SCARBOROUGH—The stage is set.
And Scarborough’s field hockey team is more than ready to capture the state title which has eluded it the past two seasons.
Thursday evening, in the Western Class A Final on their home turf, the top-ranked Red Storm completed a dominant run through the regional tournament with their third straight 3-1 victory, this one over the squad many felt was best equipped to knock them off, third-seeded Marshwood.
Instead, with one exception, Scarborough dominated virtually throughout.
Midway through the first half, the Red Storm took the lead for good when senior Maddy Dobecki, a finalist for the Miss Maine Field Hockey award, fired a blast which senior standout Kristen Murray redirected into the cage for a 1-0 advantage.
Despite outshooting the Hawks, 5-0, Scarborough only led by that goal at halftime, but it got a little breathing room with 16:23 to play when the same dynamic tandem struck again.
On a nearly instant replay of the first goal.
This one came on a penalty corner as Dobecki fired the ball in and Murray again got her stick on it to send it into the cage for a 2-0 lead.
But just when the Red Storm appeared home free, Marshwood senior standout Lindsey Poirier weaved through the defense before burying a shot to give the Hawks life with 5:09 still to play.
Scarborough coach Kerry Mariello called timeout to settle her charges and with 2:10 remaining, sophomore Kristen Levesque got her stick on the ball in a scrum and rattled the cage to slam the door on the Red Storm’s 3-1 victory.
Scarborough extended its win streak to 17, ended the Hawks’ season at 14-3 and set up yet another date (the fifth in seven years) with the state’s gold standard, Skowhegan (15-2), in Saturday’s Class A Final at Thomas College in Waterville at a time to be announced Friday by the Maine Principals Association.
“The girls wanted this badly and they deserved it,” said Mariello. “They’re a great group. It’s almost a numbing feeling, but at the same time, it feels like it’s just a natural part of who we are. We’ve created this. We made this happen. It didn’t come to us. We’ve pushed hard, worked hard and sacrificed and that’s made a difference in the end.”
Entering play Thursday, Scarborough had won four of five previous regional finals (losing only to Sanford in 2007), including four in succession.
The Red Storm and Hawks have been on a collision course all autumn, as the preseason favorites have lived up to billing.
Scarborough handled the visiting Hawks in the season opener, 3-0, Sept. 4, but Marshwood was without Poirier in that one and both teams had changed and improved dramatically in the intervening eight weeks.
The Red Storm actually handled everyone this fall, winning their 14 regular season contests by a composite 82-2 margin. While Scarborough hadn’t pitched a shutout in the postseason, it did handle No. 8 Biddeford and fourth-ranked Thornton Academy with relative ease in 3-1 decisions.
The Hawks, meanwhile, won 12 in a row after their loss in the opener before being upset at home by Portland (2-1) in the finale to drop to the No. 3 seed. Marshwood then ousted No. 6 Sanford (4-3) and 10th-ranked Cheverus (5-1) to advance.
The teams had met just once before in the postseason, a 1-0 Red Storm victory in last year’s semifinals.
Thursday, Scarborough put on yet another display of brilliance.
It was clear from the start that the Red Storm were going to carry play, but until 14:44 remained in the first half, they couldn’t score.
After Dobecki had a blast blocked then cleared and sophomore Lily Nygren had a shot saved by Marshwood senior Cassidy Smith, Scarborough won a contested ball and it rolled to Dobecki, who wound up for a blast and Murray was in the perfect spot to send it away from Smith and into the goal for a 1-0 lead.
“Times like that, when it’s a quick drive, coming in fast, all I’m trying to do is get my stick on it,” Murray said. “Even if it doesn’t go in, there will be a rebound or it will throw the goalie off enough that one of our other players will score. I was just lucky enough to get it in.”
“It’s not a designed play,” Dobecki said. “We just work really well together. We’ve been playing together forever. (Kristen’s) always able to connect on the hits I send in. That was huge. It shifted momentum in our favor. We were pumped up.”
“When we have the opportunity to get big hits and tips that’s what we do,” Mariello added. “Throwing the goalie off with that kind of touch, Kristen’s a master at that.”
Later in the half, Scarborough had several corners with nothing to show for them and senior Abby Walker had a backhanded blast saved by Smith keeping the score 1-0 at the break.
The Red Storm started the second half pressuring to double their lead, but a Murray tip on a Dobecki blast was saved and four corners didn’t produce any goals.
Then, with 18:34 to play, Poirier was given a yellow card for a high stick and had to come off the field for five minutes, giving Scarborough a player advantage and after earning a corner, the ball came to Dobecki who fired a shot on goal which Murray tipped past Smith and the Red Storm had a 2-0 advantage.
“We could take a breath and focus on playing our game and controlling it,” Murray said, of the second goal.
“The second goal is a cushion that allows us to play our game,” Dobecki said.
With 12:45 to play, Nygren almost put it away, but shot wide.
Then, Poirier reminded everyone just how talented she is.
With 5:09 left, after a long run through and around several defenders, Poirier went one-on-one with Scarborough junior goalie Alyssa Souza and beat her with a shot just inside the far post and the Hawks had life, down just 2-1.
While the goal was highlight reel material, for the most part, Poirier was held in check.
“We didn’t change our game plan,” Murray said. “We know she’s a great player and she makes a difference, but we didn’t focus on her. We focused on playing our game, which is strong to begin with.”
Mariello immediately called timeout.
“It was a good eye-opener for the girls to see what (Poirier’s) capable of,” Mariello said. “I called timeout and reminded them.”
The timeout worked like a charm as not only did the Red Storm keep Marshwood off the board, but they managed to clinch the victory when Levesque scored out of a scrum with 2:10 remaining.
“(Coach) told us to continue to play our game and be strong,” Dobecki said. “We did it and got another goal.”
That allowed Scarborough to go on to a 3-1 victory.
“It’s huge for us,” Dobecki said. “It’s our third year in a row (going to states). The seniors are that much more excited. Doing it on our home turf means so much more.”
“We’ll take it, in whatever fashion it comes,” Mariello said. “The focus, precision and execution came at the right time. We had to shut down the key players on the other team and not allow opportunities. They can’t score without the ball, so we tried to keep possession as much as possible. We did a good job of that.”
The Red Storm outshot the Hawks, 9-1, and had the same advantage in corners.
Smith made six saves.
Two years ago, Scarborough was no match for Skowhegan at states, falling by a decisive 3-0 margin, but last fall, the Red Storm played much better, even though the final score (4-1) didn’t reflect it.
The teams also met in the 2008 and 2009 state games, with Skowhegan taking the title in double overtime the first year, 2-1, and the Red Storm returning the favor in 2009, 2-1, on Ellie Morin’s overtime tip-in.
This time around, Scarborough believes it’s the favorite, especially with Skowhegan appearing mortal at times this fall.
The Red Storm are hoping Saturday brings a championship celebration.
“Every one of our starters has been in a state game, so we’re ready,” Dobecki said. “We have to set the tempo.”
“We wouldn’t want to play anybody else,” Murray said. “It we’re going to take down one team, we want to take down Skowhegan. We’re so beyond ready to play them Saturday. We have to play our game and make sure they can’t play theirs. We have to make them play with us.”
“It’s more of a psychological thing,” Mariello added. “They’ve been there and done it and I want these girls to feel that feeling. We have to girls who can do that. We have to take advantage of opportunities. Hopefully our girls come up big. I think they will. I believe in them.”
Scarborough sophomore Ashley Levesque tries to knock the ball away from Marshwood senior Emily Kahler.
Scarborough senior Maddy Dobecki fires a shot. Dobecki assisted on the first two Red Storm goals.
Scarborough junior sweeper Emma Hall has a rare opportunity to handle the ball. The Red Storm were on offense most of the night.
Scarborough sophomore Kristen Levesque dribbles around Marshwood sophomore Madison Eastman.
Scarborough senior Kristen Murray prepares to shoot on goal.
Scarborough sophomore Lily Nygren fires a shot.
Scarborough senior Abby Walker’s rush is slowed by Marshwood sophomore Elaine Bachelder.
Scarborough senior Kristen Murray is mobbed her teammates after scoring the second goal of the game in the second half.
Scarborough seniors (from left) Abby Walker, Maddy Dobecki and Kristen Murray show off yet another piece of regional championship hardware.
Scarborough senior captain Maddy Dobecki lets the world know that her team is number one at the end of Thursday’s 3-1 Western Class A Final victory over Marshwood. The Red Storm, for the third year in a row and the fifth time in seven seasons, will battle Skowhegan in the state final Saturday.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.