PORTLAND>> As the fall scholastic sports season gets underway the Portland girls’ soccer team has only one goal in mind: win today.
The defending Shoreline Conference champions and Class S runners-up certainly have goals to return to the greatness they achieved last season. But the Highlanders won’t get ahead of themselves.
“In a situation where you have a season like last year, sometimes you can look too far ahead and if you don’t take care of the immediate games in front of you, you can find yourself on the short end of the stick, not achieving your goals,” said Portland coach Sandy Booth.
The main reason Portland believes they can duplicate last year’s accomplishments – the Highlanders finished 18-4-1 and reached the state finals for the first time in school history – is the roster similarity; only two starters are gone from last season. The Highlanders six seniors, including 4 four-year starters, have played a significant role on the varsity squad their entire career.
Senior goalkeeper Marisa DiMare anchors a defense that gave up under one goal per game last year. DiMare, a co-captain, is a four-year starter who already holds the school record for shutouts with 25.
Senior Cassi Manner and juniors Emilie Hernandez and Alaina Plantano will look to keep the ball out of the Portland backfield all season.
The Highlanders high-powered offensive attack will be led by four seniors. Nicole Caruso, a co-captain who scored a number of important goals last postseason, has over 20 career goals. Amanda Ghent, Jackie Otake and McKenzie Reimondo, all four-year starters, comprise a talented midfield that has combined for at least 60 goals over the last three years.
“The girls are really focused on maintaining that level of play they brought last year,” said Booth, now in his fifth season.
Booth, who has a career mark of 46-23-4, does not take the Shoreline Conference lightly. He cites Old Lyme, whom Portland edged 2-1 in last year’s SLC championship game, and East Hampton as some very strong competitors in “a strong Class S conference.” He knows that after a season like last year, his team can no longer fly under the radar.
“There’s a price to pay for success and right now we have a fairly large target on our back,” said Booth. “When people come and play us, if they’re able to tag us with a loss, they’re very happy about that.”
For such a long time, Portland struggled to compete in the Shoreline. Now that they are finally champions, they will see if they can fulfill expectations.
Portland opens the season today at Old Saybrook at 3:45 p.m.
“The time for talking is over now, it’s just the hard work and the grind of getting through those games to get us into the Shoreline and Class S tournaments,” said Booth.