SCARBOROUGH—A year ago, the reigning Class A state champion Scarborough field hockey team dominated Cheverus in the regular season, then was stunned by the Stags in the regional semifinals.
While Thursday night’s showdown of unbeatens at the Kippy Mitchell Athletic Complex didn’t have do-or-die postseason repercussions, the Red Storm did manage to post an critical victory over its rival and moved into the driver’s seat in the region.
Senior Lindsay Dobecki gave the hosts an early 1-0 lead, but Cheverus tied things up on senior Sarah LaQuerre’s goal. Six minutes into the second half, Scarborough went ahead to stay when junior Grace Whelan converted classmate Stephanie Felt’s feed and the Red Storm hung on from there for a 2-1 victory, which lifted its record to 7-0-1, dropping the Stags to 8-1 in the process.
“It feels fantastic,” said Whelan. “It feels like the game was reversed from last year. We talked about it a lot. No one thinks it should have happened. We were ready to beat them.”
Scarborough and Cheverus have only played since 2004, but the programs’ rivalry has escalated big-time the past couple years.
The Red Storm took the first five meetings by a composite 13-2 margin, but things really heated up in 2009.
That year, Scarborough went undefeated and won its first Class A championship, but the Stags didn’t make it easy. After losing, 3-1, to the Red Storm in a battle of unbeaten teams in the regular season finale, Cheverus met Scarborough again in the regional final and gave the Red Storm a mighty scare before bowing, 3-2.
Last fall, host Scarborough humbled the Stags in the regular season, 6-1, but Cheverus had the last laugh, beating the Red Storm for the first time in nine tries, 2-1. The Stags went on to lose to Skowhegan in the state final, while Scarborough stewed and waited for another chance.
So far in 2011, both teams had risen to the occasion time and again.
Cheverus, despite the loss to graduation of offensive dynamo Emily Sawchuck, passed its early tests, impressing with a 5-0 victory at Thornton Academy, then downing host Deering (2-0), visiting Windham (5-1), host Biddeford (6-2) and Bonny Eagle (3-1), edging visiting Massabesic in overtime (1-0) and blanking visiting Portland (5-0) and Marshwood (1-0).
The Red Storm opened with a 7-0 win at McAuley, held off visiting Bonny Eagle, 2-1, then blanked host Westbrook, 3-0. After a 3-0 win at Portland, Scarborough had to rally to tie visiting Sanford, 2-2. A 2-1 victory at Marshwood and a 9-0 home romp over South Portland set the stage for revenge.
It was clear from the outset that the Red Storm were motivated and less than three minutes in, the hosts appeared to take a 1-0 lead when Felt fired a long shot that deflected into the cage. The goal was immediately waved off, however, after the shot was ruled to have come from outside the circle.
Undaunted, Scarborough struck again 41 seconds later and this time, it counted.
Felt would set it up and Dobecki rattled the cage for a 1-0 lead.
Cheverus coach Amy McMullin called timeout to settle her charges and with 10:01 to play in the 30-minute first half, the Stags took advantage of the first good chance they had.
LaQuerre put on a show, dribbling around a defender before launching a blast that eluded Red Storm junior goalie Rebecca Mitchell.
In the final minute of the half, Stags sophomore goalie Libby DesRuisseaux had to make back-to-back saves on shots from Dobecki and junior Karli-An Gilbert to keep the score tied.
As the second half began, Scarborough put junior Shannon Hicks in goal, but she wouldn’t see much action.
The Red Storm pushed hard for the tiebreaker and got it with 23:58 remaining.
The ball came to Felt in close. She could have put a shot on cage, but instead sent it to Whelan, who was wide open to bang the shot home for a 2-1 lead.
“(Stephanie) sent it across right to the post,” Whelan said. “We practice it over and over again. My job was to put it in the goal. It’s harder than it looks.”
With 15:40 to go, Cheverus earned its first and only penalty corner (Scarborough finished with nine), but junior Staci Swallow’s blast was blocked by a defender.
The Stags appeared to have one final chance with just over 20 seconds to play, but a long lead pass to sophomore Alex Logan wound up going off her foot and the Red Storm was able to run out the clock and celebrate the victory.
Scarborough’s defense wound up stealing the show.
“It was a tough game, but our hard work paid off,” said senior defender Shauni Cowan. “Any win that we have during the season is a big deal. Especially against (Cheverus), they’re a great team. Being able to come out and play the way we did tonight, it’s nice to see our practices pay off. We’re a defensive team. We have offensive players, midfielders and defenders, but we all know how to play defense, which is really nice compared to other years where we were more of an offensive team. We just came in and have been practicing really hard. They’re not easy. That hard work shows in our game, which is really nice.”
“This is definitely a very well balanced team,” said Scarborough coach Kerry Mariello. “We have a lot of strengths. They’ve been turning it on and showing improvement game by game. I’ve always been a defensive-minded coach. That’s the name of the game, since as you could see, anyone can score in a breakaway situation. We made a couple adjustments at the end. We passed the ball around, made them pass side to side. We wanted to make them tired and capitalize on the opportunities.
“This was a pivotal game in our season. We had last year to fuel us on. It’s great. We played well tonight. Last year was a lesson that was good for us. We needed it, maybe. We did our homework over the summer and came back and it showed in this game. We expressed control aggression. We had to control the tempo of the ball and be aggressive and composed 100 percent of the time. We knew they’d get tougher and tougher and more aggressive. We had to keep our heads. Having experience from last year helps.”
After what happened last year, Cheverus was able to quickly put the setback in perspective.
“It was a good game, but I think for us, we didn’t play well,” said McMullin. “It’s better that we lose, so we can learn from it. It was a great game. It’s great competition. It’s fun to have these kind of games. We haven’t had that this season. We love that. We’ll pick up tomorrow and learn from what didn’t work today. I’m not happy, but at the same time, it’s not the end of the world.
“(Scarborough has) great players who can keep it in the offensive end. We have to work a little more on offensive strategy. We looked a little bit like chickens with our heads cut off, running around, wasting energy. We have to do a little more work on reading the game. Less about stick-work, more about field vision. We got it by two lines, but we couldn’t get it past the third. (The Red Storm) did a great job. You have to give them credit. We’re lucky to lose 2-1. I thought our goalie did a great job.”
Cheverus (now third in the Western Class A Heal Points standings) is off until Monday, when it goes to South Portland. A trip to Kennebunk and home games against Gorham, McAuley and Sanford (a pivotal showdown in the finale, Oct. 12) still loom.
The Red Storm, meanwhile, now occupy the top spot in the Heals.
“I’m surprised,” Whelan said. “We graduated Kristen Felt, the best player in the state, but we’re still winning. It’s our coach. She makes our team victorious. We all love her.”
Scarborough is back in action Saturday at home against Gorham. Tuesday, the Red Storm visits Thornton Academy. The team appears in great position for a third straight top seed, but won’t get complacent.
“It would be an advantage to get homefield,” Cowan said. “Hopefully we make it that far.”
“We have to continue to play,” Mariello said. “There’s 11 players on the field and you have to strengthen all 11. We definitely have work to do and no team should think they shouldn’t. We’re excited.”