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SCARBOROUGH—Taking care of business.
That should be the slogan of the Scarborough field hockey team, which isn’t all that interested in celebrating early round playoff victories.
That’s because the Red Storm have only one prize in mind this autumn.
The big one.
A state title.
After falling in the state game in each of the past two seasons, Scarborough has been unstoppable this fall and Tuesday evening, hosting Thornton Academy in a Western Class A semifinal, the Red Storm made sure they kept the good times rolling.
In workmanlike fashion.
With 17:35 to play in the first half, sophomore sensation Lily Nygren scored her latest big goal, rebounding home a shot on a penalty corner to put top-ranked Scarborough ahead to stay.
The Red Storm would take a 1-0 lead to the half, thanks in large part to a big-time save from junior goalie Alyssa Souza on the only shot she faced in the first 30 minutes, a blast off the stick of Golden Trojans senior Carli Legere with under a minute to go.
Scarborough carried play most of the second half as well and when sophomore Kristen Levesque and senior Kristen Murray scored in a two-minute span, the lead was a healthy 3-0.
Fourth-ranked Thornton Academy got on the board with 18:33 to go, when freshman Taylor Ouellette scored, but the Red Storm went on to a 3-1 victory, their 16th without a loss this season.
Scarborough ended the Golden Trojans’ season at 12-4 and advanced to the Western A Final, where it will host No. 3 Marshwood Thursday at a time to be announced.
“We played our game,” said Red Storm coach Kerry Mariello. “We took advantage of the opportunities we were given. We beat them to the ball. All the little things we were able to accomplish today.”
After falling in the state final to Skowhegan in each of the past two seasons, Scarborough’s goal this fall is a championship and nothing else will suffice.
While the Red Storm’s regular season brilliance (a 61-game unbeaten streak) was been well documented, Scarborough’s been pretty amazing in the regional playoffs as well. Dating back to the start of the 2008 playoffs, the Red Storm had won 13 of 15 outings and made four trips to the Class A Final.
After a 14-0 regular season campaign, Scarborough got off to a fast start in last week’s quarterfinal against eighth-ranked Biddeford and went on to a 3-1 victory.
Thornton Academy went 11-3 in the regular season, then got a last-minute goal from junior Libby Pomerleau to beat No. 5 Falmouth in last Wednesday’s quarterfinal, 2-1.
Back on Sept. 26, the visiting Golden Trojans took the Red Storm to overtime before Scarborough scored the game’s lone goal to prevail.
The Red Storm won the two prior playoff meetings, capturing the 2009 quarterfinals (2-0) and the 2012 quarterfinals (4-0).
Tuesday, Scarborough made sure overtime wouldn’t be necessary as it carried play most of the night.
After an initial feeling out period, the Red Storm earned their first corner in the eighth minute, but couldn’t produce a shot.
Their second opportunity five minutes later would have a dramatically different result.
With 17:35 left, Scarborough senior Kaitlin Prince had a shot blocked and sophomore Victoria Timm followed with a bid that Thornton Academy sophomore goalie Isabella Capozzi saved, but the rebound came right to Nygren and the spitfire whacked the ball into the cage for a 1-0 lead.
“Tori sent (the ball) across and I was on the post and I saw it coming to me,” Nygren said. “I saw the goalie turned the other way focused on Tori still and I just decided to take the open shot. I knew we wouldn’t have a lot of scoring opportunities, so why not get one early and get the ball rolling? I think it was pivotal because it gets the other team down. For us, it solidified that we were focused, ready to play and ready to win.”
“The sophomore class is doing huge things this year,” said Scarborough senior midfielder Maddy Dobecki, a finalist for the Maine Miss Field Hockey award. “They’re filling positions we lost last year. Lily has had amazing goals. She’s always on the post.”
“That was definitely a momentum shift in our favor,” Mariello added. “When you have to play catch-up, you start making mistakes. We try to score early and often. That’s been our motto.”
The Golden Trojans got their first corner with 6:05 left in the first half, but couldn’t produce a shot.
After Capozzi robbed Murray, who took a pass from senior Abby Walker on a fastbreak, the visitors got another corner and as time dipped below a minute, Legere had a great look and fired a blast, but Souza kicked it away, preserving the 1-0 lead going into the half.
The Red Storm outshot Thornton Academy, 5-1, in the first half and had five corners to two for the Golden Trojans, but the lead was just one goal and Scarborough went into the second half knowing it needed more.
Just 48 seconds in, Murray sent a shot wide. A minute later, Dobecki’s backhanded shot was tipped wide.
Then, with 21:46 left in regulation, after Murray’s shot on a corner was saved, Levesque got a shot past a diving Capozzi and the Red Storm had a 2-0 advantage.
“We talked at halftime about getting an insurance goal,” Levesque said. “I saw the ball and just put it in the back of the cage. Being good on corners was our goal tonight. We played we the same fierceness we always play with.”
Then, with 19:48 to play, Murray got in the scoring column, as she positioned her stick perfectly to redirect a Dobecki blast for a 3-0 lead.
“Maddy had a great drive,” Murray said. “When she’s outside the circle, it’s really important to get a stick on the ball and get it in the net. As long as you get a stick on it, you’ll redirect it and throw the goalie off.”
To its credit, Thornton Academy came right back and on its first shot of the second half, got on the scoreboard when Pickering set up Ouellette to cut the deficit to 3-1 with 18:33 still to play.
The Golden Trojans had a chance to really make things interesting when they earned a corner with 5:21 to go, but sophomore Emma Dutremble shot wide and Scarborough went on to slam the door on its 3-1 victory.
“We had to keep playing our game,” Murray said. “One lapse won’t define the game. We had to make sure we stayed strong and focused. We always work our hardest. There’s no such thing as luck in field hockey. It’s all about hard work and dedication and doing everything right. We showed we could do that tonight.”
“There’s a mental aspect to the game that’s important,” Mariello said. “If you go into the game with the mentality of taking care of my job and my role, then all 11 players will be successful. That’s something the girls have responded well to. We’re going to face strong caliber teams from here on out. Teams will score against us and we know that. There will be breakdowns here and there, but we just have to minimize those as much as possible. It’s all about having one more (goal) at the end.”
The Red Storm had an 11-3 shots advantage and a 7-3 corners edge. Souza made just one save, but it was enormous. Capozzi made three saves for Thornton Academy.
The Red Storm are off to the regional final and the good news is they don’t have to leave their turf, as Scarborough is the host for all three Western Maine Finals Thursday.
The Red Storm will be tested by Marshwood (now 14-2 after Tuesday’s 5-1 quarterfinal round win over No. 10 Cheverus). Scarborough handled the visiting Hawks in the season opener, 3-0, Sept. 4, but Marshwood was without standout Lindsay Poirier and is extremely confident at this juncture.
The teams have met just once before in the postseason, a 1-0 Red Storm victory in last year’s semifinals.
Scarborough figures to be tested Thursday, but good luck keeping these ladies from their appointed date with destiny.
“We’ll have to really focus just like we did today,” Nygren said. “We’ll have to come out with more tenacity and fierceness so they know this is Scarborough’s turf and that they better watch out.”
“We want to win it all,” Dobecki said. “Losing two times in a state championship game, we really want that win. We’re meshing well. We know they’ll be tough. They always bring their game for us, but we’re on our homefield. We’ll be ready. I think we can do it.”
“(Marshwood will) be a whole different team, but having homefield could be the difference, who knows?” Mariello added. “We’ll be ready to play them. I know they’ll be ready to play. Hopefully, we come out as strong and as focused as we did today. We want to finish the entire season. Hopefully, with the ultimate title in the end.”
Speaking of which, the Class A state final is Saturday at Thomas College in Waterville. If the Red Storm advance, they’ll either meet Skowhegan (14-2) for the third year in a row, or Lawrence (14-2) for the first time.
Scarborough senior Abby Walker fully extends in an attempt to take the ball from Thornton Academy senior Dorina Sirois.
Scarborough sophomore Victoria Timm fights Thornton Academy senior Ashley Houp for possession.
Scarborough sophomore Lily Nygren tries to elude Thornton Academy senior Dorina Sirois. Nygren continued her breakout season by scoring the game’s first goal.
Thornton Academy sophomore goalie Isabella Capozzi dives in vain in an attempt to stop Scarborough sophomore Kristen Levesque’s shot in the second half.
Scarborough sophomore Kristen Levesque brings the ball up the field as Thornton Academy junior Grace Pickering defends.
Scarborough senior Maddy Dobecki pokes the ball away from Thornton Academy junior Grace Pickering.
Scarborough junior goalie Alyssa Souza is congratulated by seniors Kaitlin Prince and Rose Kirsch (right) at the final horn.
Scarborough senior Kristen Murray screams with delight during a celebration of sophomore Kristen Levesque’s second half goal which put the Red Storm up, 2-0, over Thornton Academy in the teams’ Western A semifinal Tuesday night. Murray added a goal and Scarborough went on to a 3-1 win to advance to face Marshwood in Thursday’s regional final.
Mike Strout photos.
More photos below.