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SCARBOROUGH—With the first-round playoff monkey cast from their back and the pressure of their incredible shutout streak finally relieved, yet another challenge still loomed for the Red Storm, the Western Maine Class A championship.
Four times since 2001, the Scarborough girls’ soccer team reached the regional championship, only to come out on the losing end. This season, the Red Storm ran the regular season table without allowing a single goal to lock up the top seed in the Western Class A tournament, then continued its string of shutouts in the quarterfinals, where it defeated No. 8 Cape Elizabeth, 2-0, in the process ending a three-year streak of first-round playoff exits.
In the semifinals against No. 5 Cheverus, the Red Storm finally surrendered a goal (on a penalty kick), but advanced with a 2-1 win, getting goals from juniors Meghan Tyson and Jessica Broadhurst and earning Scarborough another shot at the regional championship.
No. 2 Thornton Academy, the defending West champ, was all that stood in the way.
The Red Storm proved to be up to the task, with junior forward Haley Carignan putting in a rebound with 21:05 left in the game to lift Scarborough to a 1-0 win over the Golden Trojans (13-4) at a frigid Kippy Mitchell Athletic Complex Wednesday night.
Scarborough (17-0) will play in Saturday’s state championship game against Eastern No. 2 seed Bangor (likely at Falmouth High with time to be announced), which upset No. 1 Brunswick, the defending state champion, 2-1 earlier on Wednesday.
“It’s unbelievable. It doesn’t even feel real,” said Scarborough senior forward Cortney Hughes, who took the shot that Carignan followed up. “The past three years we’ve been kicked out in the first round, so now making it to states doesn’t even seem real. I’m so proud of everyone. I think we deserve it this year.”
Red Storm coach Mike Farley and his veteran players have certainly known their share of postseason heartache, Scarborough entered last year’s tournament as the No. 1 seed, only to be ousted in the quarterfinals 2-1 in overtime by Marshwood, but it is now a distant memory.
“A lot of them have been with me for three years and they’ve had a little bit of bad luck,” Farley said. “The effort they put in today in winning this game really does make it all worth it, and it gives them a chance to do something special on Saturday.
“I think the first playoff game was the biggest test. To get by that gave them the confidence to play in these bigger games. I think we’ve been playing with that kind of confidence the past two games, after we got past Cape. Saturday we’ll go out and play pretty free, I would think.”
The first half featured strong defense by both teams, with scoring opportunities few and far between. Thornton Academy nearly received a gift-wrapped lead just over eight minutes in when a seemingly innocent ball took a high bounce over the head of Scarborough senior goalie Jill Deering, but Thornton Academy senior Danielle Daigle was unable to capitalize on the look on the open net and Scarborough cleared the ball out of bounds.
With seven minutes left in the first half, Scarborough senior Sarah Little ran down a partially deflected pass on the left wing and sent a shot on net, but Golden Trojans senior keeper Sydney Proctor was there for the save.
Following a corner kick with 2:30 left before the break, Thornton Academy senior Kaitlyn Hall ripped a hard shot from the right side only to have Deering make the stop.
“We were a little bit sluggish at the start, but in the second half, I really saw crisp passing and players moving off the ball,” Farley said. “It was a lot better in the second half.”
From the outset of the second half, the Red Storm put pressure on Proctor. Hughes redirected a bouncing pass on goal 10 minutes in that Proctor saved, then made a nice lead pass to Carignan six minutes later that Carignan put on goal from a tough angle, only to have Proctor knock it wide. Just two minutes after that, Carignan fired a shot from straight on and 15 yards out, but couldn’t get it past the keeper.
Less than a minute later, though, Carignan did find the net. Hughes unleashed a shot from outside the top of the box that Proctor turned away. The rebound set off a footrace, with Carignan ending up the victor. As she was being taken down from behind by a Thornton Academy defender, she used her right foot to slide a shot past a charging Proctor and into the net.
“From playing with Cortney all of my life, I knew how strong her kick was, and if I followed through, maybe I’d get lucky and get a scoring opportunity,” Carignan said. “I went with it. I just gave everything I had.”
“I knew we had to get things rolling, so I took the shot,” Hughes said. “It was an open opportunity. Haley always scores goals like that, on the ground finishing them off. We can depend on her always following it up.”
Scarborough did not allow the Golden Trojans much in the way of equalizer opportunities. Deering easily handled a long shot from the right wing by freshman Amanda Arnold with 7:40 left, then grabbed a loose ball at the near post following a corner kick in the game’s final minute.
“Thornton really came out and played a good game,” Farley said. “It was two competitive teams that really came out and battled for it. We got one break, a rebound, and we were on the ball. That was the difference in the game.”
Once again, the Red Storm defense, led by senior Nicolette Caron and junior Emily Tolman, was stellar.
“They’re incredible,” Hughes said. “They win every ball in the air. They find feet. They’re aggressive. You can always depend on them. They’re always there. They’re very fast, and they know what they’re doing back there. They are very vocal. They let us know what we’re doing wrong and what we need to work on because they’ve got a better view of the field. They keep us pumped up and going.”
Farley was able to scout the Eastern Maine championship game, as it was played in the afternoon in Brunswick, so he knows a bit about Bangor.
“I watched them today,” he said. “They’ve got some really good players up top and they’ve got two backs that are really strong. And their goalkeeper is good. When you’ve got that mix of players, good backs, a good goalkeeper and some scoring, it’s going to be anyone’s game on Saturday.”
For perhaps the first time all season, the Red Storm won’t have the pressure of streaks or expectations.
They can just go out and play.
“We’re just going to give everything we have and hopefully come out with a win,” Carignan said. “We’ve just got to go out there and play as hard as we can, and that’s all that matters.”
The Red Storm won the Class B state championship in 1998 and 1999 and lost in the state B title game in 2000.
Scarborough junior Haley Carignan slips a goal past charging Thornton Academy senior goalie Sydney Proctor as she’s pulled down by Thornton Academy freshman Allison Coburn. Carignan’s goal proved decisive in the Red Storm’s 1-0 win.
Scarborough senior Tori Armishaw tries to prevent Thornton Academy senior Lauren Titus from clearing the ball.
Scarborough senior Sarah Little tries to dribble past Thornton Academy junior Katilyn Coburn.
Scarborough senior Heidi Bogdanovich and Thornton Academy freshman Amanda Arnold get entangled while pursuing the ball.
Scarborough junior Emily Tolman dribbles upfield after taking the ball
away from Thornton Academy senior Danielle Daigle.
Scarborough senior captains (from left) Cortney Hughes, Tori Armishaw and Jill Deering hoist the Western Maine Class A championship plaque after the Red Storm beat Thornton Academy, 1-0, Wednesday night to earn a trip to the Class A final for the first time.
More photos below.