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Cheverus senior Sophia Pompeo splits Biddeford senior Hailey Allen, left and junior Megan Mourmouras during the teams’ showdown Wednesday. The Tigers held on for a palpitating 2-1 victory.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.
PORTLAND—The Biddeford Tigers showed everyone why they’re viewed as the team to beat in Class A South field hockey this fall.
And the Cheverus Stags confirmed their suspicion that they can compete with anyone, including the Tigers.
Wednesday evening at Fitzpatrick Stadium, the Class A South rivals put on 60-minute show of speed, athleticism and passing precision and the contest wasn’t decided until the final horn.
Biddeford came out on fire and pressured the Cheverus end most of the first half, but the Stags’ defense and junior goalie Hannah Woodford stood tall.
Then, with just under seven minutes to go before halftime, Cheverus got a chance and sophomore Lucia Pompeo scored for the lead.
Facing their first dose of adversity this fall, against a longtime nemesis no less, the Tigers could have wilted, but instead, Biddeford roared back in the second half.
Less than four minutes in, senior Paige Laverriere raced up the field and set up junior Brooklyn Goff for the tying tally.
Then, with 12:40 left, Laverriere buried a backhanded blast and the Tigers had the lead.
The Stags refused to go quietly and had some great looks to pull even, but Biddeford senior goalie Taylor Wildes made a few key saves of her own as the Tigers held on to prevail, 2-1.
Biddeford improved to 4-0, dropped Cheverus to 1-2 and snapped a 10-game losing streak in the series, beating the Stags for the first time in 11 years.
“I’m super-proud of these girls,” said Cheverus coach Sally Cloutier. “Biddeford’s a great team and I feel like my girls really stepped up. I have a young team and I have a lot of kids who are playing positions they haven’t played, or girls who haven’t played at all before. I was proud of the starters and all of those who came in later.”
Cheverus started with a 1-0 home win over Kennebunk, then lost, 4-3, at Massabesic.
Biddeford, the preseason favorite in the region, handled visiting Deering in its first game, 8-1, then blanked host Bonny Eagle (7-0) and visiting Windham (6-0).
Last fall, the Stags won, 2-0, at Biddeford.
This one was scheduled to be played Tuesday afternoon on campus at Cheverus, but wet fields moved it back a day and across town.
The Stags were looking for an early signature victory, but instead, on a very pleasant 67-degree evening, the Tigers did just enough to down Cheverus for the first time since Sept. 10, 2007 (2-0 at home).
Biddeford ran up and down the Fitzpatrick Stadium turf in the early going, as senior Hailey Allen found teammates from all distances and angles.
In the third minute, sophomore Abby Allen fired a shot that Woodford saved.
After Woodford denied Laverriere, Goff deflected a Hailey Allen blast just wide.
Abby Allen then hit the side of the cage.
With 7:40 to go in the half, Hailey Allen had a promising shot off a penalty corner, but again, Woodford made the save.
The Stags then generated a rush which resulted in the first goal.
Senior Sophia Pompeo raced up the field and passed to her younger sister, Lucia Pompeo, who had a great look in front, but Wildes made the save.
Pompeo stayed with the ball, however, and flicked a high shot into the goal and after the officials consulted, the goal stood for a 1-0 Cheverus lead.
Biddeford earned a penalty corner as time expired, but the Stags cleared the ball to hold on to the lead at the break.
The Tigers had a 5-2 edge in first half shots on frame and a 5-1 advantage in corners, but had no luck putting the ball in the cage.
Biddeford was tasting adversity for the first time, but didn’t panic.
“We were getting very flustered,” Laverriere said. “We had to keep our heads and stay positive. We’ve focused on that this year and we did it in the second half.”
“We were playing well, so I told the girls to keep doing the little things and be persistent and eventually, the goals will come,” said Tigers coach Caitlin Albert.
As the Tigers did to start the game, they came out sizzling again in the second half and this time, were rewarded.
Just over a minute in, Hailey Allen took two shots on a corner, but Woodford saved them both and Goff sent a rebound wide.
With 26:22 remaining, Biddeford drew even, as Laverriere set it up with a long run before crossing in front to Goff, who rattled the cage with a high shot to make it 1-1.
“I was looking and I saw a pink stick and I knew it was Brooklyn and she finished,” Laverriere said. “That definitely boosted us up.”
Each team then had a chance to go on top.
After Hailey Allen tipped a shot wide, Lucia Pompeo fired a backhanded shot at the other end which Wildes saved.
With 16 minutes on the clock, Sophia Pompeo raced in alone, but Wildes came out and made the save.
The Tigers then transitioned the other way and Goff took a long pass and went one-on-one with Woodford, but Woodford gave up her body to make a highlight reel save.
“I assumed that one was going in, but (Hannah) made some huge saves tonight,” Cloutier said. “This was her third varsity game. She played JV last year. She did phenomenal.”
Woodford could do nothing about the next Biddeford shot, as the Tigers finally took the lead.
With 12:40 left, after getting in front of a clearing pass, Laverriere took a couple touches, switched to her backhand, then swatted a shot into the cage for a 2-1 lead.
“I intercepted the ball, carried it up and shot it,” Laverriere said. “I thought some one would tip it, but no one was there and it went in. I was like, ‘Whoo-hoo.'”
“Paige is a phenomenal player,” said Albert. “She’s a two-time all-state player. She’s our spark. We need her to step up in big situations and she comes through.”
The Stags didn’t roll over and battled for the equalizer.
After a cross from senior Bella Booth to Lucia Pompeo was cleared by a Biddeford defender, Sophia Pompeo had a long rush broken up.
With just over a minute left, Cheverus earned a corner and the ball came to Sophia Pompeo, whose shot forced Wildes to dive to make the save. Lucia Pompeo got the rebound, but Wildes denied her as well.
“Our goalie saved us,’ Albert said. “She’s another senior captain. I have a soft spot for my seniors.”
Biddeford then ran out the clock and celebrated its hard fought 2-1 victory.
“We got pushed and I’m pleased with how we answered,” Albert said. “It was nerve-wracking. It’s hard to have three dominant games, then be tested the whole time. (Cheverus) fought for 60 minutes. Props to them. They’re a very talented team.”
The Tigers had a 12-5 shots advantage, a 9-3 edge in corners and got four clutch saves from Wildes.
The Stags got 10 saves from Woodford, but fell just short.
“They didn’t dominate us,” Cloutier said. “They had pressure on us, but we stayed in it. I never thought we were out of it. We had some impressive moments and they did too. We’re right there with them. It was a fun game.”
Biddeford is back in action Thursday at home against Kennebunk. After traveling to Massabesic Saturday, the Tigers welcome South Portland Wednesday of next week.
“Expectations are heavy on our shoulders, but I think we’re living up to it so far,” Laverriere said. “I think we have what it takes. We’re hungry.”
“I feel like we’re handling the pressure well,” Albert said. “We try to take it game-by-game and know every team will want to beat us. We try not to focus on other teams, but on ourselves and on getting better every game.”
Cheverus hopes to bounce back Thursday at South Portland. After welcoming Gorham Saturday, the Stags travel to Falmouth Monday.
“We’ll only go up from here,” Cloutier said. “We have to go back to work tomorrow.”
Cheverus sophomore Paige DeGeorge and Biddeford senior Paige Laverriere battle for the ball.
Cheverus sophomore Lucia Pompeo, standing, and sophomore Madisyn Durgin celebrate Pompeo’s first half goal.
Biddeford senior goalie Taylor Wildes robs Cheverus sophomore Lucia Pompeo on a late penalty corner to preserve the lead.
Biddeford celebrates its victory.