Another field hockey postseason is underway and once again, the Scarborough Red Storm appear to be the team to beat.
Class A state finalists in 2008 and first-time champions a year ago, the Red Storm were expected to be mortal this autumn, but instead won 13 of 14 regular season games, the league title and Wednesday night, a Western A quarterfinal, 3-1, over Massabesic, to advance to Saturday’s semifinal showdown versus Cheverus.
South Portland and Cape Elizabeth weren’t as fortunate, each dropping a one-goal decision in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.
Repeat after me?
Scarborough outscored its opponents, 69-7, in the regular season, stumbled just once (2-1 at South Portland Oct. 2), then dominated Westbrook, 6-1, in last Thursday’s Southern Maine Activities Association championship game. The Red Storm earned the top seed in Western A for the second year in a row and made quick work of a Massabesic squad they dominated, 9-1 at home back on Sept. 22.
In the first ever playoff meeting between the schools, Scarborough advanced, but it wasn’t as easy as expected. The Red Storm got an early goal, but clung to a 1-0 lead at halftime. After going up 2-0, Scarborough found itself in a struggle as the Mustangs got on the board. A third goal finally provided some breathing room and the hosts went on to the 3-1 victory, improving to 14-1.
The Red Storm will host Cheverus Saturday at a time yet to be determined. The teams played a thrilling regional final a year ago (Scarborough held on, 3-2). In the lone regular season meeting in 2010, Scarborough surrendered the first goal, then scored six unanswered to romp on Oct. 8.
The regional final is Tuesday of next week, at Scarborough. The state final this year is at the University of Maine in Orono on Saturday, Oct. 30.
South Portland lost its first four games this year, but finished on an 8-2 tear to earn the No. 6 seed in Western A. The Red Riots went to No. 3 Thornton Academy for the quarterfinals Tuesday. In the regular season meeting, the Golden Trojans won, 4-2, on Oct. 4. The last time the schools faced off in the playoffs, South Portland was a 2-0 preliminary round winner in 2003.
This time, Thornton Academy carried the day, scoring late in the first half and adding another with 7:31 to go. The Red Riots made things interesting when junior Jaclyn Salevsky scored with 1:42 remaining, but they couldn’t get the equalizer and their season ended at 8-7 with the 2-1 setback.
““It was just (Thornton Academy’s) day today,” said South Portland coach Heather Seavey. “They’re a good team. I credit the girls. They played the best that they could. They gave everything out there, and I think it was a better game than the last game we played against them. We played for the full 60 minutes. Time just ran out. We had our chances. If we only could have played five more minutes I felt like we had the momentum going.
“We’ve had a great season. Some of these seniors played their first two years without winning a game, then last year we won four and tied one. Then this year we made it to a quarterfinal game, which is huge for us. This hasn’t happened in four years. We’ve come a long way.”
While the disappointment was evident in the tears of the South Portland players afterward, the season, one that began with some disciplinary issues and four straight losses, must be considered a huge success, as well as a surprise to everyone outside the South Portland huddle.
“We had some leaders,” Seavey said. “We had some strong personalities. We had great teamwork. We went through a lot of stuff at the beginning of the season that could have gone either of two ways. And they came together and overcame things. I’m really proud of them.”
While graduation will take its toll on the Red Riots, Seavey has high hopes for 2011, as six starters are expected to return.
“We graduate eight seniors, but I do have four juniors and a strong sophomore class, along with a few freshmen who had some experience this year,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Around the time South Portland was eliminated, Cape Elizabeth followed suit, falling 4-3 at Greely.
The Capers went 7-6-1 in the regular season and earned the No. 6 seed in Western B. The teams split in the regular season, with both winning at home (the Capers, 2-1, on Sept. 27 and the Rangers, 1-0, on Oct. 5). Greely won four of the previous six playoff meetings including the most recent (3-0 in the 2005 quarterfinals).
Tuesday, Cape Elizabeth delivered a stunning blow just 25 seconds in when senior Ally Boyington scored. Undaunted, the hosts answered midway through the 30-minute first half when senior Jackie Andrews (from sophomore Rachel Hanson) rattled the cage. With 9:52 to go before halftime, the Capers went ahead again, 2-1, as sophomore Lauren Steidl struck. Again, the Rangers rallied and tied the score when Hanson scored on a rebound with 5:42 remaining.
The second half was just as exciting.
With 25:35 to play, Greely took its first lead when junior Emily Curato sent a pass across to senior Sarah Howard who one-timed a blast high and past Capers’ sophomore goalie Julianne Ayers. The Rangers couldn’t salt it away, however, as Cape Elizabeth tied the score, 3-3, with 20:53 let on another goal from Steidl.
With 8:39 to go, the Capers earned a penalty corner, then another, then another and eventually a fourth, but couldn’t get off a decent shot.
“That’s been our story all season long, but we got closer than we have,” said Capers coach Darci Holland. “We were right on pads, but couldn’t finish. We’ve practiced everything with our corners. We tried to lob it in. It worked, but we couldn’t finish.”
With 3:40 remaining, Greely went ahead for good when junior Eliza Porter scored. Greely’s defense held on for most of the rest of regulation, but just before time expired, Cape Elizabeth earned its seventh penalty corner. Even though the clock wound down to zero, the Capers had the opportunity to play it out and conceivably tie the score and send the game to overtime. Instead, sophomore Jane Coffrin’s bid was blocked and eventually the Rangers cleared the ball from the circle, making their palpitating 4-3 win official.
Cape Elizabeth was oh-so-close to advancing to the semifinal round for the first time since 2002.
“We played so hard,” said Holland. “It’s a heartbreaker for my girls. We played until the end and that’s all I can ask for. We just didn’t come out on the right end. I was very impressed with our start, but they answered back. It was a great, even game.”
The Capers figure to be heard from in the future.
“It’s been a team who’s very coachable,” Holland said. “They were dedicated to getting better. It was one of my most fun years coaching. We only graduate three. We’re a young team and we’ll build on this.”
Freelancer Tom Minervino contributed to this story.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
South Portland senior forward Felicia Farnham gets ready to turn and fire a shot as Thornton Academy senior back Jasmine Roy and sophomore goalie Abbey Siulinski stand in her way. The Red Riots saw their inspirational season end with a 2-1 Western A quarterfinal round loss at the Golden Trojans.
Players on the South Portland field hockey bench watch anxiously as time ticks away during the second half Tuesday.