Scarborough field hockey top seed for playoffs; Cape Elizabeth, SP fall short
Ever since its agonizing overtime loss to Skowhegan in last year's Class A state final, the Scarborough field hockey team has been of one mind and one goal: getting back to the state game and winning it.
The Red Storm were superb this regular season, going 14-0 and capping the year with a 3-1 victory at previously unbeaten Cheverus and a hard-fought 2-0 home win over top contender Gorham.
Scarborough earned the top seed for the Western Class A playoffs and will host No. 8 Thornton Academy (8-5-1) in the quarterfinal round Saturday at 2 p.m.
South Portland, despite winning its first games since 2006, fell short of the playoffs with a 4-9-1 mark.
Cape Elizabeth finished 4-9-1 as well and failed to qualify for the Western B postseason.
Scarborough opened the 2009 campaign with a 12-0 romp at Portland and never let up, outscoring the opposition by a mindboggling 80-9 margin in 14 contests.
The Red Storm benefited from getting their toughest tests at the end of the year. Last Thursday, Scarborough went to undefeated Cheverus (please see Web site for full game story) and fell behind early 1-0 before getting used to playing on grass and turning it on. A rocket on a penalty corner from Heather Carrier found the cage and tied the score at the half. Senior Ellie Morin then deflected home senior Brittany Ross' shot to put the Red Storm ahead to stay and with 3 seconds to go, Ross scored one of her own to give Scarborough a 3-1 victory.
"Cheverus is such a good team," Ross said. "We love games like this. They're a lot more fun. When we got behind, we stepped up a lot. It really helped us. We stepped up and they didn't score again. We're definitely a turf team. It was a little hard to adjust to the grass at first. We're definitely a second half team. We knew we had it in us. It felt good to score at the end."
"We had to push through," added Scarborough coach Kerry Mariello. "We held strong. Our defense was phenomenal. It was an opportunity for them to finally shine and show their stuff."
Saturday, the Red Storm hosted Gorham and won 2-0 behind a a pair of tallies from senior Ashley Anastasoff. Senior goalie Jordi Saunders stepped up big when needed and Scarborough finished 14-0.
"It's been an excellent season," said Mariello. "It's tough to go 14-0. Not a lot of teams can maintain and continue to push through. Today was outstanding. This was by far our best team game of the season. It's great to end with that. Gorham's a great group, but I think we have the 11. We balance ourselves so well. We know where each other are, we know when to pass, when to get rid of the ball. Jordi did an excellent job in goal. This was an ideal situation for us. We have homefield advantage throughout. Bring it on. That's all I can say."
Scarborough beat visiting Thornton Academy 4-1 back on Sept. 10. The Red Storm have never faced the Golden Trojans in the playoffs.
"There's definitely pressure, but we're going to have fun in the playoffs," Mariello said. "We know it's one and done. We want to continue our momentum. Teams always look to knock off the unbeaten team. We've held strong and been consistent."
"It's been a fun season," added Ross. "It's not all about one person. That's why we're such a good team. We think about last year and losing the state game in overtime. A championship is on our minds this year."
Looking ahead, the semifinals are Wednesday of next week, on the field of the highest remaining seeds. The regional finals are at Scarborough on Saturday, Oct. 24. The state championship games will be contested in Yarmouth this year on Saturday, Oct. 31.
Wait til' next year
South Portland beat visiting Noble 1-0 Sept. 4 to snap a losing skid that dated back to 2006. The Red Riots also enjoyed victories over Biddeford, McAuley and Portland and wound up 4-9-1 (good for 13th in the final Western Class A Heal Points, the top nine teams qualified for postseason). Ultimately, three defeats by one goal (two of which came in overtime) kept South Portland from returning to the playoffs, but there's little question that the program's future is once again bright. Several underclassmen saw key playing time this fall and should return even stronger in 2010.
"I think that the team made great strides this year," said Red Riots coach Heather Seavey. "We went from not winning a game in two seasons to being competitive and having more confidence as the season went on. We had five different girls score when we only had about five goals total last year.
"We're graduating four seniors, three starters. I have eight juniors coming back next year with some younger talent as well. I'm very happy with this year's progress. After the tie at Deering, we got on the bus and you would have thought we won a state championship. I haven't seen that much excitment in a long time. I do expect to get over the hump next year and make it to the postseason. We need to be mentally prepared and have the girls make field hockey a priority in the offseason and the summer."
Cape Elizabeth fell short of the postseason for the first time since 1993, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. The Capers dropped five games by one goal and three others by two, including Saturday's season finale, 2-0 at home to Falmouth, to finish 4-9-1. Cape Elizabeth was 11th in the final Western B Heals, but only the top eight teams qualified.
"We played well (against Falmouth), we just had two breakdowns late in the game that allowed them to score," lamented Capers coach Darci Holland. "Overall, I think the girls learned a lot this season. They're a young but talented group. Julianne Ayers, our goalie, was only a freshmen and never having played that position before, she did a great job. With a strong defense in front of her, all but four games were one-goal games which shows one of our weaknesses this year, scoring. We could get the ball in our offensive circle, we just couldn't finish it and see the ball into the cage. As I've told the girls, I always wish we could have just a little more time at the end of the season, that is when our game as a team peaks."
The Capers also have several key players returning and should be back in the playoff mix in 2010.
"Although we will have to fill the spots of four key players due to graduation, I have high hopes for next year," Holland said. "We will need to be much more aggressive offensively while still maintaining a strong defense."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com