GORHAM—The Rams walked away mostly satisfied when Scarborough came to town on Friday night – but then, so did the Storm: The teams played 90 minutes (that’s 80 regulation and 10 overtime) of well-matched soccer and came out the other side with a tie. Both back lines showed their stuff, each preventing the opposition offense from pounding home even a lone goal. 0-0 the final.
“We played as a team,” said Gorham head coach Jeanne Zarilli. “We have been playing too much individual soccer, and you see the team effort, and the team ‘What can I do to help you out?’, and the energy and the focus and the support for their teammates. We’ve been working on that all year. Whether we make a mistaking winning and airball or whatever, but that we regroup and that we stay together.”
“Gorham’s always good; I don’t really care what their record is, they’re always going to be a tough matchup,” said Scarborough coach Mike Farley. “This matchup, even in years past, when one team’s technically, on paper, better than the other one, it’s always going to be a battle. I don’t think anyone had any illusions of coming here and having it be easy.”
The first half was tense, but not exactly thrilling: The teams played sharp soccer, they just tied each other in knots doing so. The Storm held a bit of attacking edge at first, but before long the Rams pushed them back and play lodged at midfield. Minutes dropped off the clock as neither squad managed to generate many scoring opportunities – and certainly no quality ones.
“The whole game was like that,” Farley said. “Even the chances that we got, they came in transition, so they were really quick, and then the game died back down again. It’s when we won the ball in the midfield and actually got free to play a ball forward, that’s when could actually put them under a little bit of pressure.”
“They did the same to us,” Farley went on. “By playing a ball forward, and us not being able to clear it, so it would go out of bounds and now they’ve got throw-ins to really get deep on us. For most of the game, I felt like it was right in front of me…it was from the 30 to the 30 on both sides of the field. When you have good players at the midfield, that’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to get under pressure so quick that you don’t have time to do anything with the ball.”
“They’re a phenomenal soccer team,” Zarilli said of the Storm. “I have the utmost respect for them; I do think they’ve proven they have the best team in the League right now. They’ve got fast forwards, so we obviously didn’t want them to get in, so we worked on our defensive strategy. We worked on our pressure strategy, because they‘re a high-pressure team. And just, sort of, that soccer-smart game that they play. They’ve had a phenomenal season, so we just wanted to try to match them where they were.”
Both sides made some minor adjustments during the break, allowing them to wring a few more fireworks out of the second half. Believe it or not, the bout’s first corner – a Gorham attempt – never arrived until a mere 26:20 remained. Immediately afterwards, Scarborough turned the action around, Gabby Panagakos snatching up the ball and dashing the length of the field to confront Rams keeper Michelle Rowe head-on. Rowe pounced hard to thwart the foray in spectacular fashion; Panagakos suffered a bit of an injury in the collision, but thankfully soon appeared okay soon.
“We talked about what we were doing well at the half,” Zarilli said. “You know, we’ve had a tough year, and we’ve had to be critical, and we haven’t done so well. So at halftime we talked about what we were doing well and what we needed to do more of. At the beginning of the game, we weren’t getting numbers forward on our offense. We were sitting in our defensive end. So we tried to work on getting numbers forward when we could.”
“The second half, we did a much better job and actually got some chances down in their end,” Farley said. “That was really the key. We sort of held some of the play down this way. That was good to see, because the field, for my kids, was a little tough – you know, it’s a little slick, so it was hard for them to gain their footing. Making sure we have a turf-field game for when we play them again is going to be better for us.”
“The key for us is to play quickly,” Farley said, “which we did a little bit in the second half. That’s what we’ve got to focus on when we see them again. Hit balls first time; a lot of times balls are bouncing around the midfield and we’re trying to get it under control, so we can play the next ball. But sometimes, especially when it’s a little slick out, that first ball’s just got to be played in the place you want to get it. Then you’ve got to run and join the play as that player wins the ball higher up the field. That’s what we tried to do in the second half, and that worked out better for us.”
Scarborough took a corner around 21 minutes, but it availed them naught. The teams then traded close calls one last time at 15:30 (Rams) and 14:10 (Storm), but the contest was simply fated to ultimately go nowhere – even two overtimes proved insufficient to decide a victor.
“Give kudos to my defense tonight,” Zarilli said. “I don’t think either team got a quality, really good shot off. I would give both those defensive teams huge credit. They’ve got a lot of speed…So we had to mark those really fast forwards, but we also had to recover if they beat us… We allowed Gabby one shot. Gabby’s their offensive threat, and for us to allow her that one shot – we’re lucky it went wide – was amazing.”
“I’m going to give it to my team,” Zarilli said, asked if she wanted to pat anyone in particular on the back. “I really am. I don’t think any one person stood out. Everyone played at the top of their game.”
No. 4 Gorham, now 9-2-2, closes their regular season at home on Tuesday the 17th, vs. 11th-ranked Sanford (7-6). No.1 Scarborough, now 12-0-1, travels to eighth-place Windham (7-4-2) that same evening.
Adam Birt can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
The Rams’ Hallie Shiers and the Storm’s Sierra Duggan clash.
Scarborough’s Jess Rinaldi and Gorham’s Emma Forgues go shoulder-to-shoulder.
Gorham’s Brittany Desjardin races away from Scarborough’s Haley Koukos.
Scarborough standout Gabby Panagakos jukes, trying to get around Gorham deefnder Maddie Hincher.