SCARBOROUGH—Nothing has come easily for the Scarborough girls’ lacrosse team this spring, but Friday afternoon, despite the rain, a tough rival standing in its way and the frustration over not having put it all together this season serving as an albatross, the Red Storm put forth their most beautiful effort amid the most hideous conditions.
Hosting Kennebunk at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex, in a contest critical for Heal Points and playoff positioning, not to mention bragging rights, Scarborough got off to its accustomed sluggish start, but the Red Storm’s eight seniors, who were honored with their parents prior to the game, a group which had played a bit role or waited in the wings during the championship runs of 2010, 2011 and last year, rose up (with some help from their underclassmen teammates) to make an emphatic statement.
Trailing 4-2 midway through the first half, coming out of a timeout called by coach Marcia Wood, Scarborough erupted for six goals in just over seven minutes to seize control.
The Red Storm’s 8-4 halftime lead was cut to 8-6 early in the second half, but displaying the form of the champion it hopes to become once more in three weeks time, Scarborough fought off the challenge, getting key saves from senior goalie Meg Kirsch, a staunch defensive effort and timely goal scoring as it went on to a 13-8 victory.
The Red Storm got four goals from sophomore Kaitlin Prince, three from senior Avery Pietras and 10 saves from Kirsch as it improved to 7-4 and ended Kennebunk’s regular season at 7-5 after beating the Rams for the seventh straight time.
“It’s exciting to see us play so well,” Wood said. “Finally. It’s nice to see (the girls) come together. They’ve waited their turn. It’s nice to see it finally click. It’s taken awhile. We knew we couldn’t keep using the excuse that we’re young or inexperienced. We knew that one of these days if we lose, we’ll come off the field and be done. We’re not ready for that.”
Scarborough and Kennebunk have developed quite the rivalry ever since the Rams came to Class A in 2008 (please see sidebar, below).
That year, the Red Storm beat Kennebunk for the first time in the regular season, but the teams met again in the regional final and the Rams pulled a surprise on the Red Storm’s turf, 10-9, in overtime. The following season, even though they were the two best teams in the region, the vagaries of the Heal Point system had Scarborough finishing fifth and the Rams fourth, so the Red Storm (even after beating the Rams in the regular season) had to go to Kennebunk for the quarterfinals and lost, 13-9.
But each of the past three seasons, en route to a state title, Scarborough eliminated the Rams from the playoffs, including a surprisingly easy 16-6 decision in last year’s semifinal round.
So far this spring, both teams have been good at times and have suffered frustrating losses at others, representative of the way Western A girls’ lacrosse has played out.
Kennebunk began the 2013 season with an 8-7 win at Thornton Academy, then dominated visiting Portland, 16-5. A stunningly decisive 15-1 loss at defending Class B champion Waynflete followed. After romping over visiting Westbrook (16-5), at Bonny Eagle (18-5) and at home over Sanford (15-2), the Rams lost at Marshwood (16-7) and at home to Western B power Falmouth (14-9). After squeaking out an 8-7 win at Massabesic, Kennebunk lost at home to Cheverus (13-6), then bounced back to beat visiting Gorham (19-12).
The Red Storm began with easy wins at McAuley (17-2) and Bonny Eagle (12-3), then let a five-goal second half lead slip away in a stunning 8-7 home loss to Yarmouth. Scarborough quickly bounced back with a 15-1 home romp over South Portland and earned an impressive 10-6 win at Massabesic. Frustration then ensued as the Red Storm lost at home to Cheverus in overtime, 9-7, and a night later, let a two-goal second half lead slip away in a 10-8 loss at Cape Elizabeth. Scarborough got back on track with an 8-7 come-from-behind home win over Thornton Academy, which gave Wood her 100th victory, then earned an impressive 11-6 win at Gorham. Tuesday, however, the Red Storm were done in by a late surge from visiting Marshwood and lost, 9-5.
Friday, in rain which alternated from steady to an outright downpour, Kennebunk hoped to snap its six-game skid at the hands of Scarborough, but the Red Storm did what it needed to do to continue its reign over the Rams.
After the Senior Day ceremony, Kennebunk struck first when freshman Olivia Sandford scored unassisted just 22 seconds in.
After Rams senior goalie Elizabeth Stockbridge, who dominated early, stopped free position bids from Prince and senior Jess Meader, the hosts drew even with 21:08 to go in the first half when junior Ainsley Jamieson scored an unassisted goal.
The Red Storm took its first lead, 2-1, on an unassisted goal from senior Sam Nablo 29 seconds later, but Kennebunk would turn the tide and score the next three.
The Rams drew even with 20:05 to play in the half when senior Betsy Craig scored unassisted. A little over a minute later, senior standout Rose Bryant beat Kirsch on a free position and with 12:05 to play before halftime, an unassisted strike from freshman Jennifer Bush put Kennebunk ahead, 4-2, forcing Wood to call timeout.
Coaches dream of teams responding to timeouts the way Wood’s charges did.
It took a little over a minute before Scarborough got its passing game going and the Rams’ defense and Stockbridge were helpless to stop it.
With 10:43 left before halftime, freshman Abby Corbin found Pietras for her first goal.
A mere 33 seconds later, the hosts pulled even as Corbin assisted on another goal, this one by Prince, her first.
The Red Storm went ahead to stay, 5-4, with 8:36 to play in the first half when Pietras made a long run up the field, drew the defense, then fed Jamieson, who beat Stockbridge for the goal.
“The conditions were hard, but I loved it,” Pietras said. “It just added to the intensity. I knew I had to step it up. I think at first we knew it was the seniors’ last (home) game and the weather was a factor. Then we got used to it. We clicked and came together.”
“(In the timeout) I just told them, ‘You’re better. Get in their heads. If you can go up, you’ll get the momentum,'” Wood said. “We didn’t want a track meet and at first it was.”
After Kirsch protected the lead with a nice save on a Bryant shot, Jamieson (from behind the cage) fed Prince for a one-time shot which made it 6-4 with 5:09 to go.
Scarborough continued to win draws and possess and with 3:34 left, Pietras pounced on a loose ball and passed to Prince for a goal and 14 seconds later, off a draw win, Corbin raced in and scored to give the Red Storm an 8-4 halftime advantage.
In the first 25 minutes, Scarborough won eight of 13 draws, had almost a 2-to-1 (29-16) advantage in ground balls, forced 17 turnovers and outshot the Rams, 18-9. Nine saves by Stockbridge kept Kennebunk within hailing distance.
To no one’s surprise, the Rams didn’t quit in the second half and made things very interesting for awhile.
Just 58 seconds in, Sandford set up junior Allie Truman for a goal which snapped a 13 minute, 3 second drought and the 6-0 Red Storm run.
After Kirsch robbed senior Hannah Snow on the doorstep and turned away a Bryant shot, Bryant managed to finish on a free position with 18:09 showing to pull Kennebunk within 8-6.
Instead of falling back into a shell and trying to protect the lead, Scarborough pushed to extend it and with 11:44 to play, Jamieson found sophomore Bailey Adams, who fired a shot past Stockbridge and into the net to make it 9-6, ending a 16:36 drought.
The 10th goal came quickly, as Corbin set up Prince 48 seconds later.
Meader set up Pietras for a goal with 8:19 remaining, giving the Red Storm its biggest lead, 11-6, but the Rams answered 37 seconds later as sophomore Haley Fecko scored unassisted.
With just over five minutes to play, Pietras scored for the final time, unassisted.
Fecko (from Truman) got a goal back with 2:29 showing, but with 48.9 seconds remaining, junior Abby Mills scored unassisted and that brought the curtain down on Scarborough’s impressive 13-8 triumph.
“It’s awesome,” Meader said. “It’s a great feeling. I actually hate this weather. It’s hard with the wet strings, but we pulled it together and played well. Coach got us pumped. She has a lot of faith in us and that turns into us having faith in each other. Once we realized that they were coming back, we were patient with the ball. That helped us get out of our slump. (The seniors have) played together forever. We’re really great friends. We know how we all play.”
“It’s a nice little rivalry with (Kennebunk),” Wood said. “I coach a lot of their girls with (the Maineiax travel team). They’re my girls too. It’s bittersweet in that regard.”
Prince led the way offensively with four goals, but got plenty of help. Pietras had three goals, Jamieson two and Adams, Corbin, Mills and Nablo one apiece. Corbin also had three assists, while Jamieson and Pietras had two each and Meader finished with one.
“As a team, we look to different people to score,” Pietras said. “We all trust each other. We don’t have just one person going to goal. We all make passes and catches and goals come from that.”
“We had a great practice yesterday,” Wood said. “I taught seven girls zone and said, ‘Just do the best we can because it’s not what we play.’ We play against lot of zones and I think it really helped. The attackers felt a lot more confident.”
Kirsch wound up making 10 saves, several of them highlight reel material.
“Meg had her ‘A’ game today,” Meader said. “We got her pumped up before the game. She fed off of our energy. We encouraged her and told her to pick it up.”
The Red Storm wound up with a slight 12-11 edge on draws (Pietras won all three of her chances, while Prince went 9 of 20). Scarborough finished with 49 ground balls (to 33 for Kennebunk), as Pietras had nine, Meader eight, Prince and senior Maiti Kent six apiece.
The Red Storm committed just 18 turnovers, while forcing 27, and outshot the Rams, 33-20 (26-18 on cage), in a great team effort.
“We talk about doing your job,” Wood said. “Sam Nablo came off the bench and scored a beautiful goal. (Freshman) Emma Smith came off the bench and got some ground balls. Abby Corbin, another freshman, came off the bench and had three assists and a goal. That’s what we need.”
Kennebunk got two goals each from Bryant and Fecko. Bush, Craig, Sandford and Truman also scored. Sandford and Truman both had one assist. Bryant and Craig both collected eight ground balls, while Sandford finished with five. Stockbridge stopped 13 shots.
Kennebunk is done for the regular season. The Rams (fifth in the Western A Heals) now await their playoff opponent.
Scarborough, meanwhile, shot from fifth to second with the win and if it finishes with a victory at surprising Windham Wednesday, could wind up in a familiar spot, even if the journey was unorthodox.
“I’ve been told we can finish first,” Wood said. ” If so, it’s a very different first place season than I’ve had. It’s not a matter of playing at home, I just don’t want to get stuck on a grass field.”
Regardless of where it finishes, the Red Storm is starting to sport that championship look once more.
“I feel like at this point, we’re starting to peak,” said Meader. “It’s good that we’re doing that now.”
“We’re realizing it takes hard work in order to keep going,” Pietras said. “I feel like we’ve come a long way. We weren’t used to playing with each other at the beginning, but we’ve gotten so much better since then. We’ll only get better from here.”
Scarborough senior Avery Pietras fires a shot for one her three goals. Pietras also had two assists.
Scarborough freshman Abby Corbin blows past Kennebunk junior Catie Bush.
A determined Scarborough senior Jess Meader is defended by Kennebunk junior Catie Bush.
Scarborough sophomore Bailey Adams defends.
Scarborough senior Maiti Kent fights for position against Kennebunk senior Betsy Craig.
@ Scarborough 12 Kennebunk 11
Western A Final
@ Scarborough 9 Kennebunk 6
Scarborough 12 @ Kennebunk 9
Western A quarterfinals
@ Scarborough 11 Kennebunk 3
@ Scarborough 13 Kennebunk 9
Western A quarterfinals
@ Kennebunk 13 Scarborough 9
@ Scarborough 11 Kennebunk 7
Western A Final
Kennebunk 10 @ Scarborough 9 (OT)
@ Kennebunk 11 Scarborough 5
Kennebunk 14 Scarborough 7
@ Kennebunk 11 Scarborough 8 (OT)
Kennebunk 10 @ Scarborough 6
Kennebunk 15 @ Scarborough 7
Kennebunk 13 @ Scarborough 0
Scarborough senior goalie Meg Kirsch congratulates sophomore teammate Kaitlin Prince (27) on one of her four goals, while junior Hadlee Yescott joins the celebration during the Red Storm’s 13-8 home win over Kennebunk Friday.
More photos below.