Scarborough fulfills its destiny; Red Storm rally for stirring 2-1 overtime win over Skowhegan in Class A Final
YARMOUTH—A mere five-and-a-half minutes from despair, the Scarborough Red Storm field hockey team rose up off the deck, rallied and became Class A state champions for the first time Saturday afternoon.
Facing the same team which had broken their hearts a year ago, the eight-time reigning state champion Skowhegan Indians, the Red Storm saved their best for last, tying the score on senior standout Brittany Ross' goal with 5:27 remaining in regulation, then winning it 3 minutes, 16 seconds into overtime when senior Heather Carrier's long hit was tipped home by classmate Ellie Morin, unleashing a celebration many years in the making.
"It's really the best feeling," said Morin. "Coming so close last year and having it taken away was the worse feeling. Today feels so good."
"This is the kind of game you like," added Scarborough coach/dynasty builder Kerry Mariello. "You want to win like this. The surge of energy you feel at the end is something you keep for a lifetime and I'm glad the girls got to experience that."
Long road to glory
Scarborough resurrected its field hockey program in 2000, after a two-decade absence. Then, it slowly climbed the ladder. Mariello took over in 2002 and posted marks of 2-8-3 and 3-11 in her first two years. Then, in 2004, the Red Storm turned the corner, going 8-6 in the regular season before upsetting perennial contender South Portland in an epic penalty corner finish in the preliminary round for the program's first playoff win.
The following year, Scarborough finished 10-6 and reached the quarterfinals again. In 2006, the Red Storm were 11-3 in the regular season, then dropped an agonizing overtime decision at Westbrook in the quarterfinals. The next year, Scarborough only lost to one team, Sanford, once in the regular year and again in the regional final, as it wound up 14-2-1. Then, in 2008, the Red Storm went all the way to the state game for the first time, but wound up 16-2, frustrated and heartbroken after losing 2-1 to Skowhegan in double overtime.
Since that loss, Scarborough has had a simple goal: get back to the state game and win it. Pity any team standing in its way.
The Red Storm opened the 2009 season with a 12-0 rout at Portland which set the tone. They won their first 12 games by a composite 75-8 margin, then held off top contenders Cheverus (3-1) and Gorham (2-0) to wind up 14-0 for the first time, good for the top seed in Western Class A.
Scarborough blanked No. 8 Thornton Academy 2-0 in the quarterfinals, blew past No. 4 Bonny Eagle 6-0 in the semifinals, then held off a stern test from No. 2 Cheverus 3-2 in the regional final to set up a rematch with the Indians, who had dominated Eastern A yet again.
Second time's a charm
Saturday, at Yarmouth High, the Red Storm were frustrated for much of the game, but they stole the show at the end.
Skowhegan had the territorial edge in the first half, earning six penalty corners to just three for Scarborough. Red Storm senior goalie Jordi Saunders came up big midway through the half, denying Indians sophomore Jessie Skillings on a penalty corner. With 7:17 left in the half, the Red Storm had their best scoring chance, but Morin's shot was tipped high and away and the game was scoreless at the break.
Play heated up in the second half and it didn't take long for Skowhegan to take the lead. Just 3 minutes, 19 seconds in, senior Rebecca Pratt's shot was slowed by the Scarborough defense, but senior Mallory Hancock pounced on the rebound and backhanded it home to give the Indians a 1-0 advantage.
The Red Storm didn't panic and pushed for the equalizer, but were denied time and again. A minute after the goal, Ross was stopped. With 21:59 left, Carrier's long hit was redirected just wide of the goal by sophomore Kelsey Howard. Two minutes later, Carrier had a shot on a corner, but it was saved by Hancock.
With 13:27 to play, Mariello called timeout and urged her charges to keep the pressure on. With 9:18 left, Ross' shot was saved. With 7:18 to play, Morin shot wide on a corner.
The hour was getting late, but Scarborough's perseverance finally paid off with 5:27 to go. Underrated senior Ashley Anastasoff played the ball into the circle and the relentless Ross finally was able to hack it past Hancock to tie the score (Ross flung her stick in the air in jubilation as the ball rattled home).
"Usually, we're nervous, but there was more anger," said Morin. "We knew we had to bring it harder than we were. We knew once it was tied, it was our game."
"We were anxious, so I told them in the timeout that I believed in them and to have faith in themselves," added Mariello. "They did it and I knew they would. (Skowhegan's) defense was fierce. To put two goals by them, we'll take it. They have a very aggressive goalie. She comes out quite a bit. We tried to answer by sweeping it around the side. That's what we did."
Skowhegan made one final push with just over 2 minutes to go, earning its lone corner of the half (the Red Storm had nine), but the Indians couldn't convert and it was on to overtime.
In high school field hockey, teams play 7-on-7 in two eight-minute "sudden victory" overtimes. Scarborough made sure the end came quickly.
With 4:44 to go in the first OT, Carrier played a long hit into the box and the ball rolled into the goal. If it had been untouched, the goal wouldn't have counted since the shot came from beyond the box. The Indians believed the goal would be waved off, but the Red Storm began to celebrate, Morin pointed to her stick and then got affirmation from the referee, ending Scarborough's odyssey with the scintillating 2-1 victory.
"I knew Heather has a hard hit," Morin said. "Coach told me to get in on the goalie because I'm bigger sized. It came toward me and I knew I had to get a stick on it. I tipped it in. I wasn't sure (the referee) would count it. I saw her (motion goal) and I couldn't believe it."
Morin's teammates and coach supported her explanation.
"Heather hit it in and Ellie's job is to get in front of the goalie and she tipped it in there," Ross said.
"From my view, I could see it," said Carrier. "I was just hoping the ref would see it. Ellie redirected it. It was amazing. We've come a long way."
"A lot of times we do these kind of drills when we train on just hitting the ball with the tip of our stick," Mariello added. "We got a piece of it. It went our way."
Then, it was celebration time.
"That was quite a game," said Carrier. "It's a great way to finish senior year. There's 12 of us and we really wanted it. As soon as we lost last season, we knew we'd be back this year. We came in wanting revenge. We started preseason ready to go. We knew we had to bring our 'A' game every game. We knew we had to step it up after they scored first. We were really (angry). We knew we could come back."
"It wasn't easy," added Ross. "We worked so hard for this. I can't describe the feeling. You just have to experience a state championship for yourself. There were so many emotions when Ellie scored. I just got so excited and started crying a little. I'm crazy like that.
"Skowhegan's definitely the strongest team we've seen. We were a little nervous. We're definitely a second half team. We pushed through. It's amazing to break up their streak. There's no better feeling. When I was on varsity as a freshman, we improved from the last year and just kept improving. We've worked so hard for this. We did it for everyone, especially coach. She's like my second Mom."
Morin, who lived the dream of every player who every put on a uniform, said she was most happy for her twin sister Jackie, who missed the latter part of the season with a knee injury.
"We did it for (Jackie)," Ellie Morin said. "It was hard for her to watch and not to play, she's such an athlete. After losing last year, we worked so hard in practice. We love playing together. We never gave up. I don't that there's a team that deserves it more than we do."
Mariello, who had to deal with enormous expectations and occasional criticism of running up the score this season, was relieved and ecstatic. She had plenty of postgame praise to go around.
"It's overwhelming," she said. "It's a great feeling. The greatest feeling ever, right here. We made some adjustments and had perseverance for sure. We dug deep and we knew we had it. They're a special group. They deserved every ounce of this. I'm so glad for them.
The 2010 Red Storm will be defending a state championship, but will be a very different team. Not only do Anastasoff, Carrier, both Morins, Ross and Saunders graduate, but Scarborough will also have to say goodbye to Lauren Bickmore, Akashia Gergler, Molly Gove, Emma Kane, Jenn Oddy, Anna Wagner and Shelby Wheeler, all of whom played a big role in guiding the Red Storm to the pinnacle.
Scarborough does return Howard, Mo Hannan, Kristen and Stephanie Felt and will introduce some new stars. The Red Storm have now established themselves as an elite program and can't be overlooked.
"We'll try to come back and do it again next year," said Mariello. "This feeling is addicting and we want to keep it going. This might be the start of a streak of our own."
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org