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Scarborough rallies past Cheverus, 3-2, in thrilling Western A Final

Sports

Scarborough rallies past Cheverus, 3-2, in thrilling Western A Final

SCARBOROUGH—It isn't often the biggest goal of a team's season comes
before halftime and only forges a tie, but there's little disputing the
importance of what happened late in the first half of Monday evening's
Western Class A Final at Scarborough High School.

The upstart second-ranked Cheverus Stags had taken a stunning 2-1
lead behind two penalty corner goals from junior Emily Sawchuck and had
the top-ranked, undefeated and defending regional champion Scarborough
Red Storm on the ropes, but after Cheverus just missed extending its
advantage at one end, the Red Storm got a clutch goal from senior
Ashley Anastasoff with just 8.2 seconds left in the half to turn
momentum for good. Then, with 18:32 remaining in regulation, sophomore
first-time starter Kelsey Howard scored her second goal of the game to
give Scarborough a 3-2 victory and a rematch with eight-time defending
state champion Skowhegan in the Class A Final Saturday.

"It was definitely tougher than I thought," said Red Storm coach Kerry Mariello. "You have to expect those
kinds of games in the Western Maine Final. I was glad we didn't have to
go to overtime. (Cheverus) came to play."

Familiar foes

Monday night's game was the teams' third meeting since Oct. 8.
Scarborough handed the Stags their first loss that day, 3-1 at
Cheverus, in a contest that wasn't locked up until the final seconds.
Five days later, the Red Storm rolled to a 4-1 victory in the
inaugural, non-countable Southern Maine Activities Association
championship game.

Scarborough's 14-0 regular season was one of the most dominant in
recent memory. The Red Storm outscored the opposition 80-9 and hit
double figures on three occasions. Scarborough dispatched No. 8
Thornton Academy 2-0 and No. 4 Bonny Eagle 6-0 to advance.

Cheverus, meanwhile, went from zero wins its first varsity season of
2004 to two in
2005, five (and a playoff berth) in 2006 and 10 (including a first-ever
postseason victory in 2007). Last year, Amy McMullin's first as coach,
the Stags
went 10-5-1 and reached the semifinals before falling in overtime at
Westbrook. Cheverus won its first 13 games this fall, then lost to
Scarborough. After ousting No. 7 Sanford 3-0 in the quarterfinals, the
Stags held off No. 3 Gorham 1-0 in the semifinals to set up a
first-ever postseason meeting with the Red Storm.

After Scarborough took a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute when Howard
rebounded senior Heather Carrier's shot past Cheverus senior goalie
Audrey Grinnell, Sawchuck tied the score with 16:07
to go in the first half, taking a pass from senior Alyssa Audet and
firing a rocket into the cage. Moments after the Red Storm had a goal
waved off for a high shot, Audet and Sawchuck hooked up again with 7:22
left in the half on an identical goal to give the Stags a stunning 2-1
lead.

"For only being in her second year of field hockey, I'd say Sawchuck's pretty good," McMullin said.

Mariello had to take a timeout, but the Stags kept the pressure on.

Cheverus had an opportunity to seize control of the game with 1:11
left in the first half, but sophomore Sarah LaQuerre's shot in close was deflected over
the cage. Then, at the other end, with time winding down,
Anastasoff scored on a rebound of senior Brittany Ross' shot to tie the
game and give the Red Storm all the momentum.

"(The officials) called a corner, (Cheverus) kind of stopped and there was a wide-open
goal," said Anastasoff. "The goalie was at the right side of the post and I just tapped it
in."

"That goal before the half was enormous," added Mariello. "I
emphasized that it was a 0-0
game and that we had 30 minutes. We're usually a second half team. I
made an adjustment at halftime. I put (senior) Ellie Morin on Sawchuck.
I feel if she got
possession, we'd be in trouble. We played a little more conservatively
on defense.
We
did well. It worked out."

"It was a huge turning point," said McMullin. "It was hard to go
into halftime having just been scored on. We missed a free hit and on a
turf field, 100 yards goes by quickly. What can you do? We've been a
second half team in playoffs. I told them at halftime to learn from
what we did well and pick it up."

Instead, Cheverus wasn't able to muster any offense in the final 30
minutes, managing just one shot and no corners. When Howard tipped home
Ross' shot with 18:32 to go, the Red Storm went ahead 3-2.

"Brittany hit it in and I stuck my stick out hoping I could get a
piece of it and tip it into the goal and I did," said Howard. "It feels
really good. I was nervous going out there, my first time
starting. The seniors showed the way. They taught me so much this year.
It was nervewracking, but if we kept playing our game, I knew we could
do it."

"Kelsey's been there all year long," added Mariello. "She's finally gotten to shine a
little bit. She does a great job at executing, hustles and is in the
right place at the right time. She helped earn this championship for us."

The Stags couldn't respond. With 5:54 left, a LaQuerre shot was saved and that
was as close as Cheverus got as Scarborough went on to the 3-2 victory and its second successive regional title.

"It was definitely closer than we thought," said Anastasoff. "We're
definitely a second half team. We were steady. This was the last home
game for the seniors. It's a big win for us."

Cheverus wound up 15-2, but did nothing but impress those on hand with its effort.

"We came ready for this game," said McMullin. "We played pretty
well. I still think we can play better. We had little possession in the
second half. We
tried to get corners. That's our strong point. We couldn't do it in the
second half. We had to play defensively the whole half. 'Chuck' came
through with those two goals. We didn't have a lot of scoring
opportunities. Getting two was pretty good. Scarborough's a strong
team. It's tough to play with them three times, but I'm proud of how we
did today.

"It's amazing to be in this game. It's tough to have all the girls
who were here when I came here four years ago graduate. We've
completely changed where Cheverus is. Hopefully we keep getting better
and better."

The Stags say farewell to 13 seniors, but some key underclassmen will be back in 2010 as Cheverus seeks to remain a top threat.

"I won't take anything away from the underclassmen," McMullin said.
"They've been great. We'll have to learn to play with new people."

The final step

Since day one of practice back in August (actually since losing 2-1
in double overtime in the state game last Nov. 1), Scarborough has had
a single focus, getting back to the state final and winning the
program's first-ever championship. Saturday at Yarmouth High School (at
a time yet to be determined), the Red Storm (now 17-0) will get that
opportunity when they do battle with a Skowhegan (17-0) team that's won
every Class A championship since 2001, including last year's on a day
when Scarborough carried play much of the way.

"I think we can do it this year," said Howard. "We're ready. We're an awesome team."

"I'm so excited," Anastasoff said. "Skowhegan's won eight years in a row. We want to be the
team to knock them out. We can do it. We're working well together.
We've gotten better all year."

"We've fought all odds," added Mariello. "We had a goal at the start of
the year and pursued it. This is a great deal for us, defending a
regional championship. We're ready for Skowhegan. We want them. We're
going to go in with a different mentality, more confidence. It's our
year. I strongly feel it."

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net