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PORTLAND—Amy McMullin, the coach of Cheverus’ field hockey team, has warned that her squad, as talented as it is, would suffer some growing pains this fall.
Turns out, unfortunately for the Stags, that she was right.
Tuesday afternoon, Cheverus came out flat, while unheralded, visiting Bonny Eagle came out sizzling and as a result, the Scots took a 1-0 lead early in the second half. The Stags battled back and drew even when senior standout Elyse Caiazzo tied the score with 14:18 left, but this time, Cheverus couldn’t complete the rally.
The game went to overtime and moments after Caiazzo just missed ending the game, Bonny Eagle got the winner from senior Cassidy Merrill with 2:02 left in the first overtime and the Scots prevailed in stunning fashion, 2-1.
“We walked on the field thinking we’d win,” lamented McMullin. “We didn’t have energy until the last few minutes. We underestimated them, but give Bonny Eagle credit. They played tough.”
Cheverus has won 75 games over the past six seasons and reached the Western A Final a year ago. Despite losing a lot of top players, the Stags are still viewed as a favorite and they opened with a hard-fought 2-1 home win (the game was moved to the Fitzpatrick Stadium turf) over Westbrook and a 3-0 victory at Biddeford.
Bonny Eagle went 3-10-2 a year ago and lost to Thornton Academy in the Western A preliminary round. The Scots began 2013 with a 2-0 home win over Windham and an 11-0 triumph at McAuley and are clearly a different team. The question was just how much better?
Last fall, Cheverus handled visiting Bonny Eagle, 4-0.
Tuesday, the league was served notice that both teams aren’t quite what we thought and while that means good things for the Scots, it also means the Stags have a lot of work to do.
Early in the game, Bonny Eagle sophomore goalie Ashlyn Wintle made a couple tough saves on bids from Caiazzo and senior Meredith Willard and the Scots were further bolstered by three early penalty corners.
McMullin called timeout with 17:35 left in the first half, hoping to light a fire under her team, but it didn’t happen.
With 12:37 to play in the half, Scots junior Alexis Lambert had a great look off another corner, but shot just wide of the goal.
Late in the half, Wintle kept the game scoreless by denying senior Laura Bither, then stopping Caiazzo.
In the first 30 minutes, Bonny Eagle had a big territorial edge and enjoyed five corners to just one for the hosts.
The Scots kept the pressure on in the second half.
Just four minutes in, Bonny Eagle had a flurry in front of the Cheverus goal, but Stags senior goalie Libby DesRuisseaux cleared the ball.
After DesRuisseaux made a kick save on another Lambert shot, the Scots finally broke through.
With 21:42 left in regulation, off another corner, the ball sat free in front and somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen players created a rugby-like scrum before Lambert managed to get the ball past DesRuisseaux for a 1-0 lead.
After Cheverus failed to respond, McMullin called her final timeout with 14:57 showing and it took just 39 seconds for the hosts to finally break through.
Not surprisingly, it would be Caiazzo doing the honors, taking a pass on a penalty corner and after having an initial shot blocked, rocketing the rebound past Wintle to make it 1-1, seemingly giving the Stags all the momentum.
Cheverus wouldn’t be able to win it in regulation, however, nor would Bonny Eagle, and after a few anxious moments, it was on to overtime.
In regulation, the Scots outshot the Stags, 16-4, and had a stunning 14-3 advantage in corners.
In Maine high school field hockey, teams play two eight-minute “sudden victory” sessions and if no one scores, the game is declared a tie.
That wouldn’t be a factor Tuesday.
Caiazzo appeared primed to win the game when, with 3:20 left in the first OT, she took a long pass from senior Elizabeth Ford and broke in on Wintle. Caiazzo then had a great look at the goal, but her game-winning bid trickled just wide, past the left post.
Bonny Eagle then transitioned to offense and won it.
The ball came to the near corner and was crossed to Merrill, who had a great look in front. Merrill stopped the ball, fired and this time, DesRuisseaux couldn’t make the save.
The ball rattled into the cage and the Scots had a 2-1 victory, their first over the Stags since Sept. 30, 2005 (3-0 at Bonny Eagle).
Visiting players erupted into a mass of celebratory humanity, while Cheverus was left stunned.
“It’s a great learning experience,” McMullin said. “I thought we might struggle early this year. A lot of good can come from a loss early in the season. Bonny Eagle played well. I didn’t do a good job preparing (the girls) for the team that they are. We had some great opportunities, but just missed. They had more opportunities and didn’t.”
The Scots finished with a 17-5 shots advantage and a stunning 15-3 bulge in corners. DesRuisseaux made 15 saves, while Wintle stopped four shots.
“Libby played well, but we can’t rely on our captains to win,” McMullin said. “We need others to be more consistent.”
While Bonny Eagle returns to action Thursday at home versus Deering, Cheverus visits McAuley that afternoon, needing a win to bounce back.
“I hope we can move forward and grow from this,” McMullin said.
The Stags sandwich road games against Windham and Gorham around a visit from Deering next week. Even bigger games, against the likes of Marshwood, Massabesic and Scarborough, await.
“Our goal is to learn from this and be more consistent the rest of the season,” said McMullin.