PORTLAND—Cheverus’ field hockey team fell just short of its ultimate goal, but what a year it was for the Stags.
And for Thornton Academy, history has been made with the biggest prize still there for the taking.
In Tuesday evening’s Class A South Final at Fitzpatrick Stadium, both teams came out sizzling in a dizzying first half which reminded those on hand why these two squads were the last two standing in the region.
Third-ranked Thornton Academy struck first, when sophomore Taylor Ouellette scored in the eighth minute, but the top seeded Stags roared right back and drew even when senior standout Becca Archer scored out of a scrum with 19:05 to play in the first half.
The Golden Trojans went back on top to stay when junior Emma Dutremble scored with 14:29 to go before halftime and made sure Cheverus wasn’t able to rally in the second half.
First, senior Libby Pomerleau scored after a rush with 20:31 remaining for some breathing room.
Then, with 15:02 to go, Thornton Academy clinched it when Ouellette scored for a second time.
The Golden Trojans put on the clamps defensively from there and went on to a 4-1 victory, as they won a regional title for the first time in program history.
Thornton Academy improved to 15-2, ended the Stags’ memorable campaign at 14-3 and advanced to battle Skowhegan (15-2) in the Class A state final Saturday at high noon at the University of Maine in Orono.
“I’m very proud of our accomplishments,” said Cheverus coach Amy Ashley. “Coming in, I never thought we’d be number one. It stings a lot, but in the end, we’re proud of what we accomplished.”
Cheverus and Thornton Academy have both enjoyed tremendous seasons and each made the most of their playoff opportunities.
The Golden Trojans went 12-2 in the regular season, losing only to Cheverus and Scarborough, then, as the No. 3 seed, they scored late to edge sixth-ranked Marshwood, 2-1, in the quarterfinals, then beat the defending state champion Red Storm for the first time in Saturday’s semifinals, 2-0, to advance.
The Stags won 12 games, including handing Scarborough its first league loss in 67 outings, lost only to Marshwood and Massabesic, and earned the top seed for the first time, then treated their fans to a roller coaster ride of emotion in surviving No. 8 Westbrook, 2-1, in two rounds of penalty corners, in the quarterfinals, then outlasting No. 4 Sanford by the same score, this time in five penalty corners, in the semifinals.
Way back on Sept. 10, in Saco, Cheverus eked out a 3-2 win on freshman Sophia Pompeo’s overtime goal.
The teams had met just once previously in the playoffs, a 1-0 Stags’ win in the 2007 preliminary round.
Tuesday, on a chilly evening, Cheverus finally played a postseason game which ended in 60 minutes, but this time, the Stags came out on the wrong end of the score.
Just 2 minutes, 25 seconds in, Thornton Academy was primed to score first as Ouellette sent a shot on goal with Cheverus sophomore goalie Dierdre Sanborn out of position, but senior defensive standout Elise Bourassa swept the ball out of harm’s way at the last possible second.
The Stags then almost struck first when senior Abby Ford set up classmate Colleen Slattery for a great look off a penalty corner, but Golden Trojans junior goalie Isabella Capozzi made the save.
Thornton Academy then transitioned to offense and with 22:15 left in the first half, junior Isabella Robinson from the right side sent the ball across the crease to Ouellette who banged it home for a 1-0 lead.
Cheverus faced its first deficit of the postseason, but not for long.
After sophomore Hannah Abbott had a great chance denied by Capozzi, the Stags drew even with 19:05 remaining, as Archer took two whacks at the ball in a scrum and the second attempt sent it into the cage to make it 1-1.
“Not many seniors can say their last goal was in a regional final,” Archer said. “It was just right place, right time.”
With 14:40 to go before the break, the Golden Trojans earned a corner and 11 seconds later, had the lead for good as Robinson passed the ball into the circle to Dutremble, who wouldn’t be denied, beating Sanborn for a 2-1 advantage.
Ashley pulled Sanborn in favor of semifinal hero, sophomore Kat Kane, who kept the game close the rest of the half.
Out of a timeout, Cheverus pushed for the equalizer, but Thornton Academy senior Grace Pickering broke up a Stags’ corner.
The Golden Trojans then earned a corner, but Kane saved two bids.
A minute later, Pomerleau looked to stretch the lead, but Kane stopped her cold.
Down the stretch in the half, Abbott had a rush broken up by Pomerleau and Dutremble had a shot saved, keeping the score at 2-1 at the break.
Thornton Academy had a 6-5 edge in shots (5-4 on frame) and Kane and Capozzi both had three saves in the first half. Cheverus had a 4-2 advantage in corners.
The Stags had a golden chance to pull even 1:13 into the second half when Abbott went one-on-one with Capozzi, but the goalie made the save.
With 24:40 left, Cheverus earned a corner, but couldn’t produce a shot.
After Ashley used her final timeout, the Golden Trojans showed they didn’t need to pass the ball to score, as Pomerleau got free, rushed in, then beat Kane for a 3-1 lead with 20:31 to go.
To their credit, the Stags didn’t fold and they earned three corners in a little over a minute, but the first saw Archer denied, the second saw senior Emily Michaud’s shot tipped wide and the third saw Ford’s bid tipped to the side.
Thornton Academy then put it away as Robinson produced her third terrific assist of the night, passing to Ouellette for a goal and a 4-1 advantage with 15:02 to play.
Ouellette almost completed a hat trick with 9:48 remaining, but Kane made the save.
A couple Golden Trojans’ corners led to shots from Dutremble and junior Grace Decker, but Kane stopped them both.
Cheverus’ final shot, inside the final minute, from senior Felicia Lyons. was saved by Capozzi and at 9:14 p.m., Thornton Academy was able to celebrate its first regional championship, as it brought the Stags’ hopes to a crashing halt, 4-1.
“The girls learned a lot down the stretch,” said Golden Trojans coach Lori Smith. “We had tough games and came out on top and that set us up nicely for playoffs. They were prepared, almost calm before the game. We knew Cheverus came out at us the first time we played. We were up, 2-0, and they took off. We’ve gotten much better, but their speed worried me. Their corners are scary. It was a track meet tonight and scary on both sides.”
“I think that (Thornton’s) just an amazing team,” Archer said. “They’ve really progressed since we played them last. Unfortunately, I don’t think the scoreboard showed how hard we worked for it. We did amazing today.”
“Thornton’s very skilled,” Ashley said. “They out-skilled us at almost every single position. We talked about if we marked, it would be a tight game, but if we lost track of our marks, we knew they were skilled and they converted. We had some chances and corners and couldn’t finish. They were a little more clutch than us tonight and in the (regional) final, you have to be.”
The Golden Trojans finished with a 15-12 shots advantage (13-9 on cage). got eight saves from Capozzi and showed some impressive offensive balance.
“We have awesome forwards who can get touches on the ball,” Smith said. “Bella Robinson, wow, game of her life. She came up huge. She had great passes to Taylor, who has such a nice touch. She was in the right place at the right time. Libby was all alone. I knew Emma would score tonight. She’s always in front of the net. She has great hand-eye coordination.”
Thornton Academy isn’t just happy to be in the state final, it’s aiming to bring home a championship trophy, but you couldn’t find a matchup that’s more lopsided in experience. Saturday will be Skowhegan’s 15th straight state game appearance, while the Golden Trojans will be in uncharted territory.
“It’s pretty huge for us,” Smith said. “It’s awesome. This is like no other team I’ve had. For a couple years, we’ve been in the hunt, but this was the first team that really believed they could do it. It teaches the younger kids to step up and be competitive. I hope that we’re not afraid of the (Skowhegan) name. They’re a formidable opponent. We’ll focus on what we need to do. That’s our approach.”
Cheverus wound up with an 8-6 edge in corners Tuesday and got nine saves from Kane, but suffered the agony of defeat.
Regardless, the Stags showed tremendous growth from the dog days of first practice in the middle of August to the crisp autumn night of Oct. 27 and they took their followers on a magical ride.
“It’s been amazing,” Ashley said. “It’s really been fun. We knew we’d be talented, but I didn’t know just how far we’d go. We had players step up and rise to the occasion. I’m very proud of the season we had.”
Cheverus will be hard-hit by graduation, as Archer, Bourassa, Ford, Michaud and Slattery are five of the eight seniors on the roster.
“It’s sad to see this group of seniors go,” Ashley said. “It will change the face of the program. Most of them started as sophomores. They should be proud of what they did for the program the past four years. Losing Abby, Colleen, Becca, Emily and Elise, is tough. I wish them the best.”
The Stags won’t find the cupboard bare next August, however, as Abbott, Kane, juniors Carrie Hight and Charlotte Noyes, sophomores Kane and Sanborn and freshmen Pompeo and Bella Booth return to make up a strong nucleus.
“Hopefully the younger girls can see the passion the seniors had and step up to that next year,” Ashley said.
As for the coach, she made it through the season knowing she’ll become a first-time mother any day now and she credits her charges for helping her stay energized.
“I’ve had an absolute blast every day with these girls,” Ashley said. “It’s not easy to see a pregnant coach. Somedays I didn’t have energy, but how can you not have energy when you get to practice and see their smiles? This is why I coach. It’s been an amazing season and I won’t forget it.”
Cheverus junior Carrie Hight plays the ball past Thornton Academy senior Libby Pomerleau.
Cheverus sophomore Hannah Abbott tries to knock home a loose ball.
Deuces are wild as Cheverus junior Charlotte Noyes and Thornton Academy freshman Catherine Henaire fight for possession.
Cheverus senior Emily Michaud takes a swing at the ball.
Cheverus freshman Bella Booth brings the ball up the field as she’s trailed by Thornton Academy junior Emma Dutremble.
Cheverus senior captains (from left) Abby Ford, Colleen Slattery, Becca Archer and Emily Michaud manage to muster up smiles after receiving the Class A South runner-up plaque Tuesday night. The Stags lost the regional final to Thornton Academy, 4-1.
Mike Strout photos.
Cheverus senior Colleen Slattery leans back for the ball.
2007 Western A preliminary
Cheverus 1 Thornton Academy 0