Perfect Storm wins again
"We only have three returning starters. It's definitely going to be a challenging season."
Scarborough field hockey coach Kerry Mariello prior to the start of the 2013 season.
SCARBOROUGH—The 2013 field hockey season has been challenging.
For opponents of the Scarborough Red Storm.
Just like every other season over the past half dozen years.
While this Red Storm squad has a lot of new faces in new places, the results have been the same and now, more than halfway through the season, Scarborough is clearly once again the team to beat in Western Class A.
Thursday evening, at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex, the Red Storm welcomed neighbor and rival Westbrook and wasn't exactly a gracious host.
Just nine minutes, 42 seconds in, Scarborough went ahead for good when junior Kristen Murray scored.
Although it missed out on several opportunities to extend the lead, the Red Storm didn't give Westbrook many chances and with 5:42 to go, junior Maddy Dobecki added a second goal.
That was more than enough and Scarborough went on to a 2-0 triumph, its 31st straight regular season victory, improving to 40-0-1 over its last 41 regular season games in the process. Scarborough is now 8-0 and the Blue Blazes fell to 5-4.
"It's a good group of girls," said Mariello. "We have a strong freshman class. We're jelling very quickly, doing very well. We have a few great players who have definitely elevated players around them. The new players get game time and understand their roles and positions. They all want to be that person. It's just been them working hard."
Excellence doesn't graduate
Since the start of the 2007 campaign, Scarborough has lost a grand total of three regular season games. Three times in that span, the Red Storm made it to the Class A state final and in 2009, Scarborough won the championship.
Last fall, the Storm really was perfect, winning all 14 regular season and all three regional playoff games by shutout, but in the state final, Scarborough was bested by Skowhegan, 3-0.
Graduation took a huge chunk of that team, but also gave several players who saw limited time or who were waiting in the wings a chance to shine and while there have been a few anxious moments, the Red Storm has once again dazzled this fall.
Scarborough opened by defeating two of the preseason favorites, host Marshwood (2-1) and visiting Massabesic (5-1). After a 9-0 win at Noble, the Red Storm blanked visiting Sanford (6-0), host Windham (2-0) and visiting Portland (5-0), before almost stumbling Tuesday at Thornton Academy. There, Scarborough was down, 1-0, in the second half before finally getting the equalizer and winning the game on senior Rachael Wallace's goal with 55 seconds to play.
"(TA) was a big game," Dobecki said. "It was definitely scary. We proved we can come back and fight until the very end."
Westbrook, meanwhile, fell in its opener, 2-1, at Cheverus, then defeated visiting Deering (2-1) and host Gorham (2-1). The 2-1 games continued at home against Marshwood, but this time the Blue Blazes were on the losing end. Westbrook then fell at Massabesic, 3-1, but bounced back to defeat visiting Noble (6-0), host Portland (4-1) and visiting Sanford (4-0).
The Scarborough-Westbrook rivalry has been hotly contested since the Red Storm joined the Southwestern Maine Activities Association in 2003 (please see below). The Blue Blazes won four of the first five meetings, but Scarborough has had the better of Westbrook in recent seasons, winning every time since the start of the 2007 campaign, including a pair of victories a year ago: 2-0 in the regular season and 3-0 in the Western A semifinals.
Thursday, the Blue Blazes were seeking their first victory over the Red Storm since a 2-1 overtime thriller in the 2006 Western A quarterfinals, but instead, Scarborough took care of business once again.
The Red Storm converted on its first good scoring opportunity.
Junior Abby Walker sent the ball toward the goal, Dobecki put it on target and Murray was there to tip it home for a 1-0 lead with 20:18 to play in the first half.
"It's always important to get that first goal," Murray said. "It helps build up momentum and breaks down momentum for the other team. Abby passed it, it went up to Maddy, she shot it and I was there to tip it in."
Scarborough would dominate the rest of the half, but couldn't add to its lead.
After Westbrook had a good chance as sophomore Abby St. Clair had a rush broken up by Red Storm freshman defender Tori Timm, Murray had a shot saved by Blue Blazes senior goalie Nicole Miranda.
At the other end, St. Clair forced Scarborough sophomore goalie Alyssa Souza to make a rare save. The Red Storm then got the ball to freshman Ashley Levesque in the circle. Levesque got a shot off while falling, but Miranda made the save.
Scarborough then got three good looks on a penalty corner, with a defender stopping the first shot and Miranda kicking away the next two.
Wallace, Walker and Dobecki (twice) then sent shots wide, keeping the Red Storm's lead 1-0 at halftime.
In the first 30 minutes, Scarborough had a 13-2 shots advantage (8-2 on frame) and had three corners to none for the visitors. Seven saves from Miranda kept Westbrook in the game.
Possession stayed lopsided in the second half, but it took a long time for the Red Storm's second goal to rattle home.
Early in the half, Dobecki had a shot saved. Dobecki then crossed a ball across the goalmouth, but no teammate could slam it home.
Murray then had a shot saved and on a long scrum following a penalty corner, the ball sat free in front of the Blue Blazes' goal, but the Red Storm couldn't finish.
"We did have some good chances," Murray said. "We struggled to finish today. Eventually we knocked a second one in."
That came with 5:42 to play.
In a scrum, senior Maggie Carbin got the ball to Dobecki, who finally rattled the cage to make it 2-0.
"It was a long hit from Rachael," Dobecki said. "Maggie got it on the baseline. I was just there to hit it home."
Scarborough then put the touches on yet another regular season victory.
"It wasn't easy," Murray said. "They gave us a good game. It was a really great game to play. We really do have a strong feeder program. The JV team and the middle school team is always good. The freshmen are strong. We had holes to fill, but we had a lot of talent come in."
"We have a ton of underclassmen who have stepped up," Dobecki said. "They've filled spots. We've come along nicely. The program is successful, so new players strive to get to that level."
"Westbrook's always a challenge," Mariello added. "We have four games this week. We had a tough game against TA and the girls were tired. I was worried for that reason."
Dobecki and Murray, not surprisingly were the goal scorers.
"They're key players," said Mariello. "They're not superstars and never have been. They do the little things not good, but great. They make everyone around them better."
Scarborough finished with a whopping 27-2 shots advantage (19-2 on frame). The Red Storm also had 10 corners to none for the Blue Blazes, but couldn't convert. Souza made two saves for Scarborough, while Miranda made 17 stops for Westbrook.
Eyeing the top seed
Westbrook, eighth in the latest Western A Heal Points standings, returns to action Wednesday, when it hosts South Portland.
Scarborough, meanwhile, is hoping to finish in the top spot for the fifth year in a row. If the Red Storm keeps winning, that's a likelihood. Scarborough (second to Massabesic in the standings at press time) plays host to South Portland Saturday afternoon, then goes to Biddeford Wednesday. Home tests versus dangerous Bonny Eagle and rival Cheverus and trips to McAuley and Deering also remain.
"Every year is a new year," Murray said. "It's a completely new team. We're not focused on finishing up last year. This is a new year. Homefield advantage during playoffs is really nice. We want to finish as strong as we've started."
"We need to continue to work on finishing shots and getting a few more goals," said Dobecki. "We're strong on turf. Homefield advantage is what we're looking for."
"We're still working on the finishing component," Mariello added. "The fundamentals all over the field are good, we just need more fight to finish. We have to get our sticks on the ground and find the gaps. I've been stressing to the girls that the details are the key ingredients. We have great moments, but in the end, the little things will make the difference."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Scarborough-Westbrook results
@ Scarborough 2 Westbrook 0
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 3 Westbrook 0
Scarborough 3 @ Westbrook 0
@ Scarborough 2 Westbrook 1
Scarborough 2 @ Westbrook 0
@ Scarborough 4 Westbrook 0
Western A Final
@ Scarborough 2 Westbrook 1
Scarborough 3 @ Westbrook 1
@ Scarborough 2 Westbrook 0
Western A quarterfinal
@ Westbrook 2 Scarborough 1 (OT)
@ Westbrook 2 Scarborough 1
@ Westbrook 3 Scarborough 1
Westbrook 4 @ Scarborough 3