One goal's enough for Scarborough girls to hold off Gorham
SCARBOROUGH—The toughest stretch of the 2013 regular season has arrived for the Scarborough girls' soccer team and it appears as if the defending Class A state champion Red Storm is already in postseason form.
Monday evening at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex, Scarborough played host to a Gorham squad which has given it fits over the years and met every challenge.
On a windy evening, the Red Storm got the only goal it would need when freshman Ashley Perriello scored in the 15th minute. Scarborough's defense then kept the Rams off the board, thanks in large part to senior goalkeeper Sydney Martin, who made a breathtaking diving save in the second half.
Scarborough held on for a 1-0 victory, improved to 8-0-1 and dropped Gorham to 6-3 in the process.
"Our team's really starting to come together," Martin said. "It's crucial we do that the next couple weeks. These tough teams will make us better and prepared for playoffs. I was expecting Gorham to be good competition. We knew it would be a challenge. We did what we could."
Scarborough and Gorham were well acquainted last century in the Western Maine Conference, when both spent time in Class B. The then-Redskins beat the Rams in the 1986 preliminary round (3-1) and 1998 regional final (2-1, in three overtimes).
After not playing at all in 2003 and 2004, Gorham became Scarborough's biggest threat in the Southwestern Maine Activities Association in 2005. Over the past eight years, entering Monday's tilt, each school had won five meetings (please see sidebar, below), with three of them going to overtime and two coming in the Western A Final.
After the Red Storm went undefeated and unscored upon en route to the 2010 state championship, Gorham scored a goal and beat Scarborough early in the 2011 regular season, 1-0. The Red Storm had the last laugh, however, eking out a 1-0 win at the Rams in the regional final. Last season, Scarborough won at Gorham, 3-0, its biggest win over the Rams in a decade.
Both teams have lived up to billing and remain near the top of the standings this fall.
Gorham dropped its opener, 3-1, at Marshwood, then turned around to defeat host Bonny Eagle (1-0), visiting South Portland (4-1), host Deering (2-0), visiting Westbrook (3-1) and host McAuley (9-0), before losing at home to Windham, 4-2. Gorham then blanked visiting Sanford, 3-0.
Scarborough, coming off its second Class A title in three years, opened with an 8-0 home win over South Portland, then won at Portland, 5-0. A stunning 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) and host Massabesic (5-0). Nearly half of Scarborough's offense came courtesy senior Hadlee Yescott, who tickled the twine 20 times in the first eight games.
Monday evening, goals were at a premium, but Scarborough did what it had to do to stay undefeated.
The Red Storm broke the ice and scored what proved to be the only goal with 25:26 to play in the first half, as Perriello got the ball, turned and lofted a shot into the far corner, past Gorham junior goalkeeper Renae Staples.
"It was my biggest goal so far," Perriello said. "To be honest, I was shocked it went in. I was kind of far out. I was just trying to get it on net. I thought it was going to go over. I kind of walked away, then I realized it was going to go in. I didn't think it would make a big difference. It was the first half and I thought there would be many more goals because Hadlee is so amazing."
"Ashley's just a freshman and I've been all over her about shooting the ball," said Red Storm coach Mike Farley. "The one time she had a chance, she shot the ball and she buried it. That's the best thing for a coach ever. That's reinforcement. It was a big moment for her to score. Hopefully she has a lot more goals to come."
Perriello said she's quickly acclimated to playing varsity soccer.
"Everyone's very welcoming and easy to get to know," Perriello said. "I like it a lot. I really try to make my minutes count."
The hosts tried to double their lead, but a shot from senior Morgan Rodway went high in the 25th minute.
Gorham then had a few chances before halftime, but Scarborough senior Ainsley Jamieson and sophomore Elise O'Reilly broke up rushes and a bid from senior Meghan Cushing sailed high.
"I've played with Ainsley since sixth grade," Martin said. We keep it organized back there."
The Red Storm would protect its lead in the second half, but the Rams made things interesting.
Early in the half, Yescott momentarily had her best look at the goal, but was slowed by a defender before shooting wide.
With just over 30 minutes to play, Staples beat Red Storm junior Katherine Kirk to a loose ball in the box. Junior Sam Sparda then sent a couple shots on net, but the first was off target and the second was saved.
Gorham then transitioned to offense and with 17:11 to play, Martin saved the day.
The ball came up top to sophomore Elizabeth Sullivan, who used her left foot to drive the ball toward the far corner. Martin reacted immediately, laid out and not only got to the shot, but managed to possess it as well, negating a rebound opportunity.
"I knew I had to be there if an opportunity presented itself," Martin said. "Luckily, it was one I'm used to saving. It was a good shot. I was able to hold on to it. I've worked on holding onto shots this year. I know my defense is always there for rebounds too. I trust them and they trust me. That works out well for all of us."
"Like last year, Sydney hasn't been called upon to make a lot of good saves," Farley said. "But she has to be there when there's an opportunity in the box. I don't know how to describe it, but she's always there to make that save."
The win wasn't yet secured, however.
With just over 15 minutes left, Gorham had a corner kick, but the Red Storm defense cleared the ball away.
Yescott had a couple looks late to extend the lead, but couldn't finish.
Then, with just under a minute left, Cushing sent a shot wide.
With 15 seconds to go, Jamieson cleared the ball from the defensive zone and Scarborough put the finishing touches on its 1-0 victory.
"We pick ourselves up when we're down," Martin said. "We don't only work well on the field, but we're all friends in school. It helps team chemistry. There's a lot of trust. I feel like our support system is one of our strengths."
"It was a typical Gorham game," Farley said. "It comes down to who wants it more. The wind was a definite factor in the game tonight. Gorham played direct, so every time we made a bad pass, which we made a lot of today, they tried to put the ball over the top. if Ainsley wasn't so good winning the ball in the air and (sophomore) Emma (Smith) and my outside backs weren't so good, we would have been under more pressure."
Scarborough finished with a 9-4 edge in shots. Each team had one corner kick. Both goalies made a pair of saves.
Playoffs are kind of underway
While Gorham (seventh in the Western Class A Heal Points standings) is back in action Wednesday at home versus Portland, Scarborough's toughest stretch in memory continues when Deering pays a visit. After a visit to Westbrook Friday, the Red Storm (third in the latest Heals) has a home showdown versus Windham and a trip to Thornton Academy for a playoff rematch before finishing at Bonny Eagle.
Look for the remaining schedule to make Scarborough that much stronger come playoff time.
"I love the tough games," Perriello said. "We have to possess the ball. We have to pass the ball and not take players on 1-v-1. We learned from Biddeford that we can't go in with a mindset that we'll always win. These games will get us ready."
"We have to take advantage of opportunities to finish games," Martin said. "If we score goals, I know our defense can hold up in the back."
"Deering on Wednesday will be a good game," Farley added. "Westbrook has been playing teams tough, then we have Windham and TA back-to-back. We don't have a lot of rest. it's going to be a tough stretch. We'll be challenged. It's nice to have it at the end of the year, I guess. We'll be battle tested going into the playoffs."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Recent Scarborough-Gorham results
Scarborough 3 @ Gorham 0
Gorham 1 @ Scarborough 0
Western A Final
Scarborough 1 @ Gorham 0
@ Scarborough 2 Gorham 1
@ Gorham 4 Scarborough 1
Gorham 2 @ Scarborough 0
@ Gorham 3 Scarborough 2 (OT)
Western A Final
@ Gorham 1 Scarborough 0
@ Scarborough 2 Gorham 1 (2 OT)
@ Scarborough 3 Gorham 0
Scarborough 1 @ Gorham 0
Scarborough 5 @ Gorham 1