SCARBOROUGH—Coming off their first regular season loss in three years, the Scarborough field hockey team returned to form Monday afternoon.
Hosting rival Westbrook in a pivotal Western Class A affair, the top-ranked Red Storm got two first half goals, then held on for dear life as they improved to 9-1 with a 2-1 victory over the No. 2 Blue Blazes (9-2).
Junior Lindsay Dobecki and sophomore Stephanie Felt had the goals and sophomore Shannon Hicks stepped into the cage in the second half and turned away seven shots as Scarborough held serve in its quest for homefield advantage in the playoffs.
“It was very important to come out strong,” said Dobecki. “It shows we’re still a strong team and that we can come back after a loss.”
Prior to Saturday’s 2-1 setback at South Portland, Scarborough had won 26 straight games, including last year’s Class A state championship. The Red Storm had won their first eight contests this fall by a composite 42-2 margin and didn’t hang their heads after falling to the Red Riots, choosing instead to take the loss as a positive.
“It was a hard loss, but I think it was good for us,” Dobecki said. “It helped us bond as a team.”
“There were a lot of blank stares after we lost, but it does take a lot of pressure off,” added Scarborough coach Kerry Mariello. “(The girls) thought they had to be perfect. Now we can just play.”
Westbrook had downed every foe but Cheverus (1-0) and was hoping to beat the Red Storm for the first time since the 2006 Western A quarterfinals.
Scarborough got the jump with 19:45 to play in the 30-minute first half when Dobecki took a pass from senior Kristen Felt and beat Westbrook junior goalie Maryssa Arsenault.
“I was on the goalie and just tipped it in,” Dobecki said. “It was a great pass from Kristen.”
With 13 minutes left, the Red Storm doubled their advantage, courtesy Stephanie Felt. On a penalty corner (Scarborough had an 8-6 edge for the game), Dobecki sent a pass to Felt, who launched a blast into the cage for a 2-0 lead.
“It’s important to get a lead in big games, especially coming off a loss,” Mariello said. “It showed a lot of character and gave us our confidence back.”
Undaunted, the visitors answered with just under 2 minutes to go before halftime. On a corner, senior Sarah Howard passed to senior Olivia Marsden, whose shot eluded Red Storm junior goalie Rebecca Mitchell, making it a 2-1 game at the break.
At the start of the second half, Hicks was in goal and she and her defensive mates helped preserve the victory.
Not that the Blue Blazes didn’t have chances to tie.
With 20:45 to play, Westbrook got a corner and even got a shot on goal, but Hicks kicked it away. With 10:57 remaining, Marsden raced in on a fast break and shot wide. A minute later, Marsden fired a shot that Hicks saved. The rebound came back to Marsden, who shot wide. With 5:20 left, senior Melissa Pettis had a good look that Hicks denied. A minute later, Pettis again was robbed by Hicks. Finally, with 3:55 to go, Howard had a shot that Hicks saved, leading to a penalty corner, which Scarborough cleared. The Red Storm managed to run out most of the rest of the clock before a shot at the horn from Pettis went wide.
“We were ready for momentum to change, but we held tough,” Mariello said. “Aggressiveness is the key. Shannon is an aggressive player. That’s what she brings for us.”
Westbrook had an 11-5 edge in shots. Hicks made seven saves, Mitchell three. Arsneault stopped three shots for the Blue Blazes.
Scarborough is at Biddeford Wednesday, then has another home showdown Friday against No. 3 Cheverus (9-2), in a rematch of last year’s regional final. Tuesday of next week, the Red Storm close at Gorham.
Scarborough hopes to win out to secure the No. 1 seed and play at home through the regional final.
“We’re used to playing on turf so it’s important to get homefield advantage,” said Dobecki. “We’re coming together. We need to work more on talking as a team. We graduated a lot of seniors. If we keep talking we’ll do great.”
“Playing on turf is ideal for us,” Mariello added. “It’s a predictable game. It’s the way the game should be played and fits well with how we play.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org