to make some adjustments to their high line – they were playing an offsides trap. High line, small field, and we had the wind; I think all those factors. And it was our first game out, so having to get used to each other, too.”
“I do think the wind was a factor,” Zarilli said. “(In the second half), we could finally use the balls that we needed. The wind was pretty intense in the first half; my backs were having a hard time judging the airballs.”
The Rams’ second-half blitz can’t entirely be ascribed to more favorable wind conditions, though.
“It’s always a good thing when multiple people score,” Zarilli said of her girls’ offensive spread. “And we moved some people around in positions. But you know, Westbrook’s in a different place than we are, in terms of building…And they played hard all the way through, so kudos to them.”
“First half, the other thing I didn’t like,” Zarilli said, “we would have the breakaways. We’re not used to playing where we have the breakaways a lot, and everyone was right-to-the-goalie, right-to-the-goalie. So we talked about having that second player: If you’ve got the breakaway but the goalie’s there, use that other player.”
Zarilli also remarked on her defense – most of whom are seasoned veterans – and their role in protecting a goalie, Michelle Rowe, who’s new between the posts. “They’re learning to work together, and Michelle’s been, sort of, traditionally a quieter player, so she’s learning to find her voice. In this new position in goal, it brings her voice out, which is nice.”
Rowe is quite the playmaker as an athlete, and a natural in net. “We’ve been trying to get her to play goalie for, like, three years,” Zarilli said. “Because she’s great in goal. So at the end of last year, she decided, ‘If it’s going to help the team.’ Otherwise we were going to have a freshman in goal. So Michelle made that decision, and she’s done a great job; I’m thrilled.”
Gorham, now 1-0, travels to Thornton Academy on Wednesday the 6th. Westbrook, now 0-1, visits Scarborough that same night.
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.
Westbrooker Rylee Troiano and Gorhamnite Courtney Cushing clash.
Gorham’s Brittany Desjardins shovels the ball past Westbrook defender Khloe Langella.
Emma Forgues cuts away from a Westbrook defender.
Alexis Fotter posted two goals and a brilliant assist for Gorham on Friday afternoon.
Westbrook’s Angelica Johns and Gorham’s Anna Nault collide in pursuit of an airborne ball.
Westbrook goalie KK Russell tracks the ball.
Hallie Shiers logged a rapid-fire, second-half hat-trick for the Rams at Westbrook on Friday.