SCARBOROUGH—For nearly 60 minutes, Falmouth and Scarborough’s field hockey teams played it close to the vest and produced few legitimate scoring chances in their Class A South quarterfinal at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex.
Then, in a sudden and stunning turn of events, the defending Class A champion Red Storm found a way to survive and advance.
With overtime looming and its hopes for a repeat run hanging in the balance, Scarborough produced the game’s lone goal, as sophomore Rachel Paradis, who had just missed on a pair of good looks moments before, managed to bang home a loose ball with just 17.9 seconds left on the clock and the Red Storm went on to a 1-0 victory.
Scarborough, which has now won two straight playoff games with goals in the waning seconds, improved to 13-2, advanced to meet No. 3 Thornton Academy (13-2) in the semifinals Saturday afternoon and ended valiant Falmouth’s season at 10-6 in the process.
“It’s incredible, fantastic,” said Red Storm coach Kerry Mariello. “All of the games in the playoffs are going to be like this. They’re all going to be one-goal games and it comes down to taking advantage of the one opportunity, which we did. It’s a feeling we want to remember and hold on to.”
While Falmouth and Scarborough are arguably the two most dynastic schools in the state across the board this century and have squared off in big games in many sports, the field hockey teams had never before done battle in a playoff contest prior to Wednesday.
Both teams came in believing they could advance, then make a run to the title.
Falmouth had an up-and-down regular season, going 9-5, then surviving No. 10 Bonny Eagle, 3-2, in penalty corners, in Saturday’s preliminary round.
Scarborough, the defending Class A champion, won its first five games this fall, then had its five-year, 66-game league unbeaten streak came to a close with a loss to Cheverus. The Red Storm also dropped a game at Sanford, but won the rest to earn the No. 2 seed (the last time Scarborough wasn’t first was in 2008).
Wednesday, there was no separation between the teams, as the Yachtsmen were completely unfazed by having to play on the field of the defending champs, but Scarborough, as it’s done so often through the years, made the play it had to make to stay alive.
The first half saw each team put one shot on goal, but a bid from Falmouth junior Devon Sarazin was saved by Red Storm senior goalie Alyssa Souza and Yachtsmen senior goalie Elizabeth Amadei turned aside a bid from Scarborough junior Lily Nygren.
Early in the second half, each squad nearly found the cage, but a backhanded shot from Falmouth junior Lisa Smoluk and a one-timer from Red Storm senior Grace Bailer (set up by sophomore Luca Malia) both trickled wide.
The intensity picked up late in regulation, as Scarborough earned a couple penalty corners, but neither resulted in a shot.
With 5:53 to go, Sarazin kept her team alive by making a diving defensive save.
Mariello then called timeout and eventually, her charges came through.
After Paradis shot just wide with Amadei out of the cage and Paradis shot wide after taking a pass from sophomore Lucy Bogdanovich, her third time proved to be the charm.
With thoughts turning the overtime, Falmouth couldn’t clear the ball from the zone, it got sent into the circle and found its way to Paradis’ stick. This time, the sophomore, who had the game-winner in double overtime against Massabesic in early September, had a moment to settle her nerves, then shot past Amadei and into the goal for a 1-0 lead which led Mariello to cradle her head in her hands on the sidelines in disbelief.
“I just kept trying,” said Paradis. “I kept getting my footing wrong and hitting it wide, then I finally got low enough and got it right into the back (of the cage). It was incredible. I had a little bit more time, so I could really focus on getting it in. The goalie was in front of me, but I saw the net and aimed and sent it right in there.”
“All I saw was the ball go in the net,” Mariello said. “Rachel is coming along really well. What a great rush for a little sophomore. It was a matter of turning her body. I told her to aim for the left foot of the goalie and that’s going to automatically make that adjustment for her and she did.”
Falmouth had no time to answer and the time ran out on Scarborough’s 1-0 victory.
“We just had to pull it together as a team and work together,” Paradis said. “We had a tough time in the regular season, but we knew playoffs would be a different game and we had to execute.”
“I saw (Falmouth) play Bonny Eagle and I knew who their strong players were,” Mariello said. “We keyed on them, but we didn’t want to change up our game too much. We’re all about possession, that’s the key to our game. I knew it would be a battle.”
The Red Storm finished with an 8-2 shots advantage (shots on frame were 3-3), had five corners to three for the Yachtsmen and got three saves from Souza.
Falmouth got a pair of saves from Amadei and was every bit Scarborough’s equal, but wound up suffering a second straight agonizing playoff loss (last year, the Yachtsmen lost, 2-1, at Thornton Academy on a goal with just over a minute to play in regulation).
“We were starting to talk about overtime, but you’re always a little nervous when the ball is in the circle because anything can happen,” said Falmouth coach Robin Haley. “I hoped we’d survive and get to overtime, but those things happen. We gave them a great game. I’m proud of how we played. We left everything on the field. We’re not going to say, ‘I wish we did this, I wish we did that.’ (Scarborough) had to work at it. I wish we’d gotten the win, but Scarborough got one in.”
The Yachtsmen proved they belonged in the Class A playoffs.
“It’s always tough to play a Class B schedule, then go to to A (for playoffs),” Haley said. “We’ve had a year to think more about it and we know we can play against these kind of teams. Maybe next year it will be a little different. It was still a good season. I think we’re getting better and it’s showing on the field.”
Falmouth graduates Amadei, Sarah Dobbins, Keunjoo Kim and Noelle Kinney, but returns everyone else and should be a top contender next fall.
“I lose four seniors, but we return a lot of good younger kids, so it’s promising,” Haley said. “We won’t forget this game. It’s fuel to the fire when we go into the preseason in August. It’s going to be a long winter, but I can’t wait until August.”
Scarborough and Thornton Academy are well acquainted. Back on Sept. 24, the Red Storm went to Saco and eked out a 2-1 win at the Golden Trojans. That victory made Scarborough 14-0 all-time against its neighbor.
The Red Storm beat Thornton Academy in all three postseason encounters, 2-0 in the 2009 quarterfinals, 4-0 in the 2012 quarterfinal and 3-1 in last year’s semifinals.
Staying perfect against the Golden Trojans won’t be easy, but Scarborough knows how to win when its season is on the line.
“This win boosts our motivation even more and pushes us to want it even more,” Paradis said. “Coach told us to remember this feeling.”
“This is a feeling you can’t replace and only certain people feel that feeling and remember it,” Mariello said. “We have a glimpse of that right now. I had the opportunity to tell the girls who haven’t felt that feeling to embrace it because we’re going to have three more (games), we hope. (Thornton’s) going to be a grueling match. We’ll do everything we can to win, but maybe not wait until 17 seconds are left.”
Scarborough sophomore Rachel Paradis sends a shot past Falmouth senior goalie Elizabeth Amadei for the game’s lone goal with 17.9 seconds left in the Red Storm’s 1-0 victory in Wednesday’s Class A South quarterfinal.
Mike Strout photos.
Scarborough junior Kristen Levesque jumps for joy after Paradis’ game-winner.
Scarborough junior Annika Battista shoots the ball as Falmouth junior Lisa Smoluk looks on.
Scarborough junior Lily Nygren works her way around Falmouth junior Maddie Rouhana.
Falmouth junior Devon Sarazin tries to slow Scarborough junior Kristen Levesque.
Falmouth junior Olivia Stucker breaks up the rush of Scarborough junior Cara Reynolds.
Falmouth junior Sydney Bell takes a whack at the ball.