PORTLAND—The Cheverus field hockey team didn’t exactly finish the regular season strong, but the Stags regrouped and Wednesday afternoon announced that they intend to be a factor in the Western A postseason.
In the quarterfinals, the sixth-ranked Stags rallied from a first half deficit, then got the game winner from junior Sarah LaQuerre with 17:18 to play as they improved to 11-4 and advanced to a semifinal date against top-seeded Scarborough with a 3-2 victory over No. 5 Kennebunk.
“All week we’ve had nothing to do with field hockey,” said Cheverus coach Amy McMullin. “Everything had to do with passion and coming out for a new season. That’s what the girls showed today. That’s why I was frustrated all season since I knew they do it. They brought it, so I’m happy.”
Cheverus was a regional finalist a year ago, losing, 3-2, to Scarborough, which went on to win the Class A championship. The Stags lost a lot of talent to graduation and were expected to come back to the pack, but they won their first five contests and seven of their first eight before going 3-3 down the stretch, including losses to Scarborough (6-1) and Thornton Academy (2-0).
Kennebunk won seven of its final eight to wind up 10-3-1.
Way back on Sept. 8, Cheverus downed the Rams in the lone regular season meeting, 3-0.
Wednesday marked the first playoff encounter between the teams.
Both teams came out strong and the Stags struck first 11 minutes, 57 seconds into the 30-minute first half when sophomore Gabi Cardona (from LaQuerre) scored off a scramble in front.
Just 48 seconds later, Kennebunk drew even when senior Kate Murphy’s cross was whacked home by junior Emily Vieira.
After both teams had opportunities to take the lead, the Rams did so with 3:25 remaining before halftime on a goal from junior Taylor Radomski. Murphy sent a long shot past the defense and Radomski was there to bang it home.
Undaunted, Cheverus answered before the half, when sophomore Brooke Flaherty (from LaQuerre, off a penalty corner) rattled the cage, making it a 2-2 contest.
While Kennebunk’s offense had its way in the first half, the Stags’ defense tightened in the second. After earning three early corners, the Rams barely got the ball over midfield the rest of the way.
“We talked at halftime about not allowing them to put the ball on our weak side in the second half,” said McMullin. “In the first half, they had two runs that led to two goals and we weren’t going let that happen again. Our goal was to not allow it past the 50 in the second half and the girls did a great job of that.”
With 18:15 left, the Stags had three shots in close, but were denied each time by Kennebunk senior goalie Kelsey Livermore.
The next foray would lead to a score.
LaQuerre would do the honors. After Livermore made a great save on a Cardona bid, LaQuerre was there for the rebound and sent it home to make it 3-2 Cheverus.
“It felt so good,” LaQuerre said. “I hadn’t scored in a couple games.”
The Rams were never able to rally and couldn’t even get a solid offensive look the rest of the way as the Stags held on and advanced.
“It’s a new season for us,” LaQuerre said. “We definitely came into this game knowing we needed heart. That’s what we didn’t have against Thornton and Scarborough. We just kept pushing.”
Cheverus finished with an 11-7 advantage in corners and got goals from three different players, none of whom was named Emily Sawchuck (the team’s leading scorer).
“Our goal was not to have ‘Chuck’ carry us all the time,” said LaQuerre.
“Our goal was no matter who scores, we needed new people,” added McMullin. “It’s hard for ‘Chuck’ to always be in the role to score. We put Sarah back up to a forward today. Our sophomores made their presence known.”
The Stags now face the daunting task of meeting a Scarborough team that is confident, accomplished and is playing at home. If that’s not enough, just two weeks ago, the host Red Storm pounded Cheverus, 6-1.
This time, the Stags vow, will be different.
“We just need heart,” said LaQuerre. “We didn’t have heart last game. We came in nervous and weren’t ready. We’re excited to play them Saturday. We have nothing to lose.”
“I don’t think we could have played any worse that game,” McMullin added. “After coming out with this win, I don’t think it’ll be like that. I look for us to play our best.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com