SACO—The Scarborough girls’ soccer team doesn’t lose often, but when the Red Storm does, pity the opponent that has to endure a rematch.
Saturday evening, third-ranked Scarborough left No. 2 Thornton Academy in a fog in the teams’ Western Class A semifinal, not only delivering payback for its only loss of the regular season, but also taking a step closer to avenging last year’s loss in the state final.
After missing on several good early opportunities, the Red Storm broke through with 14:22 to play in the first half when senior Sarah Martens finished a cross from classmate Ashley Ronzo.
With 3:31 to go before halftime, Ronzo scored a goal of her own and with 11.5 seconds left before the half, Martens delivered the backbreaker, scoring on a rebound.
Scarborough’s defense put the clamps down in the second half and the Red Storm cruised to a thoroughly decisive 3-0 victory, improving to 14-1-1, ending the Golden Trojans’ season at 15-1 and setting up a Western Class A Final battle with No. 4 Cape Elizabeth Wednesday in Scarborough.
“It was huge for the kids,” said Scarborough coach Mike Farley. “It’s not that we just lost (the first time), we didn’t play well. Our outside players didn’t play as big a role as they needed to. Today, they were dangerous all game. Serving balls and shooting and scoring themselves. They really created chances.”
Scarborough has only lost three games over the past three seasons. After an undefeated title run in 2010, the Red Storm lost to Gorham in the regular season last year, but avenged that setback in the regional final and got back to the state game, where it was dethroned in surprisingly one-sided fashion by Bangor, 4-0.
This fall, Scarborough passed just about ever test, but did stumble once.
The Red Storm opened by downing visiting South Portland, 4-0. Impressive 3-0 victories followed at Marshwood and Gorham. The shutout parade continued against visiting Portland (3-0), at Cheverus (3-0) and at home against Kennebunk (5-0). The Red Storm finally surrendered a goal (on a late penalty kick) at home versus Deering in a 2-1 win, but on Sept. 27, Scarborough last at Thornton Academy, 1-0. After settling for a 1-1 home draw with Windham, the Red Storm closed with shutout wins at home over Noble (7-0) and McAuley (9-0), at Westbrook (7-0), at home over Biddeford (2-0) and at Massabesic (2-0) to earn the No. 3 seed in Western A.
Tuesday, in the quarterfinals, Scarborough gave up just its fourth goal of the year, but managed to tickle the twine three times to beat sixth-ranked Sanford.
Thornton Academy, which got to the semifinals before losing to Gorham last year, won all 14 of its regular season games by a composite 76-7 margin. Only twice did the Golden Trojans get seriously pushed, the 1-0 home win over Scarborough and a 4-3 victory at Cheverus a week later.
Even with a perfect mark, Thornton Academy didn’t end up with the top seed, due to the vagaries of the Heal Points system. Instead, the Golden Trojans went into the Western A playoffs second to Windham, which was also undefeated (albeit with one tie). In the quarterfinals, Thornton Academy ousted No. 7 Gorham, 2-0.
The teams last met in the playoffs two years ago in the regional final, a 1-0 Scarborough triumph. The only other meeting was a 4-2 Red Storm victory in the 2001 quarterfinals.
Saturday, Scarborough came to Hill Stadium looking to make a statement and did so in resounding fashion.
In the 12th minute, it looked like the Red Storm might be in for a frustrating night as Martens, wide open in front, hit the crossbar and sophomore Ashley Gleason’s rebound bid went wide.
Over the next 14 minutes, junior Morgan Rodway shot wide after beating a defender, junior Hadlee Yescott headed a pass from Ronzo wide and a free kick went just wide.
Then, with 14:22 remaining in the first half, Scarborough broke through.
Ronzo got it started by playing the ball down the left side before crossing to Martens, who got a shot past Thornton Academy senior goalkeeper Emily Richard.
“At first I thought this could be one of my crossbar nights, but we kept getting chances,” said Martens. “We were all so pumped for the game and ready to get one under our belt. Once it happened, we kept it going and kept momentum. Ashley brought it down the wing and I hit it in. It was sort of a lucky goal. It worked out in our favor.”
Instead of being content with one goal, the Red Storm kept the pressure on and was rewarded.
With 3:31 left before halftime, Ronzo got a goal of her own. She first saved the ball at the end line, passed to Gleason, then got the ball back on the side. She sized up her shot and floated the ball over Richard into the net, just inside the far post to make it 2-0.
“Ashley passed it to me and I one-timed it,” said Ronzo. “I just took a shot.”
“We focused and got the next one,” Farley said. “The first goal took some pressure off and allowed the girls to play more freely. “
Scarborough was in control, but what ensued in the waning seconds put the Red Storm in command.
With time winding down, Thornton Academy had a chance to clear the ball out of the zone, but Martens came up with it and shot. Her initial bid was blocked, but Martens stayed with the play and managed to steer the ball past Richard to make it 3-0.
“We say 2-0 is the most dangerous lead, so the third goal put them under,” Martens said. “You could tell their hopes went under. I was in the right place at the right time.”
In the first 40 minutes, Scarborough outshot the Golden Trojans, 10-2, putting forth a dazzling display of soccer.
“We got on a roll,” said Ronzo. “I was amazed with our first half. Our outside-mids played so well. Once we get it to the outside, we can cross it to Sarah and (senior) Jess (Meader), who are such amazing finishers. I can count on them to be there.”
“I thought it was the best first half I’ve ever seen a team that I’ve coached at Scarborough play,” Farley said. “We passed to feet, played wide, beat players on the dribble and had finishing passes into a dangerous area. I couldn’t have drawn it up better if I had them go out there without any defenders. They did a great job executing.”
In the second half, as the fog got worse, the Red Storm was content to settle back on defense, but even then, Thornton Academy couldn’t generate much offense. The hosts’ best chance came with 19:22 to play when junior Amanda Arnold floated a shot over the crossbar.
Scarborough ran out the clock from there and celebrated its satisfying 3-0 victory.
“It feels so good, I can’t even describe it,” Martens said. “I love this feeling. We were ready. We’d been waiting for this game since they beat us. We were so prepared. We just wanted to come out and show what we do. We knew they’d come out really hard in the second half. We played like it was 0-0. We wanted to keep composed.”
“In the second half, we had a defensive mindset to hold the lead,” Farley said. “I think we’re playing our best. We had a little hiccup in the middle of the season, but it was more the teams we were playing. I think it taught us something and we’ve played better since then.”
The Red Storm finished with a 14-4 shots advantage and a 2-1 edge in corner kicks. Junior goalkeeper Sydney Martin only had to make one save (Richard made three for the Golden Trojans).
Wednesday, at a time to be announced, for the third year in a row, Scarborough will take part in the Western Class A Final.
The team across the field will be a bit of an unknown as the Red Storm don’t play Cape Elizabeth in the regular season. The Capers went 12-1-1 during the regular campaign and got past No. 13 South Portland (2-1), fifth-ranked Greely (3-0) and No. 1 Windham (2-1, on PKs) to advance to their first regional final since 2000.
Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough do have an extensive playoff history, squaring off five previous times, with the Capers winning four. Cape Elizabeth downed Scarborough in the 1986 quarterfinals (2-1), 1988 regional final (5-1), 2005 quarterfinals (a 2-1, 4-1 on PKs, upset) and 2008 quarterfinals (2-1). The Red Storm finally downed the Capers two years ago in the quarterfinals, 2-0.
Scarborough knows it won’t be easy, but is confident and driven entering the showdown.
“I don’t really know much about (Cape),” said Martens. “I know they’ll come out and play hard. They’re a young team with a lot of heart and in the playoffs, heart really matters. I know it will be a really tough game.”
“Hopefully we can carry this over to Cape,” Farley said. “It isn’t an easy matchup. It’s a credit to them to be able to switch their style. They’ve beaten some teams that you wouldn’t think they had a chance to win. I told the kids we’ll have a battle. We’ve beaten everyone else and now we have to face each other. It’ll come down to who can create chances and who can finish them.”
Ultimately, Scarborough wants nothing more than to get back to the state final and win the title that got away last fall, possibly against Bangor once again.
“We’re ready for the redemption,” said Martens.
“We’re very driven, especially after last year’s really bad, embarrassing loss,” Ronzo said. “Hopefully this year it will be much different.”
“I think (last year’s) a big motivator for (the girls),” Farley said. “We had an emotional (regional final win) against Gorham, then had an emotional letdown. This year, we’ve been focused since day one. The girls get it mentally and they get ready to play. They focus on what they have to do in a game. It translates into positive results.”