The Scarborough field hockey team proved mortal after all Saturday evening, but despite falling a win shy of its ultimate goal, the Red Storm were champions in every sense of the word.
After early playoff exits each of the past two seasons, Scarborough ran roughshod on the competition this fall, winning all 14 games by shutouts and as the top seed in Western Class A, blanking three more foes: No. 8 Thornton Academy (4-0) in the quarterfinals, No. 4 Westbrook (3-0) in the semis and No. 2 Cheverus (3-0) in the regional final last Wednesday.
That victory punched the Red Storm’s ticket to the Class A state game Saturday evening in Orono, where waiting, once again, was the perennial champion Skowhegan Indians, who have won the state title every year but one since 2001.
As dominant as the Red Storm had been in the regular season, Skowhegan was even more so, especially on offense. The Indians racked up 117 regular season goals and tacked on 27 more in three playoff wins. While Skowhegan surrendered two goals along the way, its defense was pretty formidable as well.
Scarborough played Skowhegan in each of its prior two championship appearances, dropping an agonizing 2-1 overtime decision in the 2008 game and returning the favor by the same score the following year, thanks to Ellie Morin’s game winner in OT.
After hanging tough in a scoreless first half, the Red Storm’s amazing shutout run finally came to an end with 26:45 to play in the second half.
After 1,053 minutes and 15 seconds this year (and 1,260 minutes and 56 seconds in the regular run of play dating back to the Deering game Oct. 4, 2011), Scarborough had to watch an opposing player fish the ball out of its cage after hearing an unpleasant thwack.
Skowhegan’s Sarah Finnemore did the honors, converting on a penalty corner to make it 1-0, putting the Red Storm behind for the first time all season.
“We’ve kind of struggled with our corners this year, actually, so it was really nice to finally get them so we could actually score,” said Finnemore.
“It was a hard spot for Scarborough to be in, not being scored on,” said Skowhegan coach Paula Doughty. “I don’t know if I’d want to be in that spot because that’s a lot of pressure.”
Scarborough was in an unfamiliar position.
“Our defense was strong and we were hopefully going to give them their turn and see how their defense held up,” said Red Storm coach Kerry Mariello. “Unfortunately, (we) couldn’t get that break.”
With 24:57 left, Finnemore scored off another penalty corner. Makaela Michonski then tallied for Skowhegan at 24:25.
“They would have scored on [NCAA Division I] goalies, that’s how beautifully executed those (corners) were,” said Mariello.
Skowhegan never let Scarborough back in the game and went on to the victory, 3-0.
The Red Storm got off only two shots, both in the first half, and wasn’t awarded a single penalty corner. Goalie Shannon Hicks made four saves.
“Skowhegan is a tremendous team and came to play on Saturday,” Mariello said. “With some incredible saves by Shannon and a stellar defensive performance by her surrounding teammates, we were able to hold them scoreless in the first half, which was an accomplishment in itself. We unfortunately couldn’t hold them off for another 30 minutes. Their first goal was absolutely beautiful and resulted in more to follow, which is something as a coach you hoped wouldn’t happen.”
The 2012 Red Storm will be in the national record books for its 17 straight shutouts, one shy of the 1998 Winslow (Maine) Black Raiders, who hold the mark with 18.
The Red Storm finished 17-1, but now has to part with 10 seniors. Scarborough is returning an abundance of talent, however, so a run to the 2013 state game isn’t out of the question.
“The 17 games that got us to (states) were the most gratifying and team-oriented games that I have ever coached,” Mariello said. “I believe each person that was involved, whether it be the players, parents, peers, or community members all felt that sense of wholeness that this team created. It will go down as a season of a lifetime and I have been blessed to be a part of it. The seniors are a special group and will make a positive impact in all areas of their future lives. They have impacted me and this program in a way that is immeasurable. Next season will hopefully be a continuation of this same focus.”
Bangor Daily News staff writer Dave Barber contributed to this story.
Skowhegan’s Makaela Michonski (center) puts a shot on Scarborough goalie Shannon Hicks in the first half of the Class A state championship game Saturday. Skowhegan became the first team to score on the Red Storm this year winning the title, 3-0.