Scarborough girls hold off Kennebunk to earn homefield advantage
SCARBOROUGH—The last thing the defending Class A champion Scarborough girls' lacrosse team wants to do is play a postseason game in Kennebunk.
Or Gorham for that matter.
That's why Thursday's home battle with Kennebunk was so critical to the Red Storm's repeat hopes.
A loss and Scarborough's quest for another championship would have included one or perhaps two games away from home.
A victory meant that the road to the Western A title went through the Red Storm.
Although it wasn't always pretty and came down to the waning seconds, consider it mission accomplished.
Scarborough led most of the night, twice held the potent Kennebunk offense scoreless for over 15 minutes and thanks to three goals and four assists from junior Maggie Smith, two goals and four assists from classmate Mary Scott and some clutch saves from sophomore goalie Meg Kirsch in the second half, the Red Storm escaped the Rams, 12-11.
Kennebunk pulled within a goal with 14 seconds to go, but junior Kelsey Howard won the ensuing draw and Scarborough ran out the clock to improve to 10-1, ending the Rams' regular season at 10-2.
"Nothing like a stressful ending there," said Red Storm coach Marcia Wood. "(The girls) knew it was big going in. Did we want homefield the whole way or did we want to see Gorham in the second round? I hoped that would fuel them enough."
Scarborough and Kennebunk have become big-time rivals since the Rams moved from Class B to Class A in 2008.
That year, the Red Storm won the regular season encounter, 11-7, but Kennebunk upset host Scarborough in the regional final, 10-9, in overtime. In 2009, Scarborough again won the regular season game, 13-9, but due to the vagaries of the Heal Points system, had to go to the Rams for the quarterfinals and lost, 13-9.
Last year, no one beat the Red Storm, including Kennebunk.
Scarborough won at the Rams in regular season finale, 12-9, then did it again in the semifinals, 11-3, at home en route to the state championship.
This spring, after some enormous graduation losses and with a vastly altered lineup, the Red Storm has sparkled again. Scarborough dropped its third game of the year, a 16-11 home setback to Class B powerhouse Yarmouth, but hasn't lost since, riding a balanced offense and ever-improving defense to eight straight wins (by an average margin of 12-5) entering Thursday's game. That included an inspirational 13-9 victory over Gorham and its senior U. Mass-bound standout Mia Rapolla (who scored just three times) and a hard-fought 7-5 home win over dangerous Marshwood.
Kennebunk excelled early, winning its first six outings, highlighted by a rare and satisfying 12-10 victory at perennial powerhouse Waynflete. After falling, 9-8, at Marshwood, the Rams downed Greely, Massabesic and Cheverus before rallying to down visiting Gorham Tuesday, 14-13.
Thursday's game started off with both offenses clicking, but there was enough defense mixed in during the second half to allow the host Red Storm to earn the crucial win.
Just 17 seconds in, Scott set up junior Laura Przybylowicz for a goal and a 1-0 lead. Kennebunk answered with 23:18 to go in the 25-minute first half when senior standout Camille Auger set up classmate Taylor Crowley. Scarborough went up 2-1 when senior Dani Foster (one of four players honored on Senior Night) beat Rams' senior goalie Kellie Renk on a free position shot.
Kennebunk tied the score with 18:52 to go when senior Molly Centore scored on a free position and with 17:29 remaining, Auger again set up Crowley for a shot that eluded Kirsch and the Rams had their lone lead, 3-2.
Kennebunk had no idea that it wouldn't score again until the late stage of the half and that the hosts were about to run off five straight goals.
With 11:17 to play in the half, Scott fed Przybylowicz for the tying goal. Thirty-five seconds later, Smith took a pass from senior Meghan Quirk and scored to put Scarborough ahead to stay.
Goals from Smith (assisted by Scott at the 8-minute mark), Scott (from Przybylowicz, with 4:58 showing) and senior Erica Meader (from Smith, with 2:01 remaining) pushed the lead to 7-3.
With 1:30 to go, Centore scored unassisted to end a 15 minute, 59 second drought, but 28 seconds later, Howard scored on a free position and the advantage was back to four goals, 8-4.
The Rams did take some momentum into the half when Auger set up junior Kate Graydon for a goal with 12.1 seconds showing, making it an 8-5 contest.
Kennebunk would thrice get within a goal in the second half, but could never catch the Red Storm.
Just 21 seconds into the new half, Auger scored her first goal, unassisted, and it was 8-6.
After Smith set up Scott for a goal, Centore and senior Emily Kessel scored unassisted goals for the visitors to pull them within 9-8.
With 19 minutes to play, Quirk fed Smith for a goal, but with 17:05 to go, Auger scored on a free position and Kennebunk was only down 10-9.
Wood called timeout and Kirsch looked dejected, but whatever words of encouragement were given paid big dividends as the goalie was about to come up big.
With 16:30 to play, just seconds out of the timeout, Graydon was awarded a free position shot and a chance to tie the score, but Kirsch turned it aside.
Then, with 15:10 remaining, Quirk (from Scott) scored and it was 11-9.
With just over eight minutes to play, Auger had consecutive looks, but Kirsch stopped both bids.
"It was pretty scary," Kirsch said. "I think and react. I try to do what I think I can do."
With 6:59 showing, Howard (from Smith) scored and the Red Storm appeared in good shape, up 12-9.
No lead is safe against the Rams, however, and Scarborough would have to sweat to the finish.
Kirsch kept it a three-goal game with saves on Auger and Centore, but finally, after a Red Storm turnover, with 1:15 to go, Auger set up Crowley for a goal (ending a 15:50 drought) and the lead was down to 12-10.
Then, with just 14 seconds remaining, after another Scarborough turnover, sophomore Rose Bryant scored unassisted and Kennebunk was back within one again, 12-11.
"We made a few mistakes that Kennebunk capitalized on that kind of hurt us," Wood said. "We had a little trouble possessing the ball and taking the time off the clock. I want them to get used to holding on to the ball for a minute or two. We try to not get into shootouts with the other teams."
The ensuing draw would loom large. If the Rams won it, they'd have time to race down and conceivably get a shot off to score and force overtime.
Instead, Howard won possession, raced to the sideline and ran out the clock and Scarborough had itself a much-deserved and hard-fought 12-11 triumph.
"It was huge," Smith said. "We really wanted it and we just played our game. That's what we needed to do. It was really scary, but we knew that if we came together as a team and if we did our 'D', offense and transition, we'd pull off the win. We lost a lot of seniors, but we had great players coming up. People have filled positions. Our first playday was rough, but as the season progressed, we've come together as a team."
"I think we just stepped up to the challenge and I feel like it's hard for us since we lost a lot of players, but we work hard for what we want," Kirsch said. "Kennebunk's a really good team. We tried to mark up. The defense had to collapse as soon as possible. It was a really good challenge. I was excited for this game, to have a good matchup. I'm so happy."
"It's been really exciting," Wood added. "I knew we'd be talented, but I didn't think they'd catch on that fast. We only have four seniors and it's nice to see that they want to do it again. Now that they know they can, it's a whole new ballgame."
Seven different Red Storm players scored. Smith led the way with three goals and four assists. Scott scored twice and had four helpers. Przybylowicz had two goals and an assist and Howard also scored twice. Foster, Meader and Quirk (two assists) scored one goal apiece. Howard and Scott had a team-high seven ground balls. Smith finished with six. Kirsch made 11 clutch saves.
"(Meg) made huge saves," said Smith. "She's stepped up. We graduated a senior and Megan's filled her spot and has done awesome."
"If Meg makes a save at the beginning, she's good," Wood said. "She steps up and she doesn't make a ton, but she makes the key saves."
For Kennebunk, Cantore and Crowley both scored three times, while Auger had two goals and Bryant, Graydon and Kessel one each. Auger finished with four assists. Renk made seven saves.
The Rams had a 13-12 edge in draws, but 10 second half turnovers proved fatal. Scarborough finished with a 24-23 edge in shots (but Kennebunk put 22 on cage to just 19 for the hosts).
"We started too slow," said Kennebunk coach Annie Barker. "The draw circle was an issue. We weren't getting the ball. They're used to playing on turf and they're really scrappy. I felt like we didn't have the fire we had against Gorham Tuesday. It was anybody's game at any given point here. I know we can get ourselves out of a hole, but I didn't feel the unity of everyone coming together like we did against Waynflete and Gorham. We were going one-on-one too much. We needed to pass the ball and settle down. It was too fast at the beginning. That's why too many mistakes were happening."
Kennebunk won't play another meaningful game for almost two weeks, but hopes to scrimmage Waynflete at some point before the quarterfinals on June 8. The Rams appear locked into the No. 2 spot in Western A and will get at least two home playoff games if they advance that far.
Scarborough still has to play at Westbrook Tuesday in the regular season finale, then will be the No. 1 seed for the second year in a row.
"Being home is huge for us," Kirsch said. "We want to play on turf."
"Homefield was pushing us to win this game," Smith said. "Last year we had homefield and it was a big advantage. That's what we were gunning for."
"I do not want to play on grass," added Wood, who will get her wish. "I want turf the whole way through."