Cheverus' rally falls short against Massabesic in early season thriller

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Cheverus junior Bella Booth jumps for joy after scoring the Stags’ first goal in Monday’s 3-2 home loss to defending Class A South champion Massabesic.

Joe Carpine / 365digitalphotography.com photos.

More photos below.

PORTLAND—It was a taste of late-October in mid-September and if 60 minutes was any indication, field hockey fans can only hope that the Cheverus Stags and defending Class A South champion Massabesic Mustangs do battle again in the postseason.

Monday afternoon at Shea Field, in a battle of unbeatens in the early going this fall, Cheverus came at Massabesic in waves, but the Mustangs turned to their big-game experience to leave the Stags frustrated.

After Stags junior speedster Sophia Pompeo was stopped on a couple early rushes, Massabesic took a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute, as senior captain Emma Rutledge scored on a rebound.

When Mustangs freshman Anna Snyder scored out of a scrum off a penalty corner with 4:38 left in the first half, Massabesic appeared in good shape, but Cheverus gained some life with 1:06 remaining, as junior Bella Booth rattled the cage, cutting the deficit to 2-1 at the break.

The Mustangs regained momentum 2 minutes, 21 seconds into the second half, as off another penalty corner, freshman Camryn Champlin scored.

Again, the Stags got the goal back, as Pompeo scored with 13:47 on the clock, but despite some good chances down the stretch, Cheverus couldn’t produce the equalizer and Massabesic got out of town with a 3-2 victory.

The Mustangs improved to 4-0 on the young season, earned their first win on the Stags’ field since 2005 and handed Cheverus its first loss in three games in the process.

“It’s a tough loss every time, but you can’t win them all,” said Stags coach Sally Cloutier. “They give us a great match every time. It was fun to watch the girls compete.”

“It was a playoff atmosphere,” said Massabesic coach Michele Martin-Moore. “I expected this kind of game. I’m proud of us for holding on.”

Early test

Massabesic enjoyed a charmed life a year ago, making a stirring run to the Class A state final. While the Mustangs lost, 2-1, to perennial champion Skowhegan to finish 14-4-1, they return plenty of talent and boast some promising young players as well, and began 2017 with wins over host Noble (8-0), visiting Windham (5-1) and host Kennebunk (3-1).

Cheverus had a strong 2016 campaign as well, finishing 11-5 after a 4-1 loss to Marshwood in the quarterfinals. The Stags entered this season viewed as one of the teams to beat and passed their first two tests: 1-0 at Kennebunk and 2-0 at Biddeford.

Last year, Cheverus edged visiting Massabesic, 2-1, in a double-overtime classic (conversely, the host Mustangs beat the Stags in double OT in 2015). 

Monday, on a beautiful late-summer afternoon (79 degrees with a steady breeze), Massabesic earned its first victory at Cheverus since Oct. 12, 2005 (2-1), but it didn’t come easily.

Just two minutes in, Pompeo, whose speed and stick skills make her an impossible mark, raced through the defense and bore down on Mustangs junior Maddy Pomerleau, but at the last second, Pomerleau came out to break up the rush.

After Stags senior goalie Kat Kane stopped Rutledge’s shot and a follow-up bid from senior captain Kaylee St. Laurent was blocked, Pompeo took off again and this time got past Pomerleau as well, but her goal-bound shot was swept away at the last instant by senior captain Lydia Wasina.

The next scoring chance resulted in the game’s first score.

Massabesic freshman Emma Snyder got a great look in front, but Kane made a highlight reel save. Unfortunately for the hosts, the rebound came right to Rutledge, who fired past a prone Kane for a 1-0 lead.

Cheverus nearly answered seconds later, racing down and seeing senior Caroline Ford send a rebound into the cage, but a penalty corner had been called just before the shot and the goal was waved off.

After the Stags killed three straight Mustangs’ corners, with senior Hannah Abbott blocking senior Morgan Pike’s shot on the last one, a rush by Booth gave Cheverus a corner, but the hosts couldn’t generate a shot.

With 8:55 on the clock, a rush by Ford was broken up by Anna Snyder. A minute later, Booth fired the ball in front where Ford redirected it, but the ball went just wide.

With 4:55 remaining before halftime, Massabesic earned a corner and after ball wasn’t cleared, Anna Snyder somehow got to it in traffic and fired it past Kane for a 2-0 lead.

Cheverus needed a spark before the break and got it with 1:06 left, as Ford set up Booth for a goal which cut the deficit in half.

In the first half, shots were even (5-5), the Mustangs had a 5-4 edge in penalty corners and Pomerleau made four saves to Kane’s three.

Things would remain taut in the second half, but Massabesic never let the Stags catch up.

Any momentum the Stags might have earned quickly dissipated to start the second half, as Rutledge got a great look which Kane saved and Kane denied three successive rebounds.

Then, with 27:39 remaining in regulation, off another penalty corner, the Mustangs made it 3-1 as senior captain Logan Champlin set up Camryn Champlin.

“We’ve worked on our corners both offensively and defensively,” said Martin-Moore. “It was nice to see that reflected in the game today. The girls on their own talked about what to do.”

Massabesic then looked to deliver the coup de grace, but couldn’t score on a pair of corners.

With 24:13 remaining, Pompeo took a pass in transition from her freshman sister, Lucia Pompeo, and had a good look, but the shot was blocked, setting up a penalty corner which didn’t result in a shot.

After the visitors failed twice more to put the game away on penalty corners, Sophia Pompeo was denied on a rush, then was robbed on a shot off a corner.

Pompeo and Cheverus’ frustrations continued with 17:39 left on the clock, as she was stymied by Pomerleau once again on a rush.

After Abbott had a shot saved, the Stags finally drew closer and made things very interesting with 13:47 on the clock.

Booth set things up with a nice run up the right sideline before passing to Lucia Pompeo, who raced in and shot. Pomerleau made the save, but the rebound came to Sophia Pompeo and her follow-up bid deflected off a defender and into the cage, making the score, 3-2.

Massabesic called timeout to settle down and out of the break, nearly got another goal, but Rutledge had a shot saved by Kane and a rebound was also turned aside.

The Stags then looked to draw even, but with just over 10 minutes left, a scrum resulted in a shot that Pomerleau saved, then a rebound went wide.

Cloutier called timeout with 5:52 on the clock, hoping to inspire the equalizer, but after Lucia Pompeo was robbed on a rush and Abbott had a hot blocked right to Booth, who had a great look to tie, only to see Pomerleau knock the ball away.

Cheverus got one final penalty corner with 4:35 remaining, but couldn’t produce a shot.

Then, as time wound down, the Stags worked the ball near the circle, but before they could produce a shot, or earn a penalty corner, which would have been played out even if time expired, a violation was called and the Mustangs got the ball back and were able to run out the clock on an entertaining 3-2 victory.

“I saw Cheverus play Kennebunk and I knew we had to up our game,” Martin-Moore said. “They threw a few things at us they didn’t use when I scouted them. What I love about my five captains is that they’re so poised and confident. They trust each other so much and they don’t get rattled.”

Massabesic had an 11-9 edge in penalty corners and got 13 clutch saves from Pomerleau, as well as three defensive saves from Wasina.

Cheverus finished with a 15-11 edge in shots and got eight saves from Kane, but still wound up on the short end of the score.

“We had some great rushes and they made some big saves,” Cloutier lamented. “They’re good and they really got on some of our players in the middle. We were coming off a big win Saturday and we were feeling good. We made some significant changes at the end. We added a player up front to make a push. It just wasn’t enough, but everyone played hard.”

Another key test

The road gets no easier for either team.

Massabesic is back in action Friday at Biddeford.

“This can’t do anything but help our confidence,” said Martin-Moore. “We learned from our mistakes and learned what we need to work on. This isn’t the be-all, end-all. We want to keep it up. There are a lot of good, legitimate teams.”

Cheverus welcomes resurgent South Portland Wednesday, then plays at Gorham Friday.

“We’ll regroup and get there,” said Cloutier. “I have a great group of girls who want it badly. We have the ingredients to make it happen. We’ll get ready for South Portland. They’ll give us a run for our money. They’re a strong team and they’re playing well.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Cheverus freshman Lucia Pompeo, flanked by her junior sister, Sophia Pompeo (3), and junior Anna Sawicki, races up the field.

Cheverus junior Bella Booth balances the ball on her stick as she runs up the field.

Cheverus junior Sophia Pompeo works between Massabesic senior captain Morgan Pike, left, and senior Libby Beals.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.