MIDDLETOWN >> The Portland girls soccer team’s run finally came to an end.
The Highlanders started 2-7, then got off the deck and qualified for the Class S tournament on the final day, beating Old Saybrook on the road. They then won three tourney games in a row to get to Monday night’s semifinal date with Old Saybrook, the third time the two Shoreline Conference clubs met this season.
Old Saybrook won the rubber game at Middletown High’s Rosek-Skubel Stadium, but it was like being pulled through a keyhole as the Rams won the match on penalty kicks, 2-1 (5-3 on PKs) after the teams battled through regulation and two, 10-minute overtimes, 1-1.
Old Saybrook made all five kicks — Portland missed its second — and when Maggie Smith nailed the final PK, Old Saybrook sealed its bid to the championship game this weekend.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game,” Old Saybrook coach Berkeley Checchini-Bond said. “We had played with 100 percent composure through our first three tournament games, but tonight was hectic. We stress confidence, composure and contend all the time, but even though it was hectic, we made it through.”
The clubs played a scoreless first half. Both had five shots and both keepers — Portland’s Julia MacKinnon and Old Saybrook’s Kelsey True — each had three saves, although all of the saves were routine.
Portland almost took the lead with 27:30 left to play when a shot hit the right post.
Old Saybrook (12-3-5) finally scored with 17:02 left in regulation when Allison Bruehwiler went one-on-one with a defender to the right of the net and slid the ball past MacKinnon for the lead.
It didn’t last.
Portland (9-10-1) got a goal from Molly Leary out of a scrum in front of the net with 14:54 showing on the clock to tie the match at 1.
Old Saybrook dominated the last 10 minutes of regulation. A shot went just over the net with 3:25 left and another was wide left with 1:20 left. Neither team had a shot in the first overtime and in the second OT, Old Saybrook had the best chance when the keeper came out to stop the ball, it got away and was rolling toward the open net when a Portland player managed to kick it out of trouble.
“We dodged some bullets,” Portland coach Sandy Booth said. “But my kids laid it on the line. We got a very good draw in the tournament, no question. But the Shoreline Conference is very tough; there are no easy outs. Every game is playoff-like and for us, the last seven games were playoff games.
“As I told the kids, all you can do is leave it on the field. You might be sad you lost, but you can put your head on the pillow. Earlier in the year when I asked about who wanted to be on the line if we had to go to penalty kicks, I had 12 kids who wanted to take their shot and have it on them.”
Checchini-Bond expressed no love for penalty kicks and said that her team couldn’t finish opportunities.
“Our chances were there, but it was not to be,” she said.
But then came those dreaded penalty kicks and her club went 5-for-5 to win.
“I hate to go to penalty kicks,” said Booth. “But we would have been here all night.”
Portland had 10 shots to Old Saybrook’s nine. Saybrook keeper True had seven saves, while MacKinnon had four.
Old Saybrook will play Old Lyme for the Class S title this weekend at a time and site to be announced by the CIAC.