PORTLAND—The Scarborough girls’ soccer team has faced three stern road tests this fall and has passed them all with flying colors.
The third came Thursday afternoon at Boulos Stadium, where the Red Storm scored twice in the first half, then rode a stellar defensive effort to a 2-0 victory over the previously undefeated Cheverus Stags.
Seniors Erica Meader and Cortney Hughes had the goals, while junior Emily Tolman and her defensive mates held the Stags at bay as Scarborough stayed perfect at 6-0, dropping Cheverus to 5-1-1 in the process.
“Our backs did a really good job,” said Red Storm coach Mike Farley. “(Cheverus) has athletic forwards. We didn’t play as well as we can play, but we weathered the storm and did a good job of shutting them down.”
Scarborough won 13 of 14 regular season games a year ago, then was stunned in overtime by Marshwood in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. This year, the Red Storm are absolutely loaded and know that they’ll ultimately be judged on what happens in the postseason, but in the meantime, they’ve handled all comers.
Scarborough won their first five outings by a composite 24-0 margin. The highlights were a revenge-is-sweet 7-0 romp at Marshwood Sept. 10 and a thrilling 1-0 overtime victory at Gorham three days later.
Cheverus, which made it to the quarterfinals before losing to Gorham in 2009, opened the year with a first-ever victory over the nemesis Rams and also downed Marshwood, Biddeford, Bonny Eagle and Noble and settled for a 0-0 home tie against South Portland.
Since the Stags and Red Storm began playing in 2003, Scarborough had won five of eight meetings, including an overtime decision in the 2004 playoffs and a 1-0 OT triumph last fall. Thursday’s contest would be close, but the Red Storm took care of business.
Neither team had a golden scoring opportunity until the visitors got on the board with 18:23 to play in the 40-minute first half when senior Margaret Palmer sent a pass to classmate Erica Meader, who unleashed a rocket from some 20-yards out that soared past Cheverus sophomore goalkeeper Michaela Mayberry and settled in the upper right corner of the net.
In the 29th minute, senior Sarah Little (hero of the Gorham win) hit the crossbar on a free kick, but the next time, the Stags weren’t as fortunate.
With 9:10 left in the half, not long after Cheverus sophomore Hannah Noonan (on a pass from freshman Abby Maker) shot wide of an open net with Scarborough senior goalie Jill Deering out of position, the Red Storm went up 2-0 when sophomore Sarah Martens fed Hughes, who fought through two defenders, then fired past Mayberry.
“It was awesome to get the lead,” Tolman said. “It made us more relaxed.”
Stags coach Dan LaVallee said that early nerves and his team’s youth helped dig the hole.
“We were pretty nervous those first 10 minutes,” LaVallee said. “We have a ridiculously young team. The more we’re in these pressure-filled games, the better off we’ll be in the end.”
The second half was more even, but the hosts couldn’t close the gap.
Not that they didn’t have opportunities.
In the 47th minute, Noonan shot high on a fast break. In the 49th minute, freshman Sade Lyons collected a rebound right in front and shot, but Deering (five saves) made a nice stop. Then, in the 55th minute, Tolman calmly stopped a Cheverus rush.
“Tolman played a super game,” LaVallee said. “She did a great job on us.”
“Our coach warned us beforehand that (Cheverus would) be really fast and strong,” Tolman said. “We had to contain them, win the ball in the air and not lunge.”
Down the stretch, Scarborough had a couple good chances to add to its lead, but in the 73rd minute, a shot from senior Tori Armishaw was denied by Mayberry (five saves) and three minutes later, Mayberry stopped Little’s bid in front.
The Red Storm then brought the curtain down on their 2-0 win.
“(Cheverus is) a good team,” Farley said. “This isn’t an easy place for us to play. This field isn’t big. Our game isn’t suited for this type of field since you’re constantly under pressure. We got lucky we got a couple breaks. We’re gutting out wins. Last year, we would have tied or lost this game. This year, we find a way. If we can keep going, we’ll be successful. We don’t give up a ton of shots. We haven’t given up a goal all season.”
Scarborough had a 5-4 edge in corner kicks and a 7-5 advantage in shots on frame.
“In my opinion, I think the difference in the game was finishing,” LaVallee said. “They finished their chances and we obviously didn’t finish ours. We had good opportunities. If one went in, it would have been a different game, but saying that, they had their chances too. We have to get used to playing in these types of games. That’s what the playoffs are like.”
Cheverus (which led the Western A Heal Points standings entering play Thursday) is at Thornton Academy Saturday.
The Red Storm (third prior to the game) have lived up to billing and expect to remain focused and hungry. They host South Portland Saturday, the team that handed them their lone regular season loss a year ago.
“We haven’t forgotten last year’s game,” Tolman said. “I love this team. Everyone’s great. We all work hard. Past disappointments have made us strong. We really want it this year.”
“We have perspective,” added Farley. “We’ve been in this spot and we won’t let it get to us. We’re taking it one game at a time and luckily, we’re getting up for these games. Cheverus is a rival. South Portland, who we play next, beat us last year. It’s nice the way the schedule’s laid out.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org