Pompeo's excellence leads Cheverus to quarterfinals

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Cheverus’ field hockey team exults after senior Sophia Pompeo’s overtime goal gave the Stags a 5-4 victory over Massabesic in Saturday’s Class A South preliminary round contest. Cheverus advanced to meet Scarborough in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

Cheverus senior Sophia Pompeo races up the field.

Cheverus senior Sophia Pompeo flicks a shot past Massabesic goalie Madyson Pomerleau on a penalty stroke to win the game in overtime.

PORTLAND—Sophia Pompeo refused to call it a career.

And thanks to her epic performance Saturday afternoon, Pompeo and her Cheverus field hockey teammates will live to play another day.

The sixth-ranked Stags hosted No. 11 Massabesic in a Class A South preliminary round contest at Deering High School’s Memorial Field and while Pompeo put on a show of epic proportions, it took nearly seven extra minutes for Cheverus to advance.

Just 2 minutes, 29 seconds into the contest, the Stags earned a penalty stroke and Pompeo converted it to give her team the jump.

When Pompeo, one of the state’s elite stick-handlers and an all-time Cheverus great, scored a signature goal, weaving through multiple defenders before finishing, the lead was 2-0 less than 10 minutes into the game.

The proud Mustangs refused to go quietly, however, and with 6:58 remaining in the first half, freshman Micaela Jacobs scored off a penalty corner to cut the Stags’ lead in half.

With 2:23 on the clock off a corner, Pompeo set up senior Bella Booth for a goal and Cheverus took a two-goal lead to the half.

When sophomore Lucia Pompeo scored four minutes into the second half, the Stags had a 4-1 advantage and appeared quarterfinals-bound, but back roared Massabesic.

First, sophomore Isabelle Hurlburt scored off a corner with 25 minutes remaining.

Then, off another corner, sophomore Emma Snyder scored with 16:06 on the clock to cut the deficit to one.

Snyder completed the comeback with a highlight reel backhand shot with 7:37 to go and after neither squad could score late, the contest went to overtime, tied, 4-4.

That simply delayed the inevitable.

In the first of a possible two eight-minute, “sudden victory” OT session, after three corners failed to produce a goal, Cheverus got the break it needed as it earned another penalty stroke and with 1:24 on the clock, Sophia Pompeo ripped it into the cage, ending the game and giving the Stags a stirring 5-4 victory.

Cheverus improved to 9-6, ended the Mustangs’ season at 5-10 and in the process, advanced to meet No. 3 Scarborough (11-2-1) in the Class A South quarterfinals, Wednesday at 6 p.m.

“I don’t think our record shows our heart,” said Sophia Pompeo, who will play at Providence College next year. “We’re a young team and we love playing together. We’ll just build from this.” 

First step

Cheverus secured its 13th consecutive playoff berth after an up-and-down regular season (see sidebar, below, for links to previous stories).

The Stags never won or lost more than two successive games and had 11 games decided by two goals or less (eight were decided by one goal, including one in double-overtime). Cheverus’ 8-6 record gave it the No. 6 seed in Class A South.

Massabesic, meanwhile, started with a 9-1 win over Noble, but won just four of its final 13 games to finish 11th in the region. 

On Sept. 8, in Waterboro, the host Mustangs outlasted the Stags, 4-3. Freshman Haylee Hinkle, Lucia Pompeo and Sophia Pompeo all scored for Cheverus, while Snyder had the go-ahead tally for Massabesic. Hurlburt scored twice and Jacobs also rattled the cage.

The teams had never met in a playoff game prior to Saturday, where, on a chilly (48-degree) afternoon, they made some history, as the Stags appeared primed to roll to an easy win before Massabesic rallied, setting up an unforgettable finish.

Sophia Pompeo had the first good chance, racing in and being denied by Massabesic senior goalie Madyson Pomerleau, but on the rebound, a Mustangs defender prevented the ball from going in with her body and by rule, that gave Cheverus a penalty stroke.

Pompeo did the honors, setting up mere yards from Pomerleau and with 27:31 to go in the first half, Pompeo fired a low shot to Pomerleau’s right, into the cage just inside the near post for a quick 1-0 lead.

“I think it set the tone for the rest of the game,” Pompeo said. “When you score first, you have the adrenaline going your way.”

Massabesic tried to answer, but twice Jacobs was robbed by Cheverus junior goalie Hannah Woodford.

After Snyder missed wide on a corner, Pompeo gave the Stags a 2-0 lead with 20:18 to play in the half.

This time, she weaved through multiple defenders before firing a shot past Pomerleau.

“It’s always good when it goes in for you after hard work,” Pompeo said. “If I didn’t put it in, my teammates would have.”

“Fortunately for us, (Sophia’s) just a really strong player,” Cheverus coach Sally Cloutier said. “She’s confident, poised and mature. She practices tirelessly and she executed.”

Mustangs coach Michele Martin-Moore then called timeout and her team responded.

After senior Grace Tutt missed just wide on a corner, Woodford came out to break up a Jacobs rush, then made three straight saves with Stags defender Anna Sawicki making a stop as well.

After Pomerleau prevented Pompeo from producing a first half hat trick, Massabesic got on the board with 6:58 to go in the half.

The goal came off a penalty corner, as Jacobs pounced on a loose ball during a scrum and sent it into the cage to cut the deficit to 2-1.

Cheverus bounced right back, as after Lucia Pompeo had a shot saved by Pomerleau, the Stags earned a corner and Booth inserted the ball to Sophia Pompeo, who sent the ball back to Booth, who swept it into the goal for a 3-1 advantage with 2:23 on the clock.

Cheverus would take that advantage to halftime, as it held a 9-7 edge in shots and held off seven of eight Mustangs’ corner opportunities.

The fun was just beginning, as the second half would feature four goals. 

The first shot of the new half would result in the Stags’ fourth goal, as off a corner, Booth set up Lucia Pompeo, who finished to make it 4-1, with 26 minutes to play.

In most games, a three-goal second half deficit is more than enough, but Massabesic came to life and quickly got back into it.

One minute after Pompeo’s goal, the Mustangs scored on their own corner, as freshman Emily Jacobs passed the ball across to Hurlburt, who beat Woodford to make the score 4-2.

After Pomerleau twice stopped Sophia Pompeo shots off a corner, at the other end, Massabesic made it 4-3 with 16:06 on the clock, as off another corner, Emily Jacobs sent the ball in, Snyder got to it, then sent it into the cage to turn momentum and force Cloutier to call timeout.

Cheverus hoped to answer, but Sophia Pompeo was robbed twice by Pomerleau and sophomore Paige DeGeorge had a shot saved as well. 

With 15:33 to go, the Stags earned their second stroke of the game, as another Mustangs defender stopped the ball from going in with her body.

This time, Booth stepped to the line, but her shot was too far to the left and sailed wide of the post, keeping Cheverus’ lead at a tenuous one goal.

After Woodford preserved the lead by diving to deny freshman Brianna Stephenson, Massabesic completed its rally with 7:37 remaining.

The equalizer came courtesy Snyder, who got the ball in front, hesitated in order to draw Woodford out of the goal, then backhanded a shot into the cage to make it 4-4.

“(Massabesic’s) a great team and they always bring their ‘A’ game when we play them,” Sophia Pompeo said. “It’s always so fun playing competition like that. It was back-and-forth all game.”

“We came out with a bang and took momentum and played great, but they came back,” Cloutier said. “They’re a strong team.”

Each team had one look to win it late in regulation, but after Sophia Pompeo got the ball to her sister, Lucia Pompeo’s shot deflected just wide and at the other end, another Snyder backhanded try went just wide of the mark.

After a five-minute rest, the teams returned to the field for overtime, playing 7-on-7 to determine a winner.

Only one OT session would be needed before Sophia Pompeo put a punctuation mark on her game for the ages.

Cheverus pressured quickly and when Pompeo rushed in with 6:40 to go in the overtime, it appeared the game would end, but Pomerleau came out and made a clutch save.

With 4:10 on the clock, the Stags earned a penalty corner and the ball came to Booth in front, but a Massabesic defender knocked the ball away.

Cheverus got a corner with 2:30 remaining and couldn’t generate a shot, then earned another with 1:45 to go and the ball eventually came to Pompeo, who fired a promising shot which found the body of a Mustangs defender on the line.

With 1:24 showing, the officials stopped the clock for the third time and the Stags had their third penalty stroke of the day.

And the third time would be the charm.

Pompeo stepped to the line and as she did some 63 minutes, 7 seconds earlier, she fired a low shot to Pomerleau’s right that the goalie had no chance to stop and at 6:08 p.m., the ball went thwack against the backboard and Cheverus raced on to the field to mob Pompeo and celebrate the 5-4 victory.

“I missed one this past season and my main goal was that I wasn’t going to miss (this one),” Pompeo said. “It’s all about placement. I knew my teammates were cheering me on. I felt it. It’s amazing. I’ll always remember it for sure. 

“Going into overtime, we had to relax and play to our strengths. It was just about not giving up. We knew it would be hard, but nobody gave up.”

“Sophia had the game of her life,” Cloutier said. “She finished some things we haven’t been able to finish. 

“It’s exhausting, but I feel great for the girls. They feel like $100 bucks and they should. We gave it everything we’ve got. We dug deep. Defensively, we played smart. It just worked tonight. We’ve talked all season about heart, staying in the game and not quitting and they just did it. We focused on the end goal. I’m super-proud of this group. I love 7-v-7, because I’ve got seven fast players. It’s an advantage for us. I always see it as it being our game. We knew they’d have a hard time stopping us.”

The Stags wound up with a 21-13 advantage in shots on cage and took 12 corners to Massabesic’s 11. Woodford made nine saves.

Pomerleau stopped 16 shots for the Mustangs, but her valiant effort wasn’t enough to lead her team to the next round.

Scarborough stands in the way

Cheverus dropped a 2-0 decision at Scarborough back on Oct. 3, but the Stags dominated play early only to be unable to put the ball in the goal.

Cheverus is 1-2 all-time against the Red Storm in the postseason, with a 3-0 Scarborough victory in the 2012 Class A South Final the most recent.

The Stags will go to Scarborough Wednesday confident, feeling like they have nothing to lose.

“I think the game will be different this time,” Sophia Pompeo said. “We’ll focus on capitalizing on our opportunities. It’s awesome to have practice on Monday. I’m not ready to be done. It means so much more this year.”

“We’re where we want to be,” Cloutier said. “Maybe we’re peaking at the right time. That last game gave us confidence. We have what it takes. Scarborough’s a great team and they’re tough to beat, but I feel confident.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.