Postseason drama at a fever pitch-Southern edition

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Scarborough’s Noah Stracqualursi is mobbed by his teammates after scoring with just over three minutes to play to give the Red Storm a 1-0 win over South Portland Tuesday night. Scarborough advanced to meet top-ranked Gorham in Saturday’s semifinal round.

Scarborough’s Garrett King heads the ball past South Portland goalkeeper Riley Hasson during the teams’ Class A South quarterfinal Tuesday night. Luckily for the Red Riots, a defender was there to save it, but the Red Storm did prevail, 1-0.

(Ed. Note: For the complete Scarborough-South Portland boys’ soccer quarterfinal game story, with photos, see theforecaster.net)

The postseason is now underway in all sports (except golf, which concluded earlier this month) and there will be no shortage of drama as local soccer, field hockey, volleyball and cross country teams chase championships.

Here’s an overview of all the playoff excitement:

Boys’ soccer

Cape Elizabeth’s boys’ soccer team had a superb 11-2-1 regular season and wound up third in Class B South. The Capers began what they hoped would be their first title run this century Tuesday when they hosted No. 6 Greely in the quarterfinals. Cape Elizabeth won both regular season meetings, 1-0 and 2-1, but in the 14th all-time playoff meeting, the Capers were upset by the Rangers, 2-1, to finish 11-3-1.

In Class A South, Scarborough (ranked fourth) and South Portland (seeded fifth) did battle in the quarterfinals Tuesday. The Red Storm won the regular season meeting, 1-0, and had captured both prior playoff encounters.

Tuesday, defenses were dominant, which was no surprise seeing that neither team had surrendered a goal since Sept. 30. After some close calls, Scarborough finally broke through with 3:09 to play when Noah Stracqualursi scored a highlight reel goal, getting some room on the right side of the box, crossing over past a defender, then lofting a left-footed shot toward the far post which sailed over Red Riots goalkeeper Riley Hasson and ducked under the bar, kissing the net in breathtaking fashion for a 1-0 lead.

“Their defense is really good and we knew we’d only get so many shots,” Stracqualursi said. “Luck was with me. I cut back to my left and I crossed it and it hit me that I scored with three minutes left and we could possibly win this. I wanted to place it back post. My left foot is my off foot, but I work on both of them. Sometimes when you kick a ball, you know it’s going in and that’s how it felt.”

The Red Storm slammed the door from there and advanced, 1-0.

“We had some chances throughout the game and I like how we played,” said Red Storm coach Mark Diaz. “We stayed consistent and we didn’t press too hard. The kids executed and deserve all the credit.”

Scarborough will visit No. 1 Gorham (14-0-1) in the semifinals Saturday at a time to be announced. On Sept. 13, the Rams rallied for a 2-1 win at the Red Storm. The teams have a long and rich playoff history, one which dates to 1974. The Red Storm have taken seven of eight meetings, including a 2-1 victory in the 2013 Western A semifinals, the most recent encounter.

“In the beginning of the year, we had a lot of inexperience in big games, but we worked through it, watched film and gotten better,” Stracqualursi said. “We’ve got a solid group now. Gorham’s really good. They’re hard to match up with. It comes down to wants it more. I hope it’s us. It’ll be a tough game.”

“Gorham deserves to be the top seed,” Diaz said. “They’ve been fantastic all year. We’ll go there and play our game and see what happens. We’re excited. I expect another great game.”

Looking ahead, the regional finals are Wednesday of next week on the fields of the higher seeds. The state finals are Saturday, Nov. 5.

South Portland was left frustrated by its loss at Scarborough, but had a fantastic season.

“I actually thought we outplayed (Scarborough),” Red Riots coach Bryan Hoy said. “We possessed better than they did and our attack was designed a little bit better. If a goal like that is what it takes to beat us, than we had a successful season. Give them a window and they put it in every time, that’s why it’s so hard to beat them. We need to generate three or four chances to get one or two goals. They need to generate a half a chance to get one. They always capitalize.

“We closed out with nine in a row in the regular season and six or seven straight shutouts. I thought we faced the five best teams to start. When we got through 2-3, I  knew it would be something special and we took care of business after that. I had a great group of guys. They did everything I asked. They did the little things and that’s why we were able to do the big things on the field.”

While the Red Riots will lose some key contributors, some of their best players will be back in 2017.

“I’ve got six seniors and four of them start and they’re important players, center-backs and center-mids, but I’m pretty confident we’ll be back here next year,” Hoy said. “We’ll keep getting better.”

Girls’ soccer

On the girls’ side, Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough were preparing to host quarterfinals and GPCS was preparing to go on the road in that round at press time.

The Capers earned the No. 4 seed in Class B South and welcomed No. 5 Morse (13-2) Wednesday. The teams don’t play in the regular season and had met just once previously in the playoffs (a 6-1 Cape Elizabeth win in the 2014 quarterfinals).

If the Capers advanced, they’d go to top-ranked Yarmouth (12-1-1) for the semifinals Saturday. The Clippers won both meetings this fall (5-1 and 3-0). Cape Elizabeth won the lone prior playoff encounter, 1-0, two years ago in the semifinals.

Scarborough finished second to Gorham in Class A South with a 10-2-2 mark and hosted No. 10 Sanford (9-5-1) in the quarterfinals. The teams settled for a 2-2 draw in Scarborough back on Sept. 6. The Red Storm had won both prior playoff meetings, including a 3-1 victory in the 2012 quarterfinals in the most recent encounter.

If Scarborough advanced, it would welcome No. 3 Cheverus (10-3-1) or No. 6 Windham (10-2-3) in the semifinals Saturday. The Red Storm beat the visiting Stags, 2-1, Sept. 28 and downed the host Eagles, 2-0, Oct. 18. Scarborough is 3-0 all-time against Cheverus in the playoffs, with a 2-0 victory in the 2011 semifinals being the most recent result. The Red Storm are 1-2 all-time against Windham, with a 2-1 setback in the 2014 regional final the most recent.

In Class D South, GPCS earned the seventh and final seed after a 4-7-2 campaign. The Lions were at No. 2 Buckfield (8-6) in the quarterfinals.

If GPCS sprung an upset, it would go to No. 3 Greenville (7-6-1) or No. 6 Searsport (5-9) in Friday’s semifinals.

Looking ahead, the regional finals are Wednesday of next week on the fields of the higher seeds. The state finals are Saturday, Nov. 5.

Field hockey

The field hockey season has come to a close in Forecaster Country.

Scarborough finished the regular season on a 12-game win streak and earned the No. 3 seed in Class A South. In the quarterfinals, the Red Storm dispatched No. 11 Biddeford, 4-1, behind two goals from Kristen Levesque and one apiece from Lily Nygren and Rachel Paradis. That sent Scarborough to No. 2 Marshwood for a semifinal Monday. The Hawks snapped the Red Storm’s win streak at 13 with a 2-0 victory, ending Scarborough’s season at 13-3.

“We had a great run and although it didn’t finish the way we wanted, we were happy with our overall success,” said Red Storm coach Kerry Mariello. “We knew from the start that the league was strong and whoever it was in the end was going to for one, deserve a great deal of credit, and two, represent the South in a fantastic way. Marshwood is a tremendously balanced team and they earned the win against us and although it is tough to lose, it’s a bit easier to handle knowing we gave everything we had and that we lost to a great team.

“We received word today that we will receive the Class A Sportsmanship award and we will be recognized at the halftime of the state game. I couldn’t be more proud for this team. They’re an amazing group of young ladies who handle themselves with grace, style and dignity both in victory and defeat. Having this team make history in this way, with this being our first ever Sportmanship award, couldn’t have happened to a more deserving group.”

The Red Storm will have holes to fill in 2017, but as is always the case, expect them to be in the hunt for another title.

“We have nine graduating and have some big shoes to fill in the lineup, but we will do all we can to make our 2017 special,” Mariello said.

Volleyball

Scarborough’s volleyball team was two wins away from a repeat championship at press time.

The Red Storm, ranked second in Class A after a 13-1 regular season, blanked No. 15 Marshwood (25-12, 25-3, 25-15) in the preliminary round, then swept No. 7 Bonny Eagle (25-17, 25-9, 25-14) in the quarterfinals.

Scarborough hosted No. 6 Yarmouth (12-4) in the state semifinals Wednesday night (see theforecaster.net for match story). The Red Storm beat the host Clippers in four sets (25-14, 25-21, 16-25, 25-17) in the regular season. Scarborough won the lone prior playoff meeting, 3-0, in the 2007 West Region quarterfinals.

If the Red Storm prevailed, they would meet either No. 1 Greely (15-0) or No. 4 Falmouth (13-3) in the Class A state match Friday at 7 p.m., at Gorham High School.

Scarborough lost its season opener, 3-0, at Greely Sept. 2 and beat the visiting Yachtsmen, 3-1, Sept. 29. The Red Storm are 2-3 all-time against the Rangers in the playoffs, including last year’s 3-1 win in the state final. Scarborough lost both previous postseason encounters against the Yachtsmen, including a 3-1 setback in the 2013 state match.

Cape Elizabeth was ranked 12th in Class A and had to travel to No. 5 Mt. Desert Island for the preliminary round last Thursday. The Capers lost the first two sets, 19-25, 25-27, then rallied to win the third (25-18) and fourth (25-14), but ran out of gas in the decisive fifth game and lost, 7-15, to drop the match, 3-2, and finish the year, 8-7.

South Portland made the playoffs for the first time after a 5-9 regular season. The 14th-ranked Red Riots went to No. 3 Biddeford for the preliminary round last Thursday and lost in straight sets (17-25, 17-25, 16-25) to finish 5-10.

Cross country

The cross country regional championship meet was scheduled for this past Saturday at Twin Brook Recreation Center in Cumberland, but poor weather pushed it back to this coming Saturday.

Times remain the same.

Cape Elizabeth’s boys race at 11 a.m. The Capers girls compete in Class B girls’ meet at 11:35. Scarborough and South Portland run in the Class A boys’ race at 2 p.m. The Class A girls start at 2:35 p.m.

The state championship meet will now be Saturday, Nov. 5 in Belfast.

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.