Scarborough wins battle of unbeatens at Cheverus
PORTLAND—On the last day of summer, a hint of October was in the air Friday afternoon at Cheverus High School.
With the temperature struggling to hit 60 degrees, the host Stags and visiting Scarborough field hockey teams both put their championship resumes on display in a battle of unbeatens.
First blood went to the Red Storm, which controlled play virtually throughout, came out with a vengeance and let the rest of the region know that for now at least, the road to the title will once again have to go through Scarborough.
The Red Storm grabbed a 1-0 lead just 2 minutes, 7 seconds in when senior Emily Bunting scored on a rebound. Five minutes later, off a penalty corner, junior Rachael Wallace finished and after Scarborough's superb defense fended off four straight Cheverus corners, the Red Storm broke it open on senior Katie Granzier's goal for a 3-0 halftime lead. Scarborough never let up in the second half and with 11:51 to play, senior Karli-An Gilbert delivered the coup de grace as the Red Storm went on to a 4-0 win, its eighth straight win and eighth successive shutout, which dropped the Stags to 8-1.
"It's just a big fat wow!" said Scarborough coach Kerry Mariello. "We knew it would be a tough game. The girls were hyped. You never know how they'll respond in a situation like this. I'm proud of each one of them. It was a full team effort."
Cheverus is still a relatively young program, but since Scarborough reached the state final for the first time in 2008, the schools have become top rivals.
The Red Storm has dominated, winning nine of the 10 meetings (please see sidebar), but recent encounters have been memorable.
In a similar battle of undefeated teams in the final game of the 2009 regular season, Scarborough prevailed, 3-1, at Cheverus, to earn the top seed for the playoffs. The teams met again in the Western A Final, where the Stags stunned the Red Storm by leading at the half, 2-1, on a pair of penalty corner goals from standout Emily Sawchuck. Scarborough rallied to triumph, 3-2, before going on to win the championship.
Two years ago, the Red Storm pummeled Cheverus, 6-1, in the regular season, but a couple weeks later, in the Western A semis, the Stags earned their only win to date in the series, springing a 2-1 upset en route to their first trip to the state final.
Last season, Scarborough held off visiting Cheverus, 2-1. Another postseason encounter was hoped for, but both teams were stunned in almost identical fashion in the Western A quarterfinals, on "sudden victory" penalty corners after a scoreless 76 minutes. The Red Storm were ousted by Windham, the Stags by Westbrook.
Both teams had dazzled in the first half of the 2012 season.
Cheverus opened with a 4-0 home victory over Thornton Academy. Shutout wins over visiting Deering (5-0), host Windham (2-0), visiting Biddeford (3-0) and visiting Bonny Eagle (4-0) followed. The Stags finally gave up a goal in wins at Massabesic (3-1) and Portland (7-1), but returned to their shutout ways Monday, 2-0, at defending regional champion Marshwood.
Scarborough has been equally impressive. The Red Storm crushed visiting McAuley (10-0) and host Bonny Eagle (7-0) to open. Scarborough then made a statement by holding off visiting Westbrook, 2-0. Wins over visiting Portland (6-0), host Sanford (1-0), visiting Marshwood (1-0) and host South Portland (4-0) followed.
Friday's game was supposed to be played Wednesday, but poor field conditions pushed it back 48 hours.
For Scarborough, it was worth the wait.
The Red Storm controlled possession from the opening whistle and with 27:53 to play in the first half, Granzier sent a shot in from the side that Cheverus junior goalie Libby DesRuisseaux stopped. Problem was, the rebound came right to Bunting, who sent it into the cage for a 1-0 lead.
"Katie Granzier, who's ridiculous, passed it in and the ball was there and I just tipped it in," Bunting said. "It really important to get the lead."
With 22:28 remaining before halftime, on a penalty corner, senior Ellen Walker passed to Wallace, who finished and just like that, Scarborough had a commanding 2-0 lead, forcing Stags coach Amy McMullin to call timeout.
It did help turn momentum as Cheverus transitioned to offense and soon the Stags earned a penalty corner and another and another and one more, but couldn't even get a shot through to the goals as twice Red Storm defenders knocked the ball out of harm's way.
"Once we (have to defend a corner), we just encourage each other and try to get the ball out," Gove said. "Our goalie definitely steps up. We do whatever we have to do to push the ball out."
"In those scenarios, as a coach, you panic, but for them to be successful just strengthened us mentally," Mariello said. "We know we have the talent, it was a matter of having the psychological side match that."
The visitors then completely took the wind out of Cheverus' sails as with 13:59 left in the half, a long shot from sophomore Abby Walker was tipped home by Granzier, making it 3-0.
Any comeback hopes the hosts may have entertained were dashed early in the second half by Scarborough senior defender Mikaela Gove, who broke up a rush by Cheverus senior Anne Slattery at the second, and senior goalie Shannon Hicks, who denied a shot by Stags junior Elyse Caiazzo.
The finishing touch came with 11:51 remaining when, on another corner, Gilbert and senior Grace Whelan executed a pretty give-and-go with Gilbert passing to Whelan, who sent it back to Gilbert, who fired a shot into the cage to make it 4-0.
Scarborough didn't give the Stags another sniff at the goal and soon celebrated its biggest win to date this fall.
"We were all pumped for this," said Bunting. "We'd been waiting for this. Everyone on this team does a great job. We're strong and close. At halftime, coach said, 'Imagine it's a 0-0 game. Stay with them.' We did."
"We were really excited for this game," Gove said. " can't say we weren't nervous, but we take that and put it right into energy and went out and played our hardest. We love to come out and show people exactly what we've got. We play as a team. We pass, we work together. That's what we're about. This means a lot to us. I think we outpassed them, we went around them. We played hard defense and never gave up. We came out in the second half like it was a 0-0 game and played our toughest."
"It' was a competitive game, 1 versus 2," Mariello added. "The girls love the game. They put it to them. I had them come out in the second half with a 0-0 mentality. There were 30 minutes and we knew Cheverus could score very quickly. We play 60 minutes no matter what the score is."
Scarborough finished with an 8-2 shots advantage as the Red Storm defense kept Cheverus from putting shots on cage.
"Our defense, I don't even know what to say," said Bunting. "They're always right there. Great speed. I only have good words to say about them."
"This is our eighth straight game without any goals being scored on us," Gove said. "Shutting them out feels so good.
"It's not necessarily the defense, it's all 11 players who have done the job," Mariello added. "They know how valuable possession of the ball is. They have great vision. They read the ball well and they know what to do with it when they get it."
Hicks made two saves. The Stags got four saves from DesRuisseaux. Cheverus finished with an 8-6 edge in penalty corners.
McMullin knew her team was in trouble early and couldn't recover.
"It wasn't the start we wanted," McMullin said. "We haven't been in that situation. To let them get one goal, then put our heads down, I can see why that happened. (Scarborough) came out and they played great. Credit to them. From that first goal, we were completely defeated. We can't let that happen. If we got a goal, it might have been a whole different game. It is what it is. It's a regular season game. We're not crying over it."
Cheverus looks to bounce back Tuesday when it hosts South Portland. The Stags still have to play at Gorham, McAuley and Sanford and a home test versus Kennebunk remaining on their slate.
"We have been playing really well and I think it's great to have a wakeup call," said McMullni "We're nine games in. There isn't much regular season left. We have to learn from it. We're still 8-1. We need to be proud of that. We end with Sanford. That will be a big game for us. We need to come out and play our style of field hockey the rest of the way."
Scarborough is back in action Tuesday at Gorham. The Red Storm also has home games with Thornton Academy, Windham and Noble and trips to Deering and Kennebunk remaining.
Scarborough hopes to keep the good times rolling and finish as strong as it has started.
"We never take a win and say we're perfect," Gove said. "We always practice hard and get ready for the next game. We have to continue to pass, improve our grass game, push on offense and work on defense."
"We have to just keep it up," said Bunting. "No one's ever perfect. So far, so good. I don't want to jinx it."
"We know other teams will be up for us," Mariello added. "We need to continue to grow and expand on what we're doing. No one's ever perfect. We want to be the best we can be and be there in that final game."