MIDDLETOWN >> The Portland High girls soccer team is going to The Show — again.
The No. 5 ranked Highlanders got back to the state championship game by defeating No. 16 Coventry 2-1 in a Class S semifinal game played at Rosek-Skubel Stadium at Middletown High School Monday night. Portland played in the title game last year, losing to Immaculate of Danbury 5-0.
“We played all right,” said Portland coach Norman Booth. “When you get to this level, every team is a very good team. Coventry has a great program and Warren Herrington is a very good coach. We both made adjustments as the game went on and we were able to hold on.”
Portland took a 2-0 lead and that’s a score Booth said can be worrisome.
“A game is always dangerous at 2-0,” said Booth. “If the other team gets a goal, it changes the momentum and that’s what happened tonight. They scored that goal to cut the lead and we played defense the rest of the way.”
Portland took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Nicole Caruso with 27 minutes left in the first half. The Highlanders made it 2-0 when Jacqueline Otake scored, nailing one into the left corner beyond keeper Jennifer Dube with 4:49 left in the half.
The goals stood up at the break as Portland led 2-0 at the half.
“We played very well in the first half,” said Booth. “The first five or 10 minutes were a little slow, but we changed up to the more traditional 4-4-2 and that seemed to work better. Goals have been hard to come by for us this year. But we had enough for us to hold on.”
Coventry (9-8-0) got back in the game when Sage Dieterle scored with 30:48 left in the match. From then on, Coventry had the advantage.
“We survived and advanced,” said Booth. “Our defense played very well. Emilie Hernandez was solid as a rock for us on defense. She was tremendous.”
Portland (16-5-0) had eight shots on goal to Coventry’s six. But one of Coventry’s shots nearly tied the game late. On a direct kick, the ball soared toward the net over the keeper’s head, but it was batted away at the last instant preventing a tie.
“Our goals this year were first to get back to the Shoreline Conference playoffs and we did [going 1-1], eventually losing to Old Lyme 1-0,” said Booth. “The second goal was to get back to the championship game and we’ve done that. The kids really wanted that.
“Now we’ll see what the soccer gods have in store for us Saturday.”
Herrington refused to comment on the game.
“All I’ll say is Portland has a good team, but state tournament games should never be played on turf; it’s not real soccer. It’s irresponsible to schedule soccer games on turf fields,” he said.
Portland goalkeeper Marissa DiMare had four saves while Patriots’ keeper Dube had six.
The CIAC will announce the site and time of all of Saturday’s state championship games. Two games will be played at Middletown High School