PORTLAND—Even on a day full of frustration and near misses, the Scarborough field hockey team was perfect.
That’s because when it comes to regular season games, the Red Storm always are.
Friday afternoon at rival Cheverus, Scarborough managed to extend its regular season unbeaten streak to 60 games despite going 0-for-13 on penalty corners.
After a scoreless first half, the Red Storm finally broke through when senior Abby Walker scored with 16:43 to play.
Scarborough was never able to add to its lead, but it didn’t matter as the Red Storm never allowed the Stags to put a shot on goal and they went on to a 1-0 victory.
Scarborough is now 13-0, is on the verge of locking up homefield advantage for the playoffs once again and dropped Cheverus to 5-6-2, extending its winless skid to eight games.
“It was like usual against Cheverus,” said Red Storm coach Kerry Mariello. “It was an exciting game. I want to thank Cheverus giving us that kind of game. We needed it. They came out tough. I knew they would. They play well on their home surface, but we got one in and they didn’t.”
Scarborough has been close to unbeatable for years, winning 57 of 59 regular season contests (and tying the other two) dating back to a 2-1 loss at South Portland on Oct. 2, 2010. The Red Storm have reached the Class A Final each of the past two years, but lost to Skowhegan each time.
This fall, Scarborough has been a steamroller again.
The Red Storm made an immediate statement with a 3-0 home victory over co-preseason favorite Marshwood. They only got better from there, downing host Massabesic (3-0), visiting Noble (12-0) and host Portland (7-0) with ease. Next up was a scare at Sanford, but Scarborough passed it, 2-1, in overtime. After a 9-0 home win over Windham and a 6-0 blanking of host South Portland, the Red Storm were taken to OT again, by visiting Thornton Academy, but survived, 1-0. Shutouts of host Westbrook (5-0), visiting Biddeford (8-0) and host Bonny Eagle (10-0) followed before Wednesday’s 10-1 home win over McAuley.
The Stags, meanwhile, have been on a roller coaster, winning their first five before coming back to earth.
Cheverus opened with a 3-2 win at Westbrook, then downed visiting Biddeford (4-1), host Bonny Eagle (1-0), visiting McAuley (7-0) and visiting Windham (2-1). After tying host Deering (2-2), the Stags lost at home to Gorham (1-0) and at Marshwood (5-1). Cheverus played visiting Massabesic to a 2-2 tie, then lost at Noble, 2-0, fell at home to Portland in double overtime Monday, 3-2, and lost at Sanford Wednesday, 2-1.
Prior to Friday’s encounter, the Red Storm had won 11 of 13 all-time meetings (please see sidebar, below), with the Stags taking one (an epic upset in the 2010 semifinals) and the teams tying, 1-1, last October in Scarborough.
Traditionally, Cheverus makes life tough for the Red Storm, especially on grass and that was again the case Friday.
The contest was preceded by a Senior Day ceremony, then, once play began, it was clear that Scarborough would dominate possession, but good looks at the goal were few.
In the third minute, Walker rushed in and shot, but Stags senior goalie Casey Simpson made the save.
Walker tried again a few minutes later, but again Simpson made the save.
With 14 minutes to play in the half, Red Storm sophomore Kristen Levesque unleashed a high shot which went just wide.
With 7:55 to go, senior Maddy Dobecki tried, but had her shot blocked.
Scarborough had nine penalty corner opportunities in the half, but all went for naught.
Cheverus continued to hang on in the second half, as Red Storm senior Kristen Murray redirected a pass from sophomore Ashley Levesque just wide and a shot attempt on a corner from senior Kaitlin Prince was blocked.
Just when it looked like the Stags could stymie Scarborough all day, the explosive visitors showed how quickly they can score.
A long hit by Dobecki came into the circle, deflected to Walker and Walker beat Simpson for a 1-0 lead.
“Maddy hit it and I think (sophomore) Lily (Nygren) tipped it up and all I knew was that I wanted to get my stick on the ball,” Walker said. “It was lucky, I guess. It was both relief and exhilaration. I was like, ‘Yes! One went in.’ We were getting so frustrated because we were so close. Corner after corner, we just didn’t get a goal. It’s always stressful when you can’t score, but we stayed calm.”
“It was frustrating (not scoring), but I had total confidence we’d score eventually and come out with the win,” Prince said.
“Teams will pack it in defensively against us and they did a really good job of that, so we had to be patient and know something eventually will squeeze through,” Mariello added.
Cheverus coach Amy Ashley called timeout, but it didn’t generate any offense for her team.
The Red Storm almost doubled their lead, but Murray shot just wide, Walker had a shot after a long rush saved by Simpson, Kristen Levesque tried to beat Simpson on the backhand to no avail and Dobecki had a shot tipped wide.
The Stags did venture into Scarborough’s zone with just over four minutes to play, but a long hit from junior Emily Michaud was cleared by Prince.
“Our defense has worked on rotating back,” Prince said. “If one of us gets beat, someone else is back to help. We have each other’s backs. We know if we miss the ball, a teammate will be there.”
The Red Storm then ran out the clock on yet another triumph.
“It’s really important to have a close game before the playoffs,” Walker said. “Cheverus always plays really tough against us, so we were expecting a tough game. We wanted that challenge. I think close games are fun. It’s so exciting. When we get in these high intensity games, we don’t get scared. We play our game and get our passing going and it works out for us.”
“This was really good,” Prince said. “I knew we had it in us. Cheverus played so well today. It was good for conditioning. It will get us in tip-top shape going into the playoffs.”
“We controlled the tempo of the game,” Mariello added. “Winning is an attitude. It becomes a part of you. We have fun doing it. It’s not like it’s a chore or a job. It just happens that we’ve been successful in the end. It’s a great feeling.”
Scarborough finished the game with a 17-0 advantage in shots and a 13-0 edge in corners, but didn’t produce its usual prolific offense.
“The grass here is tough,” Walker said. “It’s a lot slower. We practice on grass, but it’s not the same as in a game. It slows us down. We were slow passing on corners. We can usually get them off faster, but today we were just slow.”
Junior goalie Alyssa Souza didn’t face a single shot.
Simpson made four saves for Cheverus.
“We just couldn’t get the ball in the circle,” Ashley lamented. “I’m proud of our defense and our goalie. We knew getting (Scarborough) on grass gave us a better chance. I was hoping we’d get a little more out of our offense today, but it didn’t happen. We psyche ourselves out playing Scarborough. I wish we had the team we had down at Sanford today. I think we could have played better. We dominated on Monday for the most part, then lost it. At Sanford, I think we played the best I’ve seen this team play, but we had two breakdowns. We didn’t have any good chances today. At halftime, we talked about just getting a corner. We just couldn’t come through.”
Cheverus (now 10th in the Western Class A Heal Points standings) hopes to end its winless skid Tuesday when it finishes the regular season at South Portland. The Stags are likely in the playoffs, but want to win to be sure and also need a victory to restore some confidence.
“I think we’re in either way, but we need to win,” Ashley said. “The team is extremely positive and proud of themselves. We hit rock bottom at Noble, but we’ve done team building and you can see the results. The girls have rallied around each other. I believe in this team. If they believe in themselves, we can do anything. We just have to focus on getting the job done.”
Scarborough (which appears to have the top spot locked up in the region for the sixth year in a row), finishes Tuesday at home versus Deering. The Red Storm will look to cap their fourth straight undefeated regular season campaign and extend their regular season unbeaten streak to 61.
Scarborough knows it will ultimately be measured on what it does in the playoffs and hopefully in its third straight trip to the state game and it is confident it will be successful.
“A lot of us know what it’s like to lose two years in a row at states,” Walker said. “It’s in the back of our heads every day. It nags at us.”
“This is it,” Prince said. “I have complete confidence in us. Coach is such an amazing coach. She’s taught everyone so much. I know when I was a freshman, I saw how good the program was and it made me want to work hard. I think this year’s (underclassmen) want to have the same experience. Losing twice has been really difficult. Last year, we played such a better game. I really feel it this year. I’m not leaving this high school without a state championship for field hockey.”
“We’re definitely ready,” Mariello added. “We’re faster, stronger, smarter. We have a lot of returning veteran players. It’s just a matter of doing the right things. We’re still working at that. It helps knowing the East is a little tangled up. It gives us hope that Skowhegan is beatable. We’re excited to be back on our turf for the duration.”
Cheverus freshman Hannah Abbott tries to get past Scarborough senior defender Kaitlin Prince.
Scarborough sophomore Lily Nygren knocks the ball away from Cheverus junior Becca Archer.
Scarborough senior Maddy Dobecki tries to weave through the Cheverus defense.
Scarborough senior Gabby Farino is chased by Cheverus sophomore Carrie Hight.
Cheverus junior Abby Ford plays the ball in front of Scarborough senior Maddy Dobecki.
Scarborough sophomore Kristen Levesque winds up for a shot.
Scarborough senior Kristen Murray is defended by Cheverus senior Kelsey Masselli (left) and senior Quinn Snyder.
Western A semifinals
Cheverus 2 @ Scarborough 1
Western A Final
@ Scarborough 3 Cheverus 2
@ Scarborough 1 Cheverus 0 (OT)
Scarborough 2 @ Cheverus 0
@ Scarborough 4 Cheverus 0
Scarborough 3 @ Cheverus 2
Scarborough 3 @ Cheverus 2
Scarborough senior Abby Walker (far left, in headband) is swarmed by teammates (from left) sophomore Lily Nygren, sophomore Ashley Levesque and senior Kristen Murray after her goal in the second half of Friday’s battle at Cheverus. Walker’s goal stood up and the Red Storm won, 1-0, to stay undefeated on the season.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.