Scarborough girls ride fast start to key win over Cheverus

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Scarborough junior Molly Murnane, far right, is congratulated by senior Caitlin McCaffrey after scoring a first half goal during the Red Storm’s 3-0 home win over Cheverus Saturday afternoon. Scarborough remained undefeated on the season and returned to the top spot in the Class A South Heal Points standings.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

SCARBOROUGH—After each goal scored by the Scarborough girls’ soccer team, the public address announcer plays a recording of lightning and thunder.

The Cheverus Stags heard more of those sound effects than they would have liked before Saturday afternoon’s game at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex was four minutes old, as the undefeated Red Storm scored twice to open up a commanding lead.

Scarborough needed just 84 seconds to go on top to stay, as junior Sophia Martens placed a free kick in the just the right spot to score the game’s first goal.

If that wasn’t staggering enough for the Stags, the Red Storm made it 2-0 in the fourth minute, when junior Molly Murnane fed senior Gaby Panagakos in transition.

Cheverus would settle down, but couldn’t generate much in the way of offense and 7:35 to go in the first half, Murnane somehow got a shot from an almost impossible angle to find the net and Scarborough was firmly in control at the break.

The Red Storm wouldn’t score again, but they wouldn’t need to, as the Stags couldn’t solve their defense and Scarborough was able to close out its 3-0 victory.

The Red Storm improved to 11-0, ended Cheverus’ nine-game win streak and dropped the Stags to 9-2 in the process.

“Last year, we had a tough battle here with Cheverus and we knew they’d come and play hard today,” said longtime Scarborough coach Mike Farley. “We wanted to come in and get them back on their heels. I knew they’d be up for it and we wanted to put them under pressure and hopefully get a couple early goals and we did and it took a little wind out of their sails. I’m proud of how well the girls started. That made it easier for us.”

Playoffs come early

Saturday’s contest had a postseason feel, as a good-sized crowd took in the action.

Cheverus has passed almost all of its tests this fall, bouncing back from a last-second, 1-0 loss at Kennebunk to start the year by downing visiting South Portland (2-1), host Massabesic (5-0), visiting Falmouth (2-0), visiting Portland (2-0), visiting Westbrook (2-0), host Thornton Academy (3-1), visiting Bonny Eagle (2-0), visiting Deering (2-0) and host Biddeford (11-0). 

Scarborough, meanwhile, entered the contest unblemished after beating visiting Falmouth (2-1), host Thornton Academy (6-1), visiting Westbrook (9-0), host Kennebunk (6-0), visiting Bonny Eagle (2-1), visiting Deering (2-0), host Biddeford (10-1), visiting Sanford (5-0), host Maine Girls’ Academy (10-0) and host Noble (2-0).

A year ago, in a game also played at Scarborough, the Red Storm prevailed, 3-1, giving Farley his 150th win with the program.

Saturday, on a 66-degree afternoon which started bright, but steadily turned cooler and foggy, Scarborough won again, giving Farley win number 168.

The Red Storm were on the attack from the get-go and after Panagakos was fouled just outside the box, Scarborough earned a free kick.

Martens did the honors and from the side, about 25-yards out, she lofted a shot which Cheverus freshman goalkeeper Neve Cawley initially took a step out to catch, then watched it soar over her head and into the net, just inside the far post, for a 1-0 Red Storm lead with 38:36 still to play in the 40-minute first half.

“Sophia takes everything around the box,” Farley said. “She plays the ball in the right spot. She has the freedom to make a decision. She’s a good weapon to have.”

“Scarborough comes right at you off the bat and when you have a free kick in a really dangerous spot, that’s not something we’ve seen all year and that caught (Neve) off-guard,” said Cheverus coach Craig Roberts. 

With 36:53 to go in the first half, Murnane crossed the ball in front to a wide-open Panagakos, but Panagakos couldn’t get her foot on the ball.

Seconds later, however, Panagakos got another chance and this time, she delivered.

Murnane raced into the box, dished off to Panagakos on her left and Panagakos one-timed a low shot that Cawley had no chance to save for a 2-0 advantage.

Scarborough didn’t rest on its laurels and almost scored again in the sixth minute, but a deflected shot by junior Leah Dickman was saved by Cawley.

The Stags generated their first chance in the eighth minute, when dynamic and speedy sophomore Emma Gallant crossed the ball in front, but Red Storm senior back Ellie Patten cleared it out of harm’s way.

After Cawley saved a header by Murnane and a left-footed shot from junior Josie Couture, Gallant twice missed wide at the other end.

Then, with 7:35 to go in the first half, Scarborough earned even more breathing room.

Murnane, who came to Scarborough this year from Maryland, continued to make her mark with the Red Storm, as she played the ball down the right side, then turned and crossed it in front, but instead of the ball finding a teammate, it somehow got past Cawley and found the net just inside the far post for a 3-0 advantage.

“I’m really happy we could put them away early,” Murnane said. “It was important to get off to a good start. I usually look for either Gaby or Leah. They’re both good at positioning and being there for the cross. I’m pretty sure I was looking for Gaby or Leah on that shot, but it had the right spin on it. Everyone’s been super-friendly and super-welcoming. I’m so grateful for that.”

“We were just trying to get the ball into the center part of the field and it was just a fortunate bounce,” said Farley. “Molly’s only scratched the surface of what she is as a player. Technically, she’s one of my best players. She’s fast and can strike the ball really well. I hope she stays under the radar a little bit longer.”

Late in the half, Scarborough had three corner kicks and a long bid from Patten that went just wide and the hosts took a 3-0 lead to the break.

In the first half, the Red Storm had an 8-0 advantage in shots on frame and a 3-1 edge in corners.

Scarborough was content focusing more on defense in the second half and as a result, the Stags had few chances to get back in the game.

Early in the half, senior Michaela Jordan’s long free kick was bobbled by Red Storm senior goalkeeper Emily Royce, but Royce recovered and came up with the ball at the last second.

With 27:52 to go, Gallant shot wide.

Cheverus then earned a corner kick, but senior Mackenzie Johnston’s shot was saved by Royce.

With 11:07 on the clock, a shot in the box by Stags junior Sydney Michelson was blocked and a rebound attempt from senior Abby Cavallaro was saved by Royce.

From there, Scarborough controlled play and ran out the clock on its 3-0 triumph.

“We still haven’t figured out how good we are,” Farley said. “This game was a big step.”

The Red Storm wound up with an 8-3 edge in shots on frame and got three saves from Royce. Each team had three corner kicks.

Cawley saved three shots for Cheverus, which never could recover from its early deficit.

“The girls knew the magnitude of the game, that we were probably playing for first place,” said Roberts. “The girls have high expectations and wanted to compete with Scarborough. We had a couple young players in a tough situation and there were some nerves there at the start. After we got through the first five minutes, we settled down. We played more aggressively in the second half, moved the ball and got some shots. Scarborough is a good team and you have to play connected soccer in the final third. That’s something we need to work on. We’ve worked all week on playing faster and you have to do that against Scarborough because they can win balls. I don’t like losing 3-0, but if we had to, I’m glad we got stronger as the game went along.”

Test time

Cheverus (now fifth in the Class A South Heal Points standings) is back in action Wednesday when Sanford pays a visit. After welcoming Maine Girls’ Academy Friday, the Stags finish at Noble Oct 17.

“I’m confident we’ll bounce back,” said Roberts. “We’ll feel bad about this for about a half hour, then we’ll focus on Sanford for Wednesday. It’s a veteran bunch. To show we’re improving and building, getting homefield advantage would be important, but with our schedule, it’s hard to get Heal Points. We have to show up every game or we’ll lose because it’s so wide open.”

Scarborough remains first in Class A South and faces a gauntlet to close the year. The Red Storm play their Senior Night home finale Wednesday versus Marshwood, then go to Gorham and Windham.

“This is great for us,” said Murnane. “It sends a good message to the teams we’ll be playing. We need to keep putting away shots early and keep the pressure up and play as a team.”

“We’re maturing as we go along,” Farley said. “The next three games will really test us. I love these games being at the end. It’s a good way to end the season.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Cheverus junior Tholia Hallett is closely defended by Scarborough junior Jess Rinaldi.

Scarborough junior Molly Murnane and Cheverus senior Michaela Jordan meet in the air.

Cheverus senior Katherine Griffiths plays the ball as Scarborough senior Lauren Sabatino gives chase.

Cheverus sophomore Lauren Jordan shields the ball from Scarborough senior Sophie Glidden.

Cheverus freshman Tellie Stamaris and Scarborough junior Molly Murnane chase after the ball.

Scarborough senior Natalie Taylor heads the ball away from Cheverus senior Michaela Jordan.

Scarborough senior goalkeeper Emily Royce comes out to get the ball in front of junior back Sophia Martens and Cheverus sophomore Emma Gallant.

Previous Scarborough-Cheverus results

2016
@ Scarborough 3 Cheverus 1

2015
Scarborough 2 @ Cheverus 1 

2012
Scarborough 3 @ Cheverus 0 

2011
@ Scarborough 1 Cheverus 1 (tie)
Western A quarterfinals
@ Scarborough 2 Cheverus 0

2010
Scarborough 2 @ Cheverus 0
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 2 Cheverus 1

2009
@ Scarborough 1 Cheverus 0 (OT)

2008
@ Cheverus 3 Scarborough 2

2007
Cheverus 2 @ Scarborough 0

2006
Scarborough 3 @ Cheverus 0 

2005
@ Scarborough 3 Cheverus 0 

2004
@ Cheverus 3 Scarborough 2 (OT)
Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 1 Cheverus 0 (2 OT) 

2003
Scarborough 3 @ Cheverus 1 

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.