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SCARBOROUGH—A game that began with a whole lot of nothing, sure ended with a lot of excitement.
Wednesday evening, the defending Class A state champion Scarborough girls’ soccer team hosted Deering in its second test in three nights. After edging visiting Gorham by a goal Monday, the Red Storm managed to eke out another one-goal victory over another set of Rams, but nothing came easily on this chilly night.
Neither side registered a shot until 13 minutes elapsed in the game, but Scarborough began to create chances later in the first half, although none ever came to fruition.
The Red Storm pressured even harder in the second half, but was continually denied, while Deering managed a few forays of its own.
With 17:55 to play, the Rams nearly took the lead on a free kick from dangerous senior Alexis Elowitch, but for the second game in a row, senior goalkeeper Sydney Martin saved Scarborough’s bacon with a diving save.
Then, with exactly 6 minutes showing, the hosts broke through, as junior Sam Sparda got some operating room, then buried a shot for a 1-0 lead.
After 74 minutes with no scoring, the final six had multiple goals and with 3 minutes to play, junior Ashley Gleason lofted a shot into the goal for a seemingly commanding 2-0 advantage, but still the game was not over.
To its credit, Deering pushed to the final horn and was rewarded when Elowitch headed home a corner kick with 6.1 seconds showing.
The Rams didn’t have enough time to deliver an equalizer and Scarborough held on for a 2-1 victory, its seventh in a row, as it improved to 9-0-1, dropping Deering to 7-3 in the process.
“I really like the way we battled through this game today,” said Red Storm coach Mike Farley. “Even though we gave up a goal at the end, we stayed composed and didn’t settle.”
Scarborough entered the 2013 season as a proven commodity: three-time defending regional champions and the 2010 and 2012 Class A state champions.
The Red Storm opened with an 8-0 home win over South Portland, then won at Portland, 5-0. A surprising 1-1 home tie versus Biddeford ensued, but the Red Storm bounced back to blank visiting Marshwood (3-0), host Sanford (6-0), host Noble (8-0), visiting McAuley (9-0), host Massabesic (5-0) and Monday night, visiting Gorham, 1-0, on freshman Ashley Perriello’s first half goal.
Deering has been scratching and clawing its way to the top of the region and felt that this year’s team would be its best in many years, something which has proved to be true.
The Rams downed visiting Cheverus, 6-1, in the opener, avenging last year’s playoff loss, then handled host Massabesic, 3-1. After falling at home to Gorham, 2-0, Deering bounced back with a 3-0 triumph at Noble, won at Portland, 3-0, at home over Bonny Eagle (8-0), at South Portland (5-0) and at home against Westbrook (4-0) before losing at Marshwood in a mild surprise Friday, 1-0.
Entering Wednesday’s game, Scarborough had beaten Deering in all 10 previous meetings, but many of them were close. Four prior encounters wound up one-goal Red Storm victories, including an overtime triumph in 2004, a 3-2 win at Deering two years ago and last autumn’s 2-1 home victory.
With both teams jockeying for Heal Points, Wednesday’s matchup was critical, but once again, form held and Scarborough prevailed for the 11th straight time in the series.
In the first 13 minutes, the game was played near midfield, with neither squad able to string together any sort of attack.
Finally, with 27 minutes to go before halftime, the Red Storm registered the first shot, as junior Katherine Kirk’s bid was saved by Rams senior goalkeeper LeeAnn Downs.
After Scarborough got the game’s first corner kick in the 16th minute (it didn’t result in a shot), Elowitch made her presence felt in the 18th.
Elowitch, who is a deadly scorer, has spent time on defense in key games this fall, but takes her team’s free kicks and had an opportunity from just inside midfield which landed in the box, only to be collected by Martin.
With 18:05 to go before halftime, the hosts almost broke through, but Sparda’s long bid hit the post and deflected out to junior Mairead Clonan, whose rebound attempt was denied by Downs.
In the 27th minute, a Scarborough corner kick was headed away.
In the 33rd minute, a throw from junior Ashley Briggs landed in the Deering box, but Downs got to the ball first.
A minute later, Gleason had a look, but Downs made the stop.
Then, with 2:39 left before halftime, Sparda sent on a low shot on target, but again Downs made the save.
In the first 40 minutes, the Red Storm outshot the Rams, 7-0, but Downs made seven saves and Elowitch prevented the hosts from getting a great look.
“We came out strong in the first half,” Elowitch said. “We tried to win the 50-50 (balls) and play our game.”
“The girls were happy with the first half,” said Deering coach Kevin Olson. “We were really focusing on pressuring right away and not letting them get comfortable with the ball. (Alexis) knows the game better than anybody. It’s like having another coach back there. We do have offense up top. With their offense and pressure with (Yescott) it was the right move. We had to keep the game tight.”
“I think in the first half, both teams were feeling each other out,” Farley said. “Elowitch is their best player and she’s a good player in the back. It’s tough to get around her. Hadlee had to feel out how to play against her and the players around her were trying to expose some space on the side of her. (Elowitch) did such a good job reading the play in the first half. It was hard to get anything going in the first half, especially between the outside back and her. Unless a pass was perfectly on, she’d win the ball. We would have been under more pressure with her up top, but they would have been under more pressure as well. I’m glad (Kevin) had to make that decision and not me.”
The second half proved to be much more even and it took quite some time for someone to break through.
Just 45 seconds in, Yescott appeared to finally have some room, but Elowitch immediately slammed the door and prevented a shot.
A minute later, a shot from Scarborough senior defensive standout Ainsley Jamieson was deflected on goal, but Downs made the save.
With 37:20 left in regulation, the Rams finally registered their first shot, as junior Meaghan Wells shot wide.
A minute later, at the other end, after a great feed from Sparda, senior Morgan Rodway shot just wide.
Kirk then had a cross cleared by Elowitch and a shot go just wide.
With 30:58 remaining, after the Red Storm defense couldn’t clear a loose ball, senior Cole Spike fired a shot high.
A minute later, Rodway’s feed to Kirk got directed toward the goal, but Downs beat Yescott to the spot and harm was averted.
In the 57th minute, Deering finally registered a corner kick, which Wells headed just wide.
Four minutes later, after a nice move by Rams sophomore Simone Lauture, freshman Meghana Clere had a look, but her shot was saved by Martin.
That was a mere appetizer for the Martin wizardry which came next.
With 17:55 to play, Elowitch lined up a free kick from 30 yards. She got all of it and it was ticketed for the right corner of the goal, but Martin, who made a late diving save to preserve Monday’s win over Gorham, sprang to her right and got a hand on the ball to keep it out of the goal.
Problem was, Deering had a great chance to score on a rebound and sure enough, Wells got to the ball and fired, but Martin, while falling, made another save.
Then, the ball sat loose and while her teammates weren’t able to clear it, Martin had to keep the ball out of the goal while in a sitting position before it was finally cleared from the scrum.
“When I took the free kick, I shot it and put it on frame, trying to not have it go over the net and Sydney made a great save,” Elowitch said. “We had people running on. It was so close.”
“When Sydney made the save, we let them in on her,” said Farley. “She had to make one or two saves on her butt too. That’s not OK. When she makes a save, we have to kick it out of bounds, let her get situated. She’s a very good goalie. If she gets on the ground, we have to help her out. We have to be more aggressive defensively. That’s something we have to work on, but Sydney will keep making those saves on her butt anyway.”
Scarborough was able to transition back to offense and the near-misses kept coming as a bid from the side by Rodway was punched out by Downs, a rebound shot by Sparda was saved and a rush by Yescott was broken up in the box.
Then, at last, the goal came.
It was set up on a pass from sophomore Elise O’Reilly to Sparda up top, about 30 yards out. Sparda turned, saw she had a surprising amount of room, dribbled in, then let fly from about 20 yards out. The shot rocketed into the lower right corner of the goal, as Downs’ dive went for naught.
With exactly 6 minutes to play, the Red Storm had a 1-0 lead.
“That was a phenomenal shot that Sam had,” said Elowitch. “We were pressing out wide and I think the spacing was off a little bit. We didn’t have someone checking back to the middle and the middle was open. We tried to step, but it was a second too late.”
“I feel like they were kind of leaving me open in the first half,” Sparda said. “They double-teamed Hadlee, so I knew I had to step up and get good shots. I knew I hit it well, but I wasn’t sure if it would go in. I put it where I wanted. I knew we had to play the rest of the way hard. I knew it wasn’t over.”
Instead, the fun was just beginning.
After a serve from Red Storm sophomore Aly Atherton skipped through the box untouched, the hosts got a second goal with exactly 3 minutes to play, as Rodway got the ball up top to Gleason, who didn’t hesitate from 30 yards and lofted a shot over Downs into the net to make it 2-0.
“I think we had some good opportunities, but we couldn’t finish until the end,” Sparda said. “Thankfully, me and ‘Gleas’ got one in. I knew we’d get a goal. It just took awhile.”
“In the second half, in the midfield, we aggressively attacked space,” Farley said. “Sam got the ball and there was no hesitation. If we can do that, we’ll score a lot of goals. Ashley’s was the same thing. The ball came out to a central midfielder who didn’t even hesitate. She took a touch and took a really nice shot.”
Up 2-0, the win appeared in the bag for the Red Storm, but Deering didn’t think the game was over and kept the pressure on.
As time wound down, the Rams were rewarded with a corner kick and Clere’s serve wound up being headed by Elowitch into the goal. O’Reilly appeared to kick it out, but the ball was ruled to have crossed the goal line and with 6.1 seconds to play, Deering had cut the deficit to 2-1.
“I was running to the middle and my teammates were like, ‘Alexis, turn around,’ so I turned around and the ball was coming for the header and all I could see was a defender stepping back,” Elowitch said. “The ref was right there and saw it better than anyone else. (The defender) might have stepped into the goal and the ball went over the line.”
“You have to give Deering a lot of credit at the end,” Farley said. “They aggressive attacked us. Elowitch went up to generate a goal and she did. Sydney said the ball crossed the line. Defenders always say it didn’t.”
Scarborough then managed to run out the remaining time and prevailed, 2-1.
The Red Storm outshot the Rams, 16-7 (12-6 on frame), and had a 3-2 edge in corner kicks. Martin made five saves, while Downs stopped 10 shots.
Deering wasn’t exactly distraught after the final horn.
“Scarborough’s a phenomenal team, but we played well,” Elowitch said. “I hope this brings up our confidence. We played until the end and scored a late goal. Going into the rest of the season, we should take from this and realize our offense, defense and middies played well.”
“We played phenomenal,” Olson said. “We played a solid game. It was all I could ask. I’ve got a great bench. I can cycle people in. The hope was to wear (Scarborough) down, stay fresh and hopefully get a lucky one. We kept fighting to the end.
“I’m excited because of what we accomplished against a very well-respected team. They’re the state champs. We got a goal on them. We had some success with them. We just came up a little short. We had confidence coming in that we could win. We showed that throughout the 80 minutes. Am I upset with the loss? Yes, but looking at what we did for 80 minutes, I’m very happy.”
Deering (now eighth in the Western A Heals) will look to bounce back Friday, but that won’t be an easy task as it hosts Thornton Academy. The Rams are at McAuley and home with Biddeford next week, then close Oct. 22 at Sanford.
“TA will be a fun game,” Elowitch said. “It’s under the lights. It will bring a lot of energy and fight from us. Hopefully, tomorrow we’ll go over what happened today and focus on our next game and continue to move forward and continue to grow. It’s going to come. We can’t let a loss like this get us down. We have to learn from it and continue to fight. We have a lot of fighters on our team.”
“There’s no nights off,” Olson said. “I hope we keep believing because this was a phenomenal performance. We never gave up.”
As for Scarborough (now first in Western A), after a visit to Westbrook Friday, the Red Storm has a home showdown versus Windham Wednesday and a trip to Thornton Academy for a playoff rematch Friday of next week, before finishing at Bonny Eagle.
“I really feel like having the hard games in a row makes us get better and better,” Sparda said. “It’s a good way to go into the playoffs. I feel like we need to keep working as a team, stringing passes together, keep doing what we do well. We have really good chemistry on this team.”
“I like when our defense gets really tested and the last two games they’ve gotten really tested and come up big,” said Farley. “In the playoffs, it’s all about if you can stop the other team and generating one or two chances and finishing them. If we can do that, we’ll be fine.
“It’s not going to be easy the next two weeks. It will really define the standings. A win can make you the number one seed. Between Windham and TA, whoever wins or loses those games will define whether you’ll be first or fourth or fifth. The kids would love to be at home, so hopefully we’ll take care of business next week.”
Two of the state’s premier players, Deering senior Alexis Elowitch and Scarborough senior Hadlee Yescott, literally go head-to-head.
Scarborough junior Sam Sparda plays the ball away from Deering sophomore Simone Lauture.
Deering junior Meaghan Wells reaches out to try to get the ball away from Scarborough sophomore Mary Farnkoff.
Deering junior Courtney Brett boots the ball away from Scarborough junior Ashley Gleason.
Scarborough sophomore Aly Atherton takes a step up as Deering freshman Meghana Clere reaches out for a loose ball.
Deering senior goalkeeper LeeAnn Downs, who made 10 saves, goes way up to keep the ball out of the goal.
Not to be outdone, Scarborough senior goalkeeper Sydney Martin goes all out to make the save of the game, robbing Deering senior Alexis Elowitch on a free kick midway through the second half. Martin saved a couple rebound bids as well on the play.
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Scarborough junior Sam Sparda (16) gets a lift from senior Hadlee Yescott, while juniors Katherine Kirk (21) and Ashley Gleason join in the celebration following Sparda’s goal, which gave the Red Storm a 1-0 lead over Deering late in Wednesday night’s contest. Scarborough held on for a 2-1 victory.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.