Girls soccer falls in D-II quarters

In recent years, it was the round of the playoffs that sent the Portsmouth High School girls soccer team home, without much to smile about.

This time, there was plenty.

The fourth-seeded Clippers are headed to the Division II semifinals after an airtight performance in a 4-0 win against No. 5 Hollis Brookline in the quarterfinals Monday. The match was pushed back a day due to inclement weather.

Marika Nawrocki, Charley Prevost and Gracie Getman scored goals for Portsmouth, which first got on the board in the 17th minute when an HB defender deflected an entry pass into her own net.

Finally, after two years of tough exits, some of the quarterfinal breaks went the Clippers’ way.

“I’m just really excited to make it past this point,” said senior back Lizzy Rice. “We all knew we could do it.”

Waiting for the Clippers (14-4) in the semifinals Thursday (6 p.m.) at Stellos Stadium is top-seeded Hanover (15-1-2), which advanced by beating No. 8 Oyster River on Sunday, 2-1.

“They’re a great team. I think we can beat them, though,” said Nawrocki. “Seeing what we did (Monday), I think we could beat anyone if we play our hearts out.”

It’s the first trip to the semis for Portsmouth since 2010, when the team reached the championship game before losing to Lebanon.

“It’s huge for them,” said Portsmouth coach Rick Hugener, whose team has 10 seniors. “We had a great week of practice and then this weekend with the (postponement), I was going to give them (Sunday) off but they wanted to practice. So we practiced in the gym.”

The Cavaliers opened strong in the first 15 minutes, nearly getting on the board when a Hannah Modelski shot almost squeezed between goalie Elizabeth Carroll’s legs.

But in the 17th minute, on her team’s first corner kick from the right side, Libby Underwood made a short pass in to Lennon Dobben-Annis, who played a ball into the box. The ball deflected off a defender and past goalie Olivia Cleghorn for an unexpected 1-0 lead.

That looked to be the score heading to halftime until a Cavaliers clearing pass failed to get past Nawrocki, who pounced and struck it into the left side of the net from 16 yards out for a 2-0 lead – and a big shot of momentum.

“It’s massive going in 2-0 at a half vs. 1-0,” said Hugener. “It was a great finish by her.”

“We got very unlucky with the deflected own-goal and then unlucky at the end of the half,” said HB coach Peter Clarke. “We took some risks in the second half and it didn’t go our way.”

Prevost, the program’s all-time leading scorer who’s termed herself “80 percent” as she battles shin splints, made it 3-0 in the 59th minute on a patented rush up the middle, after being sent ahead on a pass by Getman.

Getman closed out the scoring with three minutes left, by which time, the long-awaited quarterfinal party was in full swing.

“It feels really good, since we haven’t won a quarterfinal in any of our four years,” said Nawrocki.

When the teams met at midseason in Hollis, the Clippers needed to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win, 4-3. On Monday, their back line of Rice, Julia Luff and Maddy Bachman gave up very few scoring chances.

“It was communication,” said Rice. “We talked a lot. We made sure we were covering each other. And we wanted it really bad.”

Clarke, whose team will graduate just two seniors in Modelski and back Celeste Marsan, is among those who give the Clippers a chance against Hanover, which has won five state championships since 2001. The teams did not play in the regular season.

“I really do think they’re the best possessing team,” said Clarke. “When they’re scoring, they can beat anybody.”

Everything came together in this round for the Clippers, finally, resulting in a final score nobody could have expected.

“No. Just the way we played them and the way they played us, they’re one of the top teams in our division,” said Hugener. “Even down 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, they didn’t let up. Going in thinking 4-0, that wasn’t even a thought.”