Stags shake off Scarborough rally in thrilling OT win
SCARBOROUGH—Every once in awhile, the stars align and with storylines abounding, two talented teams produce a game which exceeds the hype.
Was that ever the case Thursday evening at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex, where the host Scarborough Red Storm girls' lacrosse squad, the three-time defending Class A state champions, and the talented and hungry Cheverus Stags, a team with title aspirations of their own, did battle.
And 50 minutes weren't enough to settle matters.
Cheverus took control in the first half, scoring five straight goals behind a patient and opportunistic offense. The Stags took a 7-2 lead to the half and appeared in firm control, but not surprisingly, Scarborough rallied.
Three goals in 81 seconds got the hosts back in the game and when senior Avery Pietras scored with 1:48 to play, the Red Storm had drawn even, 7-7.
Scarborough actually had a chance to win the game in regulation, but one good look went wide and another was saved, sending the game to overtime.
There, Cheverus, which hadn't scored in over 27 minutes, somehow found the will and heart to rise off the deck, breaking the tie when junior standouts Meredith Willard and Alex Logan combined for a goal, then getting some breathing room on a tremendous individual effort from sophomore Abby Biegel.
This time, the Red Storm couldn't answer and the Stags went on to a 9-7 victory, snapping a six-game losing streak to Scarborough in the process.
Logan had a special game all over the field, finishing with a game-high four goals, while Willard added two goals and two assists and Biegel scored twice as Cheverus improved to 5-1, dropping the Red Storm to 4-2 in the process.
"Scarborough's a great team," Logan said. "They're always a great team. We knew it would be a big challenge. We knew we had to play our game. We've improved a lot and this game is the pinnacle of our season so far."
What a game!
Scarborough has a lot of new faces playing bigger roles this spring, but entering Thursday, the wins kept on coming, with one exception.
The Red Storm opened the 2013 campaign with easy wins at McAuley (17-2) and Bonny Eagle (12-3), then let a five-goal second half lead slip away in a stunning 8-7 home loss to Yarmouth. Scarborough quickly bounced back with a 15-1 home romp over South Portland, then gained valuable Heal Points Tuesday by virtue of a 10-6 triumph at Massabesic.
Cheverus has lost to Brunswick in the Eastern A Final two years running and has also impressed in the season's first half. The Stags dropped a marathon 7-6 (four overtime) decision to visiting Massabesic to start the year, then downed host McAuley (18-5), host Portland (9-7), visiting Deering (14-1) and visiting Marshwood (13-10).
Cheverus won the first meeting between the programs, 14-11, back in 2007, but Scarborough took the next six (see below), including a thrilling 11-10 come-from-behind decision last season when Laura Przybylowicz scored the winner with just over a minute to go.
A Cheverus-Scarborough clash, in any girls' sport, is bound to be memorable (see any field hockey showdown in recent seasons or January's triple-overtime girls' basketball epic, won by the Stags), but when you mix in Red Storm coach Marcia Wood going for her 100th career win against her predecessor, Jamie Chamberlain, who, oh by the way, teaches at Scarborough, the stage was set for something special.
Thursday, after a 15-minute delay brought on by thunderstorms earlier in the day, something special is exactly what ensued.
With a party atmosphere in anticipation of Wood's landmark win pervading the proceedings, the Red Storm struck first, just 24 seconds in, when junior Ainsley Jamieson scored unassisted.
Cheverus then roared to life as junior Elyse Caiazzo scored unassisted two minutes later to tie the score.
After Caiazzo was sidelined two minutes with a yellow card, her teammates picked her up and went on top via a man-down goal with 16:31 to play in the first half, when Biegel scored unassisted.
An unassisted tally from Willard, Cheverus' 2012 Spring Female Athlete of the Year, at 14:53, forced Wood to call timeout.
It didn't stem the tide.
The Stags made it 4-1 with 13:27 to play in the half when a free position shot by Caiazzo was saved by Scarborough senior goalie Meg Kirsch, but Logan was there to put home the rebound.
Logan won the ensuing draw, raced upfield, eluded a defender, then beat Kirsch with a shot and just like that, Cheverus had scored five times in just over nine minutes to seemingly take control with a 5-1 advantage.
The Red Storm finally snapped the run when senior Jess Meader scored unassisted with 10:31 showing, but with 5:58 left, Willard set up Logan for a goal and with 36.6 seconds to play, Willard, left a defender in her wake and scored unassisted to make it 7-2 Stags at the break.
Cheverus had managed to gain possession (Logan won six of 10 draws) and was extremely patient on offense, leading to several one-on-one opportunities for its best scorers.
"We were really fired up because it's obviously a big rivalry, so it was kind of surprising we didn't come out more on fire," Wood said. "I think it was a lapse in communication. We haven't played teams who stalled like that. We were a little hesitant to pressure and were confused what to do. We couldn't let them control the pace."
Scarborough was down, but definitely not out and quickly responded in the second half.
After the Stags won the opening draw of the second half and ran three minutes off the clock without scoring, the Red Storm transitioned to offense and made it 7-3 when sophomore Bailey Adams set up junior Abby Mills for a goal with 20:40 to play.
Scarborough sophomore Kaitlin Prince then began to dominate in the draw circle and the Red Storm kept on coming.
Just seconds after a free position from Jamieson hit the post, Prince picked up the rebound and fed Jamieson for another shot, which Cheverus freshman goalie Emily Duff couldn't stop, making it a three-goal game.
Prince won the next draw and with 19:19 showing, she set up Mills for a goal and the deficit was just two, 7-5.
Chamberlain called timeout and while his defense remained staunch, his offense couldn't stretch the lead.
The Red Storm managed to pull within a goal when Jamieson set up senior Maiti Kent, who was in the middle of the action all night, with 16:41 still to play.
Scarborough would complete the comeback and draw even, but it would take nearly 15 more minutes to do so.
Kent almost tied it with 13:55 to go, but shot just wide.
After Willard shot high on a free position, Caiazzo had a shot denied by Kirsch and Willard shot wide, Meader had a great look, but Duff made the save with 4:38 to go.
Kent somehow came out of the scrum with the ground ball to keep possession alive, however.
"Maiti has asked, 'What can I do?'" Wood said. "I told her, 'You may not score all the goals, but getting those ground balls and possession for us is huge.' There's a big crowd of people and little Maiti Kent comes out with the ball. People were laughing on the sidelines, like, 'Where did she come from?' She always comes up with it. Her role was keeping possession and she did a great job."
With 4:08 left, Kent appeared to have tied the score, after taking a pass from Prince, but the goal was waved off and making matters worse, Kent was given a yellow card and sent off for two minutes for dangerous propelling on the shot.
Scarborough wasn't quite finished, however, and after a Cheverus turnover, Kent got the ball, fed Pietras and Pietras' shot found the net with 1:48 to play, making it a brand new ballgame, 7-7.
Prince won the ensuing draw and the Red Storm had a chance to win it in regulation, but a shot by Jamieson just missed and after the teams traded turnovers, Kent had a good look as time wound down, but Duff made the save and it was on to overtime.
In Maine high school girls' lacrosse, teams play three minutes of stoppage time going one way, then three more the other. It's not "sudden victory" until a third overtime, if the game is still tied after the six extra minutes.
In this case, Scarborough went into the OT with all the momentum, while Cheverus was on the ropes, but the Stags some how, some way, were able to bounce back.
Prince won the draw to start overtime, as Meader snared a ground ball, but Logan, who had already made an impact on offense and in the draw circle, showed she's a tremendous defender as well, knocking down a pass and sophomore Nicole Pineau came up with the loose ball for a turnover.
Cheverus returned to its patient ways on offense and with all eyes (understandably) on Willard, Logan made a cut in front of the cage and Willard delivered a perfect pass. Kirsch had no chance as Logan buried the shot into the net and after 27 minutes, 10 seconds of offensive futility, the Stags had tickled the twine and taken an 8-7 lead.
"It was a great pass by Meredith," Logan said. "She did it perfectly. She drew the defender and I cut under. It was perfect. I think me, Meredith and Elyse have played together for a really long time and we have a level of comfort with each other. It's unlike anything I've had with any other teammates."
"I was looking for Alex," Willard said. "I have a lot of faith in her. I knew she'd be there."
"Meredith has been out on the field in big games now for a couple seasons," Chamberlain added. "Alex had a couple knockdowns on defense and came up with possessions in the draw circle. We had to rely on their experience."
Logan then won the ensuing draw, snapping Scarborough's run of six straight victories, and Biegel picked up the loose ball.
"Kaitlin is very good at draw controls," Logan said. "I had to keep doing what I knew how to do. It paid off. My teammates did a great job getting in on the draws. I can't take credit."
Willard then had a chance to double the lead, but shot high and as the first portion of OT wound down, Prince had a look to tie, but shot wide.
The second three minute session began with a stunning turn of events which gave the Stags a little breathing room.
Logan won the draw and Biegel picked up another ground ball, but instead of looking to pass the ball off, Biegel raced into the offensive zone, saw a seam and closed in on Kirsch. Biegel unleashed a shot that found the net and with 2:46 to play in overtime, Cheverus was up, 9-7.
"Coach has worked with me a lot in practice," Biegel said. "It was just a great opportunity. I saw the opening when I was running down. I just had to shoot. It was a really big goal. It felt really good."
"(Abby's) amazing," Logan said. "She's improved so much. We kept telling her her time would come and now's her time. She's put in the effort and she's doing so well. The great thing is she's only a sophomore."
"Abby's worked hard," Chamberlain added. "She didn't play a whole lot last year. We told her to keep working hard, it'll come and it has. We're excited for her. She's really coming on."
Considering that Scarborough had already rallied from a five-goal deficit, it was still very much alive, but this time, the Stags' defense slammed the door.
Pietras won the ensuing draw to give the Red Storm possession, but Cheverus' defense closed every gap and denied every pass.
With 1:30 left, freshman Emma Smith was called for a charge and the Stags regained possession.
They would give the ball back on a turnover and Jamieson had a good look, but her bid to cut the deficit to one sailed high with 46.3 seconds left.
Scarborough wasn't done and got one final shot from Prince, but it went wide and that was that.
At 7:46 p.m., after 90 minutes (real time, 56 on the clock) of breathtaking lacrosse, the final horn sounded and Cheverus was able to celebrate its 9-7 overtime victory.
"We knew it was a really big game for us," said Biegel. "We had to focus on what we worked on in practice, our passing, the basics. We knew they'd come after us full strength. We knew we had to settle down and just do what we do best. We didn't panic. We all wanted it so much. You could tell they did too, but them beating us the past few years was enough. We have a lot of potential this year. When push comes to shove, we powered through. I don't think words can describe how it felt to win. It was one of the most fun, intense games I've ever played in."
"Jamie always says, 'Have faith in each other,'" Logan said. "I think that helped us in the end. When things got tough, we didn't freak out or yell at each other like some teams do. We didn't want to be that team. I really feel like we have heart and faith. I really feel like that won the game for us. We were so composed. It was a great contest."
"It was all heart and faith," added Willard. "We have a lot of faith in each other and in ourselves. It was unbelievable. Last year's game was intense and the adrenaline from playing that game was something we remembered. We always come out to play them and they come out to play us. I think it was all heart. Keeping our composure was key. We knew it would be intense. Composure and patience helped us stay focused. It means a lot. We had confidence, composure and heart and we worked together. It was awesome."
Chamberlain was very impressed with his team's poise under pressure.
"We've done well starting off, getting leads, but we told them at halftime that Scarborough would make adjustments and come back," Chamberlain said. "(Scarborough) hustled and made adjustments on defense and took advantage on offense. What I liked is that we took their best shot, bent but didn't break and held our heads. In overtime, we got back to where we were at the beginning of the game, like the game was starting over again. It came down to defense. The defense held at the end. They held them out. We just played hard and didn't worry about the score. They maintained their focus tonight, which is great."
The Stags showed good balance on offense, as Logan had four goals, Biegel and Willard two and Caiazzo one. Willard also had two assists. Caiazzo had a game-high seven ground balls (all coming after halftime), while Logan collected five. Duff made five saves.
Caiazzo and Logan both had to leave the game for a short period after getting banged up, but in the spirit of Thursday's competition, quickly returned.
"It's Scarborough-Cheverus," Chamberlain said. "It doesn't really matter the sport. Soccer field hockey, or basketball going into overtime. We didn't have to say anything to get the kids fired up for the game. There was rain, lightning, thunder. We could've played in the parking lot and it wouldn't have mattered. Kids on either team, you have to drag them off the field. It was an exciting atmosphere."
Despite being under constant pressure, Cheverus only committed 16 turnovers. The Stags had a 19-17 advantage in shots (13-12 on cage) and played stellar defense.
"Paying attention to their low cutters and having communication was key," said Willard. "I think the defense did a great job keeping their composure and sticking to what we did in practice."
For Scarborough, Jamieson and Mills both scored twice and Kent, Meader and Pietras had one goal apiece. Prince assisted on two goals, while Adams, Jamieson and Kent each had one helper.
"We're very spread out with our scoring which is good, but it's sometimes a downfall because we're not sure who should go to goal in tight situations," Wood said. "It's inexperience, but we haven't peaked yet."
Prince had six ground balls, Jamieson, Kent and senior defensive standout Ashley Ronzo five apiece. Kirsch made four saves. The Red Storm won 11 of 20 draws (Prince was victorious on 10 of 16 chances), had a 43-32 advantage in ground balls and only turned the ball over 15 times.
"My mother had balloons so we spoiled the party, but it was a great comeback," Wood said. "This and the win over Massabesic the other day, reaffirmed that we can dig deep and claw our way back. I said to them, 'It's not going to be as easy as last year, but it's not out of the question.' I'm proud. We shut them out in the second half. We had plenty of opportunities. It's a young team still trying to figure things out. We're getting there. The fact they're not that upset about it, shows they're proud. They gave their all and didn't have any regrets."
See you June 15?
Cheverus and Scarborough aren't scheduled to play again this spring, meaning the only way they could square off would be in the Class A state final, something all parties would love to see.
"Scarborough's a great team," Willard said. "It's awesome playing them because both teams come out and show what they really have. I'd like to play them again."
"We wouldn't be disappointed with that," Chamberlain said. "It would be fun."
"I'd like to see (Cheverus) again and I think the girls would," Wood said. "It's a healthy rivalry. Some of them have Jamie as a teacher. Anytime Scarborough plays Cheverus, it's a big deal. I think the girls would be really amped up for a game that."
Both will have difficult roads to navigate, however.
The Red Storm will try again to provide Wood with her 100th win Friday night at powerhouse Cape Elizabeth.
"I just said, 'Well, I'll see you tomorrow,'" Wood said. "We'll go and play and try to clean up some stuff."
Scarborough is home versus Thornton Academy and goes to Gorham next week. Home games with Marshwood and Kennebunk still remain, as does a trip to Windham to close the regular season.
The Stags host Windham Tuesday. Games at NYA, Kennebunk and Thornton Academy follow, before the regular season ends with home games versus Gorham and Waynflete.
"Now that we've gotten to know each other better, I think we're really hitting our stride," Logan said. "We have to maintain our composure and have faith in each other. As long as we do that, I think we can go really far."
"We're a mix of experienced players and new players trying to find their role, so I think this was a big win to give everyone confidence," said Chamberlain. "The kids are moving forward. We have confidence we can play the good teams and not get fazed."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Scarborough-Cheverus results
@ Scarborough 15 Cheverus 7
Scarborough 23 @ Cheverus 11
Scarborough 14 @ Cheverus 10
Scarborough 12 @ Cheverus 6
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 7 Cheverus 2
Cheverus 14 @ Scarborough 11