PORTLAND – For the first time since 2009, the Portland girls soccer team has advanced past the first round of the district tournament.

Sophomore Ella Clifton netted a hat trick as the Lady Panthers downed Springfield 8-2 in the opening round of the District 9-AA tournament Monday evening. Portland (9-6-2) advanced to play White House Heritage in the semifinal round on Tuesday at White House High School.

“It’s exciting,” Portland coach Seth Goostree said. “Our goal was to make the second round of the district tournament. We have a really good opponent in front of us, but I think we’re up for the task.”

Clifton scored Portland’s first two goals after moving from her usual spot on the back line. Goostree said that adjustment was made to ignite the Lady Panther offense.

“She did a really good job and opened up the field,” Goostree said. “She’s really physical, which is a great thing for a striker. She also has a good shot, and she’s fast.”

Freshman Ragan Borders made it 3-0 with a high-arching shot over Springfield goalie Micaiah Harrison in the 30th minute. Alyiah Chambers later added a breakaway goal to make it 4-0 Portland at halftime.

Springfield sophomore Molly Smith got the Lady Jackets on the board in the 46th minute. She evaded a Portland defender and chipped a long shot over goalkeeper Kenzie Campbell. Smith added a second tally in the 78th minute to bring her season total to 46 goals.

But the Lady Panthers kept Smith mostly contained with tight defense, led by freshman Buk Mut. Smith did not score when Portland beat Springfield 4-0 on Sept. 26. 

“We marked her up and had a spy in the back in case it didn’t work out,” Goostree said “Obviously, (Smith is) a good player. I wish we had limited her to zero, but I’ll take two (goals) in two games.”

Borders and Clifton tacked on goals in the second half, and sophomore Jessica Roberts added two scores to give the Lady Panthers a commanding lead. The offensive outburst came after Portland managed just two combined goals against Merrol Hyde, Macon County and Pope John Paul II in its last three games.  

“We wanted to go out and continue pressing with our offense,” Goostree said. “That’s something we struggled with the last three games. The girls kept on pushing.”

Springfield finished its season with a 7-6 record. The Lady Jackets graduate 10 seniors, including Adi Solis, Dia Lirag, Emely Maheda, Kassie Williams, Briley Frase, Perla Castro, Alexis Barrett, Leslie Perez, Victoria Brummett and Alex Griffis.

“That’s our whole defensive line,” Springfield coach AnnMarie Turpen said. “We’ve just got to rebuild – it will be a rebuilding year. Hopefully we’ll have some new interest at school with people that are ready to work.”

Portland’s worst loss of the season came in at 6-0 defeat at White House Heritage on Oct. 1. But Goostree said his squad has learned from that game.

“We had not taken a beating like that,” Goostree said. “For us, it fell apart after giving up a few goals. We’ve changed how we play. I think we’re ready for the competition (Heritage) has for us.”

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