Cheverus battles Scarborough to tie, Red Storm win streak over
SCARBOROUGH—Rarely has a tie spoken such volumes.
The Scarborough field hockey team has made the regular season its personal playground the past several years, but Thursday evening at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex, the Red Storm met its match.
The Cheverus Stags, who have all too often suffered at the hands of Scarborough in recent years, came to town and gave the Red Storm a tussle for 76 minutes, perhaps setting the stage for a bigger battle to come.
The Stags made an immediate statement, scoring just the fifth goal Scarborough has surrendered all season, when senior Meredith Willard banged home a rebound in the fourth minute.
After eight futile penalty corners, the Red Storm broke through and tied the score when sophomore Anna Driscoll converted a corner with 10:37 left in the half.
Cheverus and Scarborough then had chances in regulation and some good looks in overtime, but couldn't find the cage and the squads settled for a deserving 1-1 tie.
The Red Storm extended its regular season unbeaten streak to 46 games, but its regular season win streak came to a close at 35. Scarborough is now 12-0-1 and Cheverus 10-2-1 as each squad has one game remaining.
"I'm so thrilled with the effort," said Cheverus coach Amy McMullin. "We talked about how the outcome doesn't matter. If we left everything on the field, we'd be happy win or lose. We were hoping for the win, but a tie is the next best thing. I thought we could play with them. We were confident."
"We knew it was going to be a battle," said Scarborough coach Kerry Mariello. "We knew they'd come to play. They were fired up. Good for them. I give them props for their effort. It should help them."
No love lost
The Red Storm and Stags have seen a lot of each other the past five seasons, three times meeting in the playoffs, including last year's 3-0 Scarborough victory in the Western A Final.
So far this season, Scarborough has remained unstoppable, while Cheverus has stumbled at times, but remains a top contender.
The Stags opened 2013 with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Westbrook and a 3-0 victory at Biddeford, then was stunned by visiting Bonny Eagle in overtime, 2-1. Cheverus bounced back by downing host Windham, 2-1, visiting Deering, 3-0, host Gorham, 3-1, and visiting Marshwood, 2-1. After a hard-fought and somewhat controversial 1-0 loss at Massabesic, the Stags returned to form with wins at McAuley (8-0), at home over Noble (6-0), at Portland (3-1) and at home over Sanford Tuesday (1-0, on sophomore Emily Michaud's goal in the second overtime).
The Red Storm, meanwhile, opened by defeating two of the preseason favorites, host Marshwood (2-1) and visiting Massabesic (5-1). After a 9-0 win at Noble, Scarborough blanked visiting Sanford (6-0), host Windham (2-0) and visiting Portland (5-0), before rallying for a 2-1 win at Thornton Academy. Victories over visiting Westbrook (2-0), visiting South Portland (10-0), host Biddeford (10-1), visiting Bonny Eagle (4-0) and host McAuley (13-0) followed, making it 45 straight regular season games without a setback (please see sidebar, below).
Entering Thursday's game, the Red Storm had won 11 of 12 all-time meetings (please see sidebar, below), but whenever the teams play at Scarborough, memories of Cheverus' stunning 2-1 upset in the 2010 semifinals (ending the Red Storm's reign as state champion) are never from anyone's mind.
This time around, Cheverus was hoping to hand Scarborough its first regular season loss since Oct. 2, 2010 (2-1 at South Portland) or at least its first non-victory since a 1-1 home tie versus Sanford, Sept. 14, 2011 and managed to do the latter.
The Red Storm started fast and pressured the Stags and almost went ahead in the second minute, but junior Maddy Dobecki's shot hit the post.
Cheverus then forayed into the offensive zone and before Scarborough knew what hit it, Willard was celebrating a goal, after finishing out of a scrum for a stunning 1-0 lead.
"We didn't talk about the opponent this week," said McMullin. "We kind of joked we were going on a field trip. We've psyched ourselves out the past couple years when we played Scarborough, so we talked about how if we played our best, it didn't matter who we played. That goal was huge, but holding them from not scoring when they put pressure on us almost meant more for confidence. Our defense held tough. That was big. We also talked about them being scored on before and coming back, so that one goal didn't mean anything."
The Red Storm controlled play the rest of the half, but despite numerous penalty corners, couldn't break through.
Scarborough had eight corners with nothing to show for it, many of them not even resulting in shots.
When the Red Storm did appear on the brink of scoring, either Stags senior goalie Libby DesRuisseaux made a save, or senior defender Sarah Richter was in the right place to knock the ball out of harm's way.
On Scarborough's ninth corner, however, it broke through, thanks to some nifty passing.
Dobecki sent the ball to senior Maggie Carbin, who passed to Driscoll, who tucked the ball into the cage to make it 1-1 with 10:37 left before halftime.
Instead of the momentum going to the home team, the Stags rebounded and pressured, forcing Mariello to call timeout.
With 6:39 to go before halftime, Carbin sent a shot just wide and the game went to the break deadlocked at 1-1.
The Red Storm enjoyed an 8-3 shots advantage and a commanding bulge of 10-1 in corners in the first half, but didn't hold the lead.
The second half would see a lot of close calls.
With 22:14 left in regulation, off a penalty corner, Caiazzo fired a blast that Souza saved. Souza then denied a rebound bid.
"We knew we did really well the first half and we knew we had to step up our game even more," said Caiazzo. "We were having a blast out there. We had to keep pressuring them and we knew we could do it."
"We talked a lot about defensive positioning at halftime," McMullin said. "We took a different approach and kept the ball in their end, which in the first half we didn't. It was nice to see the girls adapt."
With 17:09 to go, a cross from Scarborough junior Kristen Murray was kicked out by DesRuisseaux.
Seconds later, on a corner, a cross trickled right through the crease in front of the Cheverus goal, but no Red Storm player could get a stick on it.
With 13:53 showing, Scarborough almost went ahead, but Richter managed to make a defensive save to keep the game tied.
The Red Storm kept the pressure on and junior Abby Walker had a good look, but her shot was deflected wide.
With 7:25 left in the second half, Murray sent a shot wide.
Scarborough continued to pressure and there was a scrum in front of the goal, but the ball trickled wide of the cage.
With 6:15 to go, on a corner, a blast by Dobecki trickled wide.
With just over a minute left, the Red Storm had another scrum, but a shot by senior Rachael Wallace was blocked by Caiazzo and a last-second possession in the box resulted in no shots and it was on to overtime.
In Maine high school field hockey, teams play two eight-minute, "sudden victory" overtime sessions with the game ending in a tie if no one scores. They also go seven-on-seven, which creates great drama.
No one scored in OT, but were there ever some golden opportunities.
Just 38 seconds in, DesRuisseaux had to kick the ball out of harm's way. The ball then came to Walker, who had a point blank shot, but DesRuisseaux made the save, then got a piece of Dobecki's rebound, which went wide.
With 4:41 to go in the first OT, Cheverus sophomore defender Abby Ford stopped a rush from Murray.
At the other end, Michaud broke in, but Souza came out to stop her rush.
Caiazzo then broke in, but again Souza stopped her cold.
Scarborough then transitioned to offense and Stags senior MaryKate Slattery had to break up a Murray rush at the last second.
Back came Cheverus and this time, it looked as if the Stags would end it, as Caiazzo went one-on-one with Souza, but Souza made the save. The ball came back to Caiazzo, who spotted a wide-open Michaud at the far post and delivered a perfect feed, but Michaud couldn't make contact and the ball trickled out of bounds.
As time wound down, Caiazzo again raced into the Red Storm zone and unleashed a shot which Souza saved to send the game to its second extra session.
"It opened my eyes," Souza said. "It was kind of scary at first, but I knew I could do it. It was a challenge. I do my best. I'm aggressive. I try to go out there and show them what I've got. I'm more aggressive in overtime."
"The name of the game in OT is making saves," Mariello said. "There's a lot of 1-v-1 scenarios. She's practiced those. She's dealt with our offense in practice. She's got the experience. It came down to a game situation. She proved that she has confidence in herself and the defense around her."
Two minutes into the second OT, Caiazzo broke in again on Souza and this time got the ball past the goalie, but as the Cheverus bench and cheering section rose to their collective feet in anticipation of a celebration, the ball rolled just wide of the far post.
"I'm very frustrated that I didn't score," Caiazzo said. "There are things I knew I should have done. I wish I got it, but it's OK."
With 4:05 left, the Stags earned a corner, but Caiazzo couldn't unleash a shot, as Dobecki broke up the play.
Walker then broke in for Scarborough, but Cheverus senior Laura Bither prevented a shot. Walker got the ball back and crossed the ball in front of the goal, but DesRuisseaux kicked it away.
With 2:28 showing, Carbin and Driscoll tried to recreate their goal combination, but DesRuisseaux broke it up. The ball then came out to Dobecki, who passed to Driscoll, but again DesRuisseaux stood tall, making the save.
In the waning seconds, the Red Storm again set up the Cheverus zone, but Murray had a shot kicked out and after a last-ditch Mariello timeout, the Stags' defense broke up the last play and the teams settled for the 1-1 draw.
"Amazing game," said Caiazzo. "It was a lot of fun. We went out and played our game. We didn't get psyched out. We just went out like it was another game. It was nice that a lot of the pressure was on their side. When it was on our side, we worked hard to get it out. Our defensive corners worked really well. A lot of things were clicking today."
"(Going into) overtime, we talked about it being one ball," McMullin said. "We had to leave everything on the field. We played as hard as we could for 60 minutes and if we let up for one second, the game was over."
Scarborough finished with an 18-8 shots advantage (12-7 on cage). The Red Storm wound up with 16 corners to Cheverus' three, but only converted on one of them (the Stags went 0-for-3). DesRuisseaux made 10 saves, while Richter also registered one. Souza made six saves.
"We made mistakes for sure," Mariello said. "There were lapses in intensity. It is what it is. What can you do but work harder next time? It was a game we needed to sum it all up and give us a reality check. We're not invincible. I don't want the girls to think they are, but it would have been nice to complete an undefeated season."
Cheverus' young players continue to impress.
"There are a lot of new people who came to the sport this year," said Caiazzo. "This year, we had five new people come in. We inspire them to do the best they can. Abby and Emily were pulled up last year. They're really dominating this year. They're taking the initiative. We rely on each other."
"To see sophomores step up, that was huge," said McMullin. "I knew we'd probably struggle early just because we had a whole new group. We wanted to play our best going into the playoffs, so tonight was big for us."
Each team has one game remaining before turning its thoughts to the playoffs.
Cheverus (now third in the Western A Heal Points standings) hopes to finish strong when it hosts South Portland Wednesday.
"This definitely boosts our confidence, but it doesn't end here," said Caiazzo. "We have to work harder. I have to work on my one-on-ones. We all have things to work on. This will help us achieve greater things."
"It's a strong league," McMullin said. "Hopefully this gives us homefield and maybe no prelim. (Wednesday's) our senior game. We have 14 seniors, so it will be an emotional day."
Scarborough (safely ensconsed in the top spot of the standings) closes at Deering Wednesday.
"I think (tonight was) great," Souza said. "It really shows us as a team what we can do and what we're capable of. It's great practice for playoffs. I think we can do it."
"It won't affect us (with Heals), but mentally yeah, it will," Mariello said. "We have to be able to rebound. It's a good experience for us going into the postseason."
Maybe, just maybe, Cheverus and Scarborough will square off one more time later this month, when a winner has to be declared and one team will go home for good.
"It feels really good to snap their win streak," said Caiazzo. "I'd be excited to see them again."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Scarborough-Cheverus meetings
Western A semifinals
Cheverus 2 @ Scarborough 1
Western A Final
@ Scarborough 3 Cheverus 2
@ Scarborough 1 Cheverus 0 (OT)
Scarborough 2 @ Cheverus 0
@ Scarborough 4 Cheverus 0
Scarborough 3 @ Cheverus 2
Scarborough 3 @ Cheverus 2
Scarborough's regular season unbeaten streak
Mon., Oct. 4 H WESTBROOK W 2-1
Thurs., Oct. 7 @ Biddeford W 8-1
Fri., Oct. 8 H CHEVERUS W 6-1
Mon., Oct. 11 @ Noble W 8-0
Tues., Oct. 12 @ Gorham W 2-0
Wed., Aug. 31 @ McAuley W 7-0
Tues., Sept. 6 H BONNY EAGLE W 2-1
Thurs., Sept. 8 @ Westbrook W 3-0
Sat., Sept. 10 @ Portland W 3-0
Wed., Sept. 14 H SANFORD T 2-2
Fri., Sept. 16 @ Marshwood W 2-1
Tues., Sept. 20 H SP W 9-0
Thurs., Sept. 22 H CHEVERUS W 2-1
Sat., Sept. 24 H GORHAM W 3-0
Wed., Sept. 28 @ TA W 2-0
Sat., Oct. 1 @ Windham W 2-0
Tues., Oct. 4 H DEERING W 8-1
Thurs., Oct. 6 @ Noble W 5-0
Wed., Oct. 12 H KENNEBUNK W 5-0
Thurs., Aug. 30 H MCAULEY W 10-0
Sat., Sept. 1 @ Bonny Eagle W 7-0
Wed., Sept. 5 H WESTBROOK W 2-0
Tues., Sept. 11 H PORTLAND W 6-0
Thurs., Sept. 13 @ Sanford W 1-0
Sat., Sept. 15 H MARSHWOOD W 1-0
Mon., Sept. 17 @ SP W 4-0
Fri., Sept. 21 @ Cheverus W 4-0
Tues., Sept. 25 @ Gorham W 3-0
Thurs., Sept. 27 H TA W 4-0
Sat., Sept. 29 H WINDHAM W 2-0
Mon., Oct. 1 @ Deering W 4-0
Wed., Oct. 3 H NOBLE W 6-0
Fri., Oct. 5 @ Kennebunk W 5-0
Wed., Sept. 4 @ Marshwood W 2-1
Sat., Sept. 7 H MASSABESIC W 5-1
Tues., Sept. 10 @ Noble W 9-0
Mon., Sept. 16 H SANFORD W 6-0
Wed,. Sept. 18 @ Windham W 2-0
Sat., Sept. 21 H SP ppd
Mon.,, Sept. 23 H PORTLAND W 5-0
Tues., Sept. 24 @ TA W 2-1
Thurs., Sept. 26 H WESTBROOK W 2-0
Sat., Sept. 28 H SP W 10-0
Wed., Oct. 2 @ Biddeford W 10-1
Fri., Oct. 4 H BONNY EAGLE W 4-0
Tues., Oct. 8 @ McAuley W 13-0