WATERVILLE — Every once in a while, an unknown opponent pulls off an upset.

On Wednesday, the Messalonskee girls lacrosse team nearly fell to one.

The top-seeded and defending Class A state champ Eagles fought back from an early 4-1 deficit with a strong second half to oust No. 8 Portland 14-12 in a Class A North quarterfinal at Thomas College.

Lauren Pickett (five goals), Ally Turner (four goals) and Lydia Dexter (four goals) accounted for nearly all of Messalonskee’s scoring. Kaitlyn Smith also scored for the Eagles (12-1). Pickett’s three unanswered goals at the start of the second half helped put the Bulldogs (4-9) away.

“I really noticed how the defense was crashing to the ball,” Pickett said. “So when three people are crashing to the ball, that backdoor cut is wide open, so I just looked for it every time.”

The teams didn’t meet in the regular season, and Portland showed it was game from the start of the contest. Pickett opened the scoring to give Messalonskee a quick 1-0 lead, but the Bulldogs answered with four unanswered goals, two from Isabella More, along with scoring strikes from Annika More and Morgan Kierstead.

“We knew it was going to be tough; we had no idea what we were expecting,” Messalonskee coach Crystal Leavitt said. “We had done some scouting to see what they were going to bring. But again, you can watch every single team play all season. You show up to playoffs, it’s a whole different game. It’s a whole different season. It’s a whole different realm, environment. You’ve got more fans, you’ve got more energy. I know teams are going to show up. We’re Messalonskee, we’ve got a target on our back. Teams are going to show up against us.”

The rest of the first half turned into the makings of a heavyweight bout, as the teams traded goals. Turner took the game over late in the first half, scoring two goals that tied the game at 6-6 and then 7-7. Smith’s goal with 1:26 gave Messalonskee the lead. Turner — who now has 76 goals this season — notched the final score of the half a minute later, sending Messalonskee into the intermission with a 9-7 lead.

The Eagles came out ready in the second half with four unanswered goals — three from Pickett — to extend the lead to 13-7.

“We have a bunch of different scorers,” Pickett said. “I can count on passing it to an attacker and they can take (goal opportunities), too.”

The Bulldogs — who missed the playoffs last season — would not go down without a fight. They slugged back with four unanswered goals of their own, three from Caitriona Moran, to pull within 13-11 with 11 minutes to play.

“We’re a young team, so we’ve got a lot of (offensive) options, because we’re still growing,” Portland coach Beth Broderick said. “We don’t have that one superstar. We’ve got a lot of folks who are happy to move the ball around and look at the goal. We had a lot of guys score today, which was great.”

A Dexter goal with eight minutes to play was enough to put the game away for the Eagles, even with a late Portland goal from Kierstead.

Moran and Isabella More led the Bulldogs with three goals each.

“We’ve got a lot of freshmen who contributed today, a couple key sophomores and a handful of juniors. So I think next year looks really good for us,” Broderick said.

Dave Dyer — 621-5640

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Twitter: @Dave_Dyer