Scarborough stymied by Skowhegan again
YARMOUTH—A year ago, Scarborough's field hockey team felt as if it didn't give perennial powerhouse Skowhegan much of a test in a 3-0 setback in the Class A state final.
Therefore, all season, the Red Storm's goal was returning to that game, meeting Skowhegan again and redeeming itself.
Scarborough would do exactly that Saturday afternoon at Yarmouth High School, taking it to its storied opponent in the early going, but despite some good early chances, it never could get the goal which might have send it on its way to victory.
Skowhegan would capitalize, taking a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute, then seizing control with a second goal 1:46 before halftime.
The Red Storm remained tenacious in the second half, but wasn't rewarded for its effort and two more Skowhegan goals ended the competitive phase of the contest.
Then, in one final display of heart, Scarborough got a well-earned goal as junior Kristen Murray finished with 11:02 to play.
The Red Storm could draw no closer, however, and fell, 4-1, becoming "four-peat" Skowhegan's 72nd straight victim as its season ended at 16-1-1.
"We showed a better game this time," said Scarborough coach Kerry Mariello, who led the Red Storm to a state final for the fourth time in her tenure. "We came out, we were passing well, we had opportunities. The game came down to missed opportunities and us having a couple breakdowns defensively. It could have gone either way. If we scored early, who knows? We were very content with how we played."
Becoming a habit
While Skowhegan is unquestionably the sport's gold standard, Scarborough has been the next best team in Class A since 2008.
That year, the Red Storm reached the state game for the first time, but dropped a double overtime heartbreaker to Skowhegan, 2-1.
The following year, however, Scarborough rallied late to tie on Brittany Ross' goal, then won its first title when Ellie Morin tipped home Heather Carrier's long hit for a 2-1 overtime win.
Last fall, the Red Storm shut out every regional opponent, but had no answer for Skowhegan, losing, 3-0.
This season was more of the same for the two powers, who combined for a 27-0-1 regular season record.
Skowhegan was only tested twice, but managed to hold off rival Messalonskee by a goal on each occasion as it earned the top seed in Eastern A, before handling Bangor (10-0), Lawrence (3-0) and Messalonskee (1-0) to extend its win streak to 71 and its composite margin of victory to 124-2.
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, 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. The Red Storm's 35-game regular season winning streak then came to a halt with a 1-1 home tie against Cheverus. Scarborough closed with a 4-0 victory at Deering to extend its regular season unbeaten streak to 47. The Red Storm then dispatched Gorham (5-0), Marshwood (1-0) and Massabesic (6-3) to advance.
Saturday, Scarborough returned to the site of its lone championship, but Skowhegan wasn't about to cede its crown, even though the Red Storm made things interesting.
Scarborough came out flying and in the first minute almost struck first, but a Murray shot, which got past Skowhegan sophomore goalie Leah Kruse, was swept away at the last second by junior defender Victoria Mullin.
"I don't think they really expected us to come out as excited and strong as a we did," Murray said. "Especially that first rush up the field. We got a corner right off the bat. I don't think they expected us to have the gusto we did. We just couldn't capitalize."
The Red Storm had five shots in all in the first half and forced Kruse to make five saves, but a '0' remained in its score column throughout the 30 minutes.
You can only hold Skowhegan at bay so long and with 12:35 to play in the first half, off a penalty corner, senior Allison Lancaster, a finalist for Miss Maine Field Hockey, put forth a dazzling display by eluding a defender before rocketing a shot past Scarborough sophomore goalie Alyssa Souza to put her team on top to stay.
A 1-0 halftime deficit might have felt manageable, but when Skowhegan struck again with 1:46 showing, the Red Storm suddenly had a big hill to climb.
The second goal also came off a corner, as senior Logan LeBlanc, whose initial shot was blocked by Souza, got the ball back and fed it to junior Rylie Blanchet, who finished for a 2-0 advantage.
In the first half, Scarborough went 0-for-2 on corners, while Skowhegan converted 2-of-6.
The Red Storm wasn't able to come out as strong in the second and Skowhegan began to pull away.
Just 78 seconds in, Souza had to make a save off a corner.
With 26:01 to play, a rush by Blanchet was broken up at the last minute.
A minute later, a shot by sophomore Brooke Michonski on a corner resulted in a defensive save.
With 22:40 remaining, Scarborough earned a corner and junior Maddy Dobecki unleashed a shot, but Kruse made the save.
Skowhegan then transitioned to offense and added to its lead as Michonski broke in and three times tried to beat Souza, only to have Souza make the save each time, before she decided against a fourth shot, passed the ball to junior Renee Wright and Wright beat Souza to make it 3-0 with 22:19 to play.
Mariello called timeout, but it didn't help.
With 16:26 left, on a corner, Skowhegan made it 4-0, as Blanchet crossed the ball, sophomore Lauren LeBlanc whiffed on a shot, but Logan LeBlanc did not, redirecting the ball into the cage for a 4-0 lead.
Most teams would have thrown in the towel at that point, but Scarborough isn't most teams and instead won possession and earned a corner with 15:25 to play.
It came oh-so-close to resulting in a goal, as a shot by junior Abby Walker got past Kruse, but Skowhegan senior defender Holly Lupo made the save at the last second to preserve the shutout.
That changed a little over four minutes later.
With 11:02 remaining, freshman Ashley Levesque fed Murray, who ripped a shot into the cage and the score was 4-1.
"Even being down 2-0 at halftime was nothing," said Murray. "We could easily come back from that. Even the third one, there were still 20 minutes left. The game's never over until the final buzzer. We didn't give up. (The ball got) sent it across, it was on the ground and I just swept it in. It was exciting to score in a state game. It was better than not having any goals."
"Even at 4-0 I still felt like we were in it because we'd had chances," Mariello said. "We just had to break through. When you do that, you get a surge of energy. I wish that had happened earlier."
Any dreams of a dramatic comeback were dashed, however, as Skowhegan stepped up its defensive pressure and at 1:27 p.m., Scarborough's season came to a close with a 4-1 setback.
"Obviously it's rough coming into a game like this knowing they have such a strong program and knowing they've won so many years in a row, so you just have to come in as hard as you can," Murray said. "We gave it our all today. It just wasn't the result we wanted."
"We wanted to be back in (this game)," Mariello said. "We knew we didn't give them as good a game as we could have last year. We wanted to get back and prove it. The 4-1 score didn't indicate how well we played."
It was a quite a season for the Red Storm.
"We proved to be even better than last year," said Murray. "Last year, we had zero shots in the state game. Today, we got corners, we got a goal. We kept it an even game. The fact we gave them a game showed how far we came this season."
Scarborough was outshot, 26-12 (18-9 on cage) and saw Skowhegan take 14 corners to its four. Souza impressed with 15 saves. Kruse made six saves, while Lupo and Mullin were also credited with one defensive save apiece.
A glimpse ahead
As always, the Red Storm is losing several talented players and as always, Scarborough will have enough returning to be in the role of favorite when the 2014 campaign commences.
"The seniors taught me a lot about leadership," Murray said. "We just have to keep working hard to get back here."
"It's an outstanding senior group," said Mariello. "There's five of them, but you'd think there's 20 of them by the impact they've had on the younger players. They've stepped into the leadership role. Hopefully this motivates the girls to work even harder. We're young. We'll bounce back. Hopefully we'll be here again."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.
Previous Scarborough-Skowhegan resultes
Class A Final
Skowhegan 3 Scarborough 0
Skowhegan 2 Scarborough 1 (2 OT)