SCARBOROUGH—The Scarborough field hockey program has produced some great teams in recent years, but the 2012 edition is turning into something truly special.
Wednesday evening, in a Western Class A quarterfinal round contest against eighth-ranked Thornton Academy, the No. 1 Red Storm quickly served notice that it had no intention of repeating last year’s painful first round ouster by racing to a 1-0 lead just 3 minutes, 25 seconds in when senior Emily Bunting scored on a rebound. Four minutes later, sophomore Kristen Murray scored on a penalty corner and with 12:54 to go before halftime, a goal by senior Elly Walker on a penalty corner ensured a healthy 3-0 advantage at the break. A second goal from Walker off a corner in the second half ended the competitive phase of the evening, but there was still once piece of drama remaining.
Could the Golden Trojans become the first team to score on Scarborough this season?
The answer would be a resounding no, as Thornton Academy didn’t even manage a shot on goal and the Red Storm went on to a 4-0 victory, its 15th without a defeat this fall and 15th straight shutout as it ended the Golden Trojans’ season at 9-6-1 and set up a semifinal round showdown with No. 4 Westbrook Saturday at 1 p.m.
“It’s a fantastic feeling,” said Scarborough coach Kerry Mariello. “We got the monkey off our back. We had to do it. (The coaches) didn’t need to say a whole lot. The girls know the position we’re in. They know last year’s experience. They wanted it. They deserved it. We came out ready to play from the start.”
Scarborough has been as good as anyone over the past five years, reaching the regional final in 2007, losing in overtime to Skowhegan in the state final in 2008, winning it all for the first time in 2009 and earning the top seed in 2010 and 2011. The Red Storm was upset by Cheverus in the semifinals two years ago and last fall, after carrying a 13-0-1 record into the postseason, Scarborough suffered through 76 thoroughly frustrating, scoreless minutes before its season ended in the 11th round of penalty corners, 1-0, to unheralded Windham in the quarterfinals.
This fall, the Red Storm quickly served notice that it wasn’t just content to be a top contender, but was going to feature a prolific offense and impenetrable defense. The fun began with a 10-0 home win over McAuley and a 7-0 triumph at Bonny Eagle. After a 2-0 home victory over Westbrook, Scarborough dominated visiting Portland, 6-0. The closest call of the season came at Sanford Sept. 13, a 1-0 triumph. After a 4-0 win at South Portland, the Red Storm made its most impressive statement, 4-0 at Cheverus. The shutouts kept coming: 3-0 at Gorham, 4-0 at home over Thornton Academy, 2-0 over visiting Windham, 4-0 at Deering, 6-0 at home over Noble and 5-0 at Kennebunk to end the regular season.
Scarborough finished 14-0 and for the fourth straight season, earned the top seed for the playoffs.
Thornton Academy went 8-5-1 in the regular season and finished eighth. Saturday, the Golden Trojans advanced with a 2-0 home victory over No. 9 Bonny Eagle in the preliminary round.
In addition to the regular season win, Sept. 27, the Red Storm also downed Thornton Academy in the 2009 quarterfinals (2-0).
That fall, Scarborough went on to a championship. The Red Storm hopes its effort Wednesday was the start of another title run.
Scarborough had a territorial edge from the get-go and broke the ice when Bunting rebounded a shot off the stick of senior Katie Granzier, beating Thornton Academy senior goalie Abbey Siulinski (seven saves).
“It was so important to score early,” said Walker. “We remembered last year, going on and on, the rain and everyone was tired. We all just wanted to win so bad. Last year has driven us so much. Most of this team was there last year. Some of us the last two years. We remember the feeling. It’s built up. We couldn’t have that feeling again.”
“Coach said that once we get the first goal, we take pressure off the goalie and so forth up the field,” said senior defender Mikaela Gove. “We got that goal and got the feeling we can do this. It was really important.”
It didn’t take long for the Red Storm to double the lead.
With 22:21 left in the first half, on a penalty corner, sophomore Maddie Dobiecki inserted the ball to senior Grace Whelan, who passed to Murray, who one-timed a shot into the cage to make it 2-0.
Walker got in on the fun with 12:54 remaining.
On another penalty corner, Dobiecki inserted to Gove, who shot on cage and Walker was there to tip it home to extend the lead to 3-0.
“We were all in the right spot,” Walker said. “I just had to tap it in. The team, as a whole, we just have to get used to where everyone is and that brings us together.”
In the first half, Scarborough had a 4-0 advantage on penalty corners (scoring on two of them) and outshot Thornton Academy, 5-0, scoring at a 60 percent clip. The Golden Trojans might have possessed the ball in the Red Storm’s end of the field for a minute and were playing defense the rest of the time.
Midway through the second half, the visitors got their lone serious chance.
Junior Lauren Russell played the ball up the right side before delivering a perfect cross. The ball rolled untouched through the goal crease and Scarborough’s defensive perfection continued.
The Red Storm delivered the final nail with 9:37 to play when Walker scored again, once more on a corner.
“(The ball) came in front and I just lifted it up because I saw the goalie was on the ground,” said Walker. “I knew that was the only way it was going to get in.”
Scarborough ran out the clock from there and celebrated its 4-0 victory.
“It feels really special,” Walker said.. “This is my last year and even if it ended tonight, I would have had the best season of my life.”
Scarborough finished with an 11-0 edge in shots and a 6-0 advantage in corners.
The Red Storm hasn’t given up a goal in the regular run of play since Oct. 4, 2011, during an 8-1 home win over Deering.
There’s no sign Scarborough will give in anytime soon.
“It feels absolutely amazing,” said Gove. “It’s all about our team. We work together on the field. If it comes down to the defense, we stick together and we just push the ball out. We have amazing goalies. We keep our passing going to get around other players and just stay confident in ourselves. (The streak) crosses our mind because we know there’s probably a team out there wishing they get that first goal on us. It’s not about whether we get a shutout or not. It’s about winning and advancing.”
“It’s unbelievable,” Walker said. “We never imagined we’d have no goals scored against us. We’re OK with that. Our defense is just incredible. They’re fast. When you think someone’s going to get a breakaway, someone steps up and is just there. It’s amazing. Practice is interesting. It goes on for awhile. It takes awhile to get through them.”
Mariello feels that credit for the shutout streak doesn’t just belong to the defense or senior goalies Shannon Hicks and Carly McLellan (who each played a half Wednesday), but to every girl who takes the field.
“(We’re) an all around team,” said Mariello. “We have all around balance. All 11 play offense. All 11 play defense. They support each other well. They communicate well. They know where to be and what to do. Those are the ingredients. (These girls) remind me a lot of the special group of a few years ago. They have pure hearts, complete passion for the sport and want to do well, not just for themselves, but for this team and for this community. “
Scarborough figures to get a sterner challenge from Westbrook (11-2-2 after Wednesday’s 1-0 win over No. 5 Massabesic in its quarterfinal) Saturday. The Red Storm previously faced the Blue Blazes in the 2006 quarterfinals (a 2-1 overtime loss) and the 2008 regional final (a 2-1 victory.
Scarborough controlled play in the regular season meeting, but now, nothing is guaranteed.
“(Tonight) feels good, but now we have to work our way back up for Saturday to be ready,” said Walker. “I think we’ll have to work hard and stay focused and not let this game make us feel higher than them for the next one.”
“We’re going in and we won’t underestimate anybody,” said Gove. “We see them as a threat. We won’t take them lightly. They’re a skilled team. It will be a good matchup. We’re ready to play them.”
“(Westbrook’s) always in it,” added Mariello. “They’re always that team that fights until the bitter end. It will be a battle. Semifinals is a tough game to get through because you tend to look ahead a little bit. Every team will show us different things. As long as we play the balanced game we’ve been playing from day one, I think we’ll be in a good position. Hopefully we’ll come out and play the way we did today.”
The Western A Final is Tuesday, at Scarborough. If the Red Storm makes it, it will face either No. 2 Cheverus (14-1) or No. 3 Marshwood (13-2), the reigning regional champion. Scarborough handled the host Stags, 4-0, Sept. 21, and blanked the visiting Hawks, 1-0, Sept. 15.
The Class A state final is Saturday, Oct. 27, at the University of Maine in Orono.
Scarborough senior Emily Bunting (with ball) is congratulated by junior teammate Rachael Wallace after scoring the game’s first goal.
Scarborough senior Emily Bunting leaves a Thornton Academy defender in her wake.
Scarborough senior Mikaela Gove has plenty of breathing room as she races up the field.
Scarborough senior Ali Pelczar drives the ball forward.
Scarborough senior Karli-An Gilbert plays the ball.
Scarborough senior Grace Whelan eludes two Thornton Academy defenders.
Scarborough sophomore Maddie Dobiecki lunges to reach a loose ball before a Thornton Academy defender can get her stick on it.
Scarborough sophomore Kristen Murray is mobbed by teammates after giving the Red Storm a 2-0 lead on a penalty corner goal in the first half.
Scarborough senior goalie Carly McLellan races to join her teammates after the Red Storm’s 4-0 win over Thornton Academy in Wednesday’s Western Class A quarterfinal.
More photos below.