STANDISH – Cat Biegel hashed four goals and led the Scots to a 10-8 victory over visiting South Portland on Monday afternoon, April 24. Bonny Eagle jumped on top in a big way early, but the Riots gave them a game in due course, Paige Fleming and Kaya Backman both logging hat tricks before the final buzzer.
“Excellent,” Scots head coach Judy Martin, asked how she felt about the outcome. “Our offense kind of clicked today.”
Biegel scored her first two goals of the game in the first five minutes of play – and in fact, Bonny Eagle piled on a 5-0 advantage in the first 10 minutes. Jenna Litif followed Biegel’s second notch with one for 3-0, and Kaylee Rumrey followed Litif with not one, but two.
South Portland head coach Leslie Dyer expected, coming into the bout, that her girls might struggle initially. Graduation last year claimed her three standout players, and she recently cut two of this year’s starters from the team for disciplinary reasons.
“With it being a brand new defense, brand new offense, and [Coach Martin’s] got some phenomenal players, a lot of kids with a lot of skill – when you look at some of her players, and their height, when you throw a brand-new, 5-foot-2 player against that–” Dyer said, trailing off with a chuckle.
So the Riots were playing with a fieldful of green athletes trying to learn new systems on the fly. To their credit, however, they seemed to catch on fast: After Backman finally put them on the board, more than 10 minutes in, they began to methodically claw back.
“Experience, senior vs. freshman, hit us hard in the beginning,” Dyer said, “but then we started to find our groove. That was exciting to see…They figured it out, which is what was needed. They got more confident, and it definitely showed.”
South Portland controlled the attack for much of the remainder of the first half, ably working the offensive perimeter and striking when possible. Fleming, Kayla Brown and Mackenzie Farnham all added goals for the Riots before the break, when the score stood 7-4. Bonny Eagle’s two further goals belonged to Litif and Polly Rae.
“We got a big lead, and our intensity kind of shut down a little bit,” Martin said. “Our passes were not as sharp, and we weren’t on, and we just kind of let down. Defense broke down a little bit.”
Dyer praised a number of her young players for eagerly and skillfully taking to their new roles. “I had some freshmen come up big,” she said. “Lauren DiBiase, Mackenzie Farnham – they came up big for us. They had a couple turnovers when they were running the stall, which was awesome.”
Both teams stood stalwart through the start of the downhill half. The Riots’ defense had clearly settled into something of a groove, which helped their offense to eventually score the first point of the stretch, Fleming’s second.
“We were running a zone for the first time,” Dyer said of her girls’ defense. “And we know that to hang out with the big teams this year – Marshwood, Massabesic – we have to change things up, and that’s what we’re playing around with. Our goal right now, at the beginning of the season, is just to get into playoffs, and to perfect some things, so that when we see those teams, we have some curveballs to throw at them.”
Martin and Co. noted, naturally, that South Portland’s defense looked stronger as the game went on. “Most definitely,” Martin said. “In the beginning, we took advantage of them being out of position. They didn’t follow our cutters, and we hung out in the middle and got some good shots off. But they got that back together. They made some key changes, and put a person down there to take charge of the defense. It came back together for them.”
The teams proceeded to trade points for the next several minutes. First, Biegel answered Fleming, winding up the middle and pushing a right-side shot past South Portland keeper Zoe Brown; next, Fleming capped her hat trick on a free position. Scot Keelin Sweeney added one, then Backman, then Biegel again (her fourth) and Backman again (her third).
In the end, the Scots emerged the victors. Martin lauded a handful of her girls –namely, Biegel, Bushey and Litif: “Cat is real strong; she’s got such good stick control in the offensive end,” Martin said. “Midfield, Natalie is a force to be reckoned with; she goes after every ball. Jenna had some really good on-offense moves. Being in position at the right time.”
Also critical to the quality of the back-and-forth action were both squads’ keepers, Brown on South Portland’s end of the field and Sam Morash on Bonny Eagle’s. The two girls turned several key stops apiece, and in a tight game, that makes all the difference.
“Sam did a nice job,” Martin said happily. “I think the biggest thing we need her to do is be softer with her stick. She batted some down, they got the ball. That’s a key thing – she batted some balls down, they come up with it and put a second shot on goal. It’s tough to beat them if they put that second shot in.”
The contest was both teams’ season-opener; Bonny Eagle thus starts the spring at 1-0, while South Portland begins it 0-1. The Scots faced off at Sanford on Thursday the 27th; they host Cheverus on May 2. The Riots traveled to Gorham on the 27th and host Brunswick on the 29th.
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
South Portlander Kaya Backman helped spearhead a near-comeback at Bonny Eagle on Monday.
Soutbh Portland keeper Zoe Brown turned several key saves in her team’s narrow loss to Bonny Eagle.
Mady Cyr pushes forward on the attack for South Portland.