PORTLAND—A year ago, pretty much everything possible went the way of the Scarborough girls’ soccer team.
In 2011, the Red Storm have discovered that repeating isn’t easy, but so far, this team has more than held its own.
Wednesday afternoon at Memorial Field, Scarborough was given a stern test by an underappreciated Deering squad, but luckily for the Red Storm, senior captain Haley Carignan was on her high-scoring game.
Carignan struck in the first half to give Scarborough a 1-0 lead and again to make it 2-1 before the Rams scored an improbable goal as time expired. With her team on the ropes, Carignan scored once more in the second half and this time the Red Storm held on, improving to 5-1-2 with a 3-2 victory, dropping Deering to 4-4 in the process.
Scarborough might have produced one of the most amazing championship seasons in state history a year ago. Not only did the Red Storm win all 18 games and its first ever Class A title, but it didn’t surrender a single goal in the normal run of play (Scarborough did surrender one on a penalty kick). While some good players were lost to graduation, the Red Storm returned plenty of talent, but has learned in the early going that everyone will play its best game when they see those red and white uniforms.
Scarborough rolled to an 8-0 home win over Marshwood to start the year, then lost, 1-0, at home to Gorham, snapping its 19-game win streak. The Red Storm bounced back with a 3-0 win at South Portland, dominated host Portland, 6-0, then, after a 1-1 home tie with Cheverus, defeated host Kennebunk (7-1) and settled for a 1-1 home tie with Thornton Academy.
Deering was a playoff team a year ago and hopes to take another step in 2011. The Rams began 3-0 this autumn, downing host Massabesic (3-2), visiting Portland (1-0) and host Westbrook (5-0). After a 1-0 home loss to Gorham, Deering won, 3-1 at Noble, then fell, 3-0, at home to Thornton Academy and 2-0 at South Portland.
Last year, Scarborough won at the Rams, 3-0, its seventh straight over Deering since joining the Southern Maine Activities Association in 2004.
The Red Storm would do it again Wednesday, but it took all 80 minutes to secure victory.
It took all of eight minutes for Carignan to strike.
With exactly 32 minutes to play in the 40-minute first half, after a bad clear by the Deering defense, Carignan pounced and fired a shot past Rams sophomore goalkeeper Lee Ann Downs.
The hosts pulled even in the 17th minute, thanks to sophomore standout Alexis Elowitch, who teed up a 30-yard blast and placed it just over the outstretched arms of Scarborough sophomore goalkeeper Sydney Martin.
A minute later, Carignan looked to make it 2-1, but her shot was saved by Downs.
In the 36th minute, Carignan did give the Red Storm the lead.
This time, she took a through ball from junior Jessica Meader, went to her left, eluded a defender and finished for a 2-1 advantage.
Scarborough was primed to take that lead to the break, but with time winding down, the Rams somehow tied things up.
Deering was awarded a free kick, which sophomore Edie Pallozzi sent on net. Martin couldn’t handle it and senior captain Alexis Sivovlos was there to bang it home as time expired, make it 2-2 at halftime.
“It was a bizarre play,” said Rams coach Kevin Olson. “I tell the girls to play to the final whistle. They set it up quickly, put it on net. I couldn’t ask for anything better. It got the game even.”
The Red Storm was shaken, but quickly shrugged it off.
“I think instead of getting down, we used it as a motivator,” said Carignan. “We said, ‘We have to get that goal back. We can’t lose this game.'”
“I told them to forget about it,” said Scarborough coach Mike Farley. “We made mistakes that half and they punished us.”
Four minutes into the second half, Carignan took a pass from senior Meghan Tyson and had a good look, but shot high. A little over a minute later, Meader attempted a left-footed shot that Downs leaped to save.
Then, with 28:54 remaining in regulation, the Red Storm got the winner.
Carignan took a pass, turned and lined up a shot to Downs’ right. It rattled off the left post and went into the net and Scarborough was up, 3-2.
“I’ve learned that when I go at it too hard I usually mess up, so I trust myself and my ability,” Carignan said. “I just thought about where the goalie was and about how much space I had. I figured I had time to do a step over and got open.”
“That’s Haley,” said Farley. “She’s so clutch when she gets the ball in a dangerous spot. You can’t have enough goal scorers. She’s one of the best we’ve had at Scarborough. Three chances, three goals.”
A minute later, Elowitch looked to answer, but her shot was high. With 13:57 to play, Sivovlos had a look and lofted a shot, but it went just high.
With 11:56 remaining, the Red Storm almost scored again, but after taking a great cross from junior Ashley Ronzo, Meader’s shot was saved by a diving Downs.
With 7 minutes to go, Deering earned back-to-back corner kicks, but neither led to a good look.
In the final minute, Elowitch had one final chance, drilling a one-timer while falling down. Martin bobbled the shot, but then corralled it and Scarborough held on from there for the 3-2 victory.
“Deering’s a really good team,” Carignan said. “Coming into this game, we knew no matter what the rankings said, we had to come out and play. After losing 12 seniors and I don’t know how many starters, it just shows we have something to prove this year and that we have to work hard to even compete. I think we’re doing an amazing job. We can do even better. We’re improving as the season goes on. The way the other games have gone proves we’re still one of the top teams.”
“I think (the close games are) a good thing,” Farley said. “We’re really struggling within ourselves to get our style of play down. We have some games where we don’t bring our intensity. The Gorham game, we didn’t win a lot of the 50-50 balls and couldn’t get in the flow of the game and lost, 1-0. The Cheverus game, we played well and aggressive, then we gave up a free kick and it was tied. The same thing happened against Thornton. We just need to get ourselves like we were in the second half. If we string passes together and find feet, we’re dangerous.”
Deering was disappointed to fall short, but encouraged by the effort.
“We showed great resiliency,” Olson said. “We played Gorham, who in my opinion is one of the best teams, to 1-nil, but we ran with them. TA was a 3-0 game, but we outshot them. South Portland we let get away, but we played our best soccer. We’ve just been in a lull to find the back of the net. We moved the ball and were pretty sound defensively. We got our scoring back. We fought to the end. It was a great match. I was happy. We’ll take the positives away and go forward.”
The Rams (12th in the Western Class A Heal Points standings) have another tough test at Thornton Academy Saturday. They also have key games remaining at Windham and at home versus Cheverus and Sanford.
“We know we can play with anybody after playing this team as well as we did,” Olson said.
The Red Storm (currently fourth in the Heals, behind Cape Elizabeth, Greely and Gorham) visits Windham Saturday. After going to Noble and McAuley, Scarborough hosts Westbrook. The regular season closes with a visit to Biddeford and a home test versus Massabesic.
This squad is seeking to rediscover its championship form and could very well be there once again when all is said and done.
“We want to play at a high level by playoffs,” Farley said. “That’s all the matters. There are five or six teams that can beat anybody. It’s going to be a crapshoot. On any given day, if you don’t bring your ‘A’ game, you can lose. We have to get ourselves going in the direction where we’re playing consistently. If we can do that by the end of the season, we’ll be in good shape and be right in the mix.”