Cheverus field hockey reaches regional final; Waynflete ousted
(Ed. Note: For the complete Cheverus-Gorham and Waynflete-Dirigo game stories, with additional photos, please visit theforecaster.net)
Results were mixed last week for the two city field hockey teams who managed to earn byes into the quarterfinal round.
With the sting of last year's painful first round playoff ouster front and center in its memory, the Cheverus field hockey team passed its playoff test last Tuesday evening.
But not without some anxious moments.
The Stags, who went 13-1 in the regular season and earned the No. 2 seed in Western Class A, "hosted" No. 7 Gorham in a game moved to Hannaford Field in Cape Elizabeth due to poor field conditions at Cheverus.
The Stags got the jump when Elyse Caiazzo scored in the ninth minute.
"It's great to start off with a goal to get the momentum of the team up," Caiazzo said. "I just kind of do what I can to get around the (defensive) players and hope that (the shot) goes in."
"We wanted to come out and take charge," said Stags coach Amy McMullin. "Elyse has great stick skills. It's hard to believe she only picked up a stick a year ago. That was an unbelievable goal. Top shelf. I can't ask for better than that."
The Stags had chances to go up even further before halftime, but couldn't convert.
Then, on a penalty corner, Caiazzo set up senior Katie Roy for a goal with 19:53 remaining and it looked like Cheverus was home free, up, 2-0.
"I was being patient, staying on my toes, like Coach Mac tells me to," said Roy. "(The ball) just came to me and I hit it in. It felt great."
"Katie had a big goal," McMullin said. "She's been injured and hasn't been able to practice. We just wanted to get her some minutes. We like her near the goal because she knows how to score."
The Rams didn't wilt, however, and cut the deficit in half with 14:17 to play.
The Stags had a chance to slam the door when they earned a penalty stroke two minutes later, but senior Staci Swallow was denied by Gorham senior goalie Patty Smith, keeping hope alive for the Rams.
From there, the Stags kept the ball in their offensive end and when the final horn sounded, a celebration in the making since last October spilled onto the field.
"This feels absolutely amazing," Caiazzo said. "We worked so hard to get here and now it's paying off. It was a little nervewracking, but we knew to get together as a team and talk. We play as a team, we work as a team, we hustle as a team. We give 150 percent."
"It feels great," said Roy, who addition to scoring, helped lead the defensive charge. "We all came together as one and worked together as hard as we could. With 11 seniors, we didn't want today to be the last game."
"Gorham played their hearts out," McMullin said. "Give them credit. We mentioned last year a lot. We talked about getting our season stolen away. We focused on living in the moment."
Saturday, Cheverus "hosted" No. 3 Marshwood, the defending regional champion, in the semifinals, again played in Cape Elizabeth.
This one was a 60-minute battle, but Alex Logan's goal midway through the second half put the Stags on top to stay.
"(The goal was) kind of a blur," said Logan. "I know both Elyse Caiazzo and Staci Swallow passed it into the circle at different times. My focus was just to get low and get my stick on the ball. When it came to me, I hit it as hard as I could and when I heard the ball hitting the backboard in the goal, it was the best sound I ever heard."
Cheverus held on from there and advanced, 1-0.
"Our victory was a total team effort," Logan said. "We knew going in, we would have to work really hard and keep the intensity very high for the entire game. Marshwood is a very skilled team and they threw everything at us, but we stayed poised and played our game. We never lost confidence. We all just played with such intensity. Our whole season has been a combination of a really stellar work ethic, excellent coaching and complete trust in one another."
"I am very proud of how the girls adjusted mid-game," McMullin said. "In the first half, we were outplayed and we knew we needed to change up our style of play. We talked a lot about playing with heart and believing in each other. I saw a complete transformation in the second half and the girls played their hearts out."
Cheverus had the daunting task of facing 16-0 Scarborough, the No. 1 seed, in the Western A Final Tuesday night (please see theforecaster.net for game story). On Sept. 21, the Red Storm handled the host Stags, 4-0, as part of its 16 successive shutout streak. The teams split two prior playoff encounters, with Scarborough triumphing, 3-2, in the 2009 regional final and Cheverus springing a 2-1 upset in the 2010 semifinals.
The Stags went to Scarborough with nothing to lose.
"All cylinders are firing for our team right now," said Logan. "We are feeling really connected and this is exactly how we want to be going into Western Maine Finals. Scarborough is a very good team and we match up well. It should be an exciting game. We are only taking one game at a time and we cannot wait for Tuesday."
"Scarborough is definitely going to be a tough game," McMullin said. "They outplayed us in regular season and we need to make sure that we come ready to play for 60 minutes. The key will be to test their defense and goalie. We need to play together as a unit and hopefully we will come out on top."
If Cheverus was able to pass that daunting test, it would play in the Class A state final Saturday (at a yet to be determined) time against either perennial champion Skowhegan or Messalonskee, McMullin's alma mater, at the University of Maine in Orono. Two years ago, in their lone prior state game appearance, the Stags lost to Skowhegan, 3-0.
History and heartache
In Western C, history was made at Fore River Fields last Tuesday afternoon when Waynflete hosted a postseason game for the first time.
The third-ranked Flyers, coming off a best-since-the-1970s 8-4-2 regular season, were hoping for a couple other firsts as well, like a first ever playoff win and a first ever trip to the semifinals, but those weren't to be.
Sixth-ranked Dirigo got a first half goal, fended off a determined Waynflete attack in the second half and added two more goals to eliminate the Flyers, 3-0, ending their season at 8-5-2.
"I can say that I believe that the ability of the Waynflete players was better reflected in our regular season record than in our performance today," lamented Flyers coach Kelly Hoffman. "We are a strong team, but Dirigo was better prepared and able to handle the pressure of the postseason."
While Waynflete will graduate some superb seniors, the future is bright for this program. It's only a matter of time until the Flyers, who have started a middle school program, host another playoff game. And win it.
"I believe this experience will allow us to learn from our mistakes and be a more formidable opponent in the playoffs next year," said Hoffman. "We had a very strong group of seniors, but we have a strong core of girls coming back next year as well."