Scarborough girls edge Brunswick, repeat as Class A champs
PORTLAND—A year ago, the Scarborough girls' lacrosse team was perfect.
This spring, the Red Storm wasn't supposed to be championship-caliber, but Saturday afternoon at Fitzpatrick Stadium, they suggested that they might be in the midst of a long title run.
A young team culminated its season of coming of age in dazzling fashion with a 13-11 victory over Brunswick in the Class A Final, holding on for dear life at the end.
Scarborough erased an early 3-1 deficit, led by as many as four goals, 12-8, but the Dragons roared back behind three late goals from sophomore Dakota Foster to make things very interesting. Then, finally, the Red Storm iced it on an empty net goal with 2 seconds left and won its second title in succession and third overall.
Scarborough finished 14-1 and ended Brunswick's run at 11-4.
"Yay! We did it!" said Red Storm coach Marcia Wood. "I didn't think it would be like this. I thought we'd be competitive, but a one-loss season is unbelievable. These girls are incredible. Never gave up. It's an entire team effort. It feels good that everyone had a part in it."
Two No. 1s
Scarborough wasn't a favorite to be back in game. After losing several key contributors from last year's state champion, the ostensibly vulnerable Red Storm projected third in its region behind Gorham and Kennebunk, but it opened with easy wins over Sanford (15-4) and Portland (11-4). A 16-11 home loss to Eastern B champion Yarmouth brought Scarborough back to earth, but it wouldn't lose again. The Red Storm rolled at Deering (17-5) and Massabesic (10-5), pulled away from visiting Cheverus (15-7), beat host Mt. Ararat in a state final rematch (12-5), then, when the schedule got tougher, rose the occasion, defeating Thornton Academy (7-2), Gorham (13-9), Marshwood (7-5) and Kennebunk (12-11) to lock up homefield advantage. A 15-8 win at Westbrook in the finale gave the Red Storm an 11-1 mark and the top seed in the region for the second year in a row.
Getting to states wouldn't be easy, but Scarborough held on late to down No. 5 Thornton Academy (9-7) in the semifinals and proved too tough for third-ranked Kennebunk in the regional final, 9-6.
Brunswick almost had a crack at the Red Storm in last year's state game, but dropped a close decision to Mt. Ararat in the regional final. This year, the Dragons started slow, but by June, were back in their familiar perch. Brunswick edged visiting Cony, 9-8, in its first game, then lost at Messalonskee, 7-6. After a 13-6 victory at Mt. Ararat, the Dragons lost decisively at home to defending Class B champion North Yarmouth Academy, 13-6. A six-game win streak followed as Brunswick took care of Lewiston (18-7), Morse (13-8), Edward Little (20-4), Falmouth (10-4), Cony (11-6) and Oxford Hills (16-4). After being upset at home by Messalonskee, 10-9, Brunswick closed with a 10-9 home win over Mt. Ararat to wind up 9-3, good for first in Eastern A.
The Dragons held off a late charge from No. 4 Mt. Ararat in the semifinals, 13-12, then ended the Cinderella run of No. 6 Cheverus in the regional final, 14-3.
Each team entered with two state titles to its credit and Saturday wasn't the first meeting in the ultimate game.
Back in 2006, the first year the sport went to two classes, Scarborough, coming off a 6-6 regular season, capped a storybook playoff run with a 13-12 triple overtime victory over favored Brunswick on Brittany White's game winner.
After three straight seasons punctuated by agonizing playoff defeats, the Red Storm returned to the final in 2010 and defeated Mt. Ararat (11-7).
After losing to Scarborough in 2006, the Dragons also fell in the 2007 state final (9-7 to Massabesic). Brunswick got over the hump in 2008 (beating Kennebunk, 15-11), then downed the Rams again in 2009 (13-9).
Saturday's showdown, as expected, was close throughout, but the Red Storm had just enough athleticism, scoring punch and clutch goaltending to prevail.
Scarborough scored first, taking a 1-0 lead on a free position goal from senior Meghan Quirk. The Dragons then scored three straight to take a brief lead.
With 19:19 to play in the 25-minute first half, junior Annie Kelly took a pass from junior Corrinne O'Connor and beat Red Storm sophomore goalie Meg Kirsch to tie the score.
At the 14:12 mark, after Kirsch had denied bids by junior Suzannah Smith and O'Connor, sophomore Lydia Caputi put Brunswick on top with a free position shot. O'Connor scored unassisted 56 seconds later and Wood called timeout.
Then, Scarborough responded.
Junior Kelsey Howard, an All-American, scored unassisted after a nice spin move at 11:11. Fifty seconds later, junior Maggie Smith, another member of this team's unrivaled junior class and an honorable mention All-American, blew past a defender and tied the score with an unassisted tally. At the 8:10 mark, Quirk scored again on a free position and the Red Storm was up, 4-3.
After Foster hit the post, the Dragons evened the game at 6:41 when junior Caroline Wild scored unassisted, but with 5:42 showing, junior Mary Scott set up (you guessed it, junior) Laura Przybylowicz, who shot past Brunswick's fine junior goalie Molly Herman for a 5-4 lead.
Just 26 seconds later, Scott took a pass from Howard and scored for a 6-4 lead. Brunswick almost drew closer right before halftime, but Kelly's shot with 16.6 seconds to go hit the crossbar.
The Dragons had dominated in the draw circle (8-3), which usually translates to a lead, but Brunswick had eight turnovers and Kirsch made three saves to help Scarborough stay on top.
In the second half, the Red Storm on a couple occasions appeared home free, but the Dragons fought to the bitter end.
Just 67 seconds into the second half, Foster took a pass from Smith and scored to make it 6-5. After Herman denied Scarborough senior Erica Meader on a free position and Howard in close, Foster set up Wild for the tying goal.
The Red Storm went back on top, 7-6, when Smith (from Howard) scored at 18:45, but just over a minute later, O'Connor had an initial shot saved by Kirsch, but she got the rebound and buried it to again deadlock the contest.
Brunswick almost went on top with 16:37 to play, but Kelly, on the doorstep, was denied by Kirsch. Herman then took over, robbing Smith and Przybylowicz.
With 13:40 to go in regulation, Smith put Scarborough on top for good. Taking a pass from yet another junior, Kat Gadbois, Smith beat Herman and it was 8-7.
With 12:11 showing, Przybylowicz scored on a rebound for a little breathing room.
"I knew their goalie was really good and that she bobbles it a lot," said Przybylowicz. "I concentrated on the ball and put it in the net."
Przybylowicz scored unassisted again with 10:46 to go and the Red Storm had a 10-7 advantage.
Smith scored unassisted with 6:57 to play, but a free position goal from Howard at 5:59 and an unassisted tally by Scott (with Herman out of the cage) at 1:35 made it 12-8 and appeared to ice it.
Enter Dakota Foster.
Foster single-handedly ended the Red Storm's hopes of an easy stretch run, scoring unassisted off a draw win with 1:24 remaining, doing it again 12 seconds later and after a Scarborough timeout and turnover, scoring once more unassisted with 24.7 seconds to go, suddenly making things very interesting, 12-11.
"I was a little nervous trying to stall and they got pressure," Wood said. "I knew it would be back and forth. Calling a timeout with a minute left, I told them they couldn't take it for granted. (Brunswick) could tie the game and overtime's a whole new game."
The ensuing draw would be crucial as a Dragons' win could easily lead to a tying goal.
It wasn't to be as Howard won the draw after Smith was called for a foul.
"I was a little nervous, but I trust my team and I knew wherever I put it, somebody would be there to get it," Howard said. "(Smith) came from behind and checked me in the head."
With Herman out of the cage, Quirk set up senior Dani Foster, who delivered the coup de grace, an empty net goal with 2 seconds remaining and at 2:06 p.m., the Red Storm were champions again, by virtue of a 13-11 triumph.
"It was a little nervewracking," Howard said. "They definitely gave us a run for our money. I give them so much credit. We have a great team. We work together and trust in each other. It's incredible. I think our first loss to Yarmouth definitely took the pressure off, but it really fueled us. We wanted to prove we could come back. Our team just goes so deep. Offense, defense, midfield."
“It was a very tough season," said Przybylowicz. "We had to come out and beat good teams and got here. This game was really tight and tough. We knew we had to go into the game with a lot of intensity since we hadn't seen them and we had to play our game from the start. It was a really tight game. When they came back at the end, we had to play our game, get it off the draw and get it in our attacking end. We placed our players well, got it and went in there with determination.”
“We did it again," Smith added. "We lost of ton of key seniors, but what made us stronger this year was that we filled spots. We came back stronger than ever. We worked harder in practice. We worked harder in games. We got the goals we needed to get. We were scared at the end. You know it's never over until the buzzer sounds. They woke us up and we had to play our game all over again. It's the same feeling as last year. We wanted it again.”
Ten of Scarborough's 13 goals came from juniors. Przybylowicz and Smith had three apiece, Howard and Scott, along with Quirk, scored twice. Foster also scored. Howard had two assists, Gadbois, Quirk and Scott one each. Gadbois led the team with five ground balls. Martens and junior Shauni Cowan, who helped anchor the defense, grabbed four. Kirsch made seven big saves.
"She made the saves she needed to make," Wood said, of Kirsch.
“It's amazing," said Kirsch. "Last year, Marina (Sterrer) was in goal. It was still awesome, but to actually be in goal, I feel it more. I wouldn't say it was one of my best games, but I made some saves. It was our whole team. We just stepped up. We're the Red Storm rising. We took care of business.”
For Brunswick, Foster had four goals, O'Connor and Wild two apiece and Caputi, Kelly and Smith one each. Foster, O'Connor and Smith all had assists. Foster led all players with eight ground balls. Caputi finished with five. Herman stopped nine shots.
"We never quit," said Brunswick coach Beth Caputi. "We took a little risk with Molly coming out. It was two steps forward, one step back. I think our girls worked so hard considering (the Red Storm) probably has a little more speed. Honestly, 13-11, against a defending state champion with a couple All-Americans. I'm very, very proud of my girls. Heartbroken because we couldn't win, but I think the kids had fun playing in it. The officials don't call quite as much, which can be fun. All in all, I thought it was a great contest. I'm pleased we didn't disappoint the crowd. The first 15 minutes we were outshooting them, but we hit the pipe three times. We had opportunities that we didn't convert. Their defense did a great job on us. We couldn't break it open. They did a good job on Dakota, but you saw at the end why she is who she is."
The Dragons won 13 of 25 draws as Foster went 10 of 18 and Smith 3 of 7. Howard won 12 of 22 opportunities for the Red Storm, including the biggest of all at the end.
"I was just moving around and trying different draws and finally found where we could get it to go," Howard said.
Przybylowicz went 0 for 2, Foster 0 for 1.
Scarborough had a slight edge in ground balls, 30-28, forced 17 turnovers, while only committing 11 (a staggeringly low number for a state final) and outshot Brunswick, 26-21 (including 22-18 on cage).
“It was our defense that was new this year," Wood said. "But it didn't take long for them step it into their roles. We had composure. It's exciting. I'm proud of these girls. It's a great team. Great girls. For them to experience this again is great. Everyone stepped up and knew their role and did what they had to do.”
Same time next year?
Considering neither team was necessarily supposed to be in Saturday's game and that each boasts a lot of underclassmen, it's not a stretch to think we'll see a rematch next spring.
The Dragons had a solid season and as always, project to be the Eastern A favorite in 2012.
“I don't think we expected to get quite here," said coach Caputi. "I'm excited. It's so hard because every team is different and you want to do it for them. The juniors really pulled it together. I have to believe (Scarborough) will be right back here. We lose two low defenders, but we'll see how we do.”
The Red Storm will certainly miss Foster, Quirk, Meader and defensive standout Jill Deering, but everyone else is back and more standouts are on their way.
"I'm so pumped for next year," said Kirsch. "We're only losing four. We'll get some more and it will be a strong year again, hopefully."
"Hopefully we'll get it next year too," Smith said. "We're not really losing anyone, so we'll see."
"I think we'll have a little bit of a target on our back next year," added Wood. "But we love the challenge."