SCARBOROUGH—A playoff feel was in the air and homefield advantage and bragging rights were on the line when the Cheverus field hockey team traveled to defending Class A state champion Scarborough Friday afternoon.
In the end, the Stags had to go back to the drawing board after discovering that this edition of the Red Storm is just as title-worthy as its predecessors.
Cheverus jumped to a quick 1-0 lead, but Scarborough dominated the rest of the way and broke through for three goals in the final 7-plus minutes of the first half. The Red Storm rattled the cage thrice more in the second half and improved to 11-1 with a 6-1 victory, dropping the Stags to 9-3.
“The statement has been made,” Scarborough coach Kerry Mariello said. “It was great for us. We didn’t know what to expect and to come out like this is a huge confidence boost for us.”
Number one again
Scarborough reached the state final in 2008 only to lose to Skowhegan in overtime. Last year, the Red Storm didn’t lose a game and outlasted the Indians in overtime for their first championship.
In 2010, Scarborough was expected to come back to the pack after graduating a large group of accomplished seniors, led by Heather Carrier, Ellie Morin and Brittany Ross, but with one exception, the Red Storm have remained dominant, winning 10 of their first 11 contests.
Cheverus was a regional finalist in 2009 (giving the Red Storm a mighty scare in the regional final before falling, 3-2) and won nine of its first 11 (falling only to South Portland and Gorham) contests this fall.
In last year’s regional final, Stags then-junior Emily Sawchuck stole the show with two rocket goals off penalty corners. Four minutes, three seconds into Friday’s game, she struck again.
Sophomore Gabi Cardona sent the ball in off the visitors’ lone penalty corner of the first half and Sawchuck settled it, then blasted it past Scarborough junior goalie Rebecca Mitchell for a 1-0 lead.
Instead putting Cheverus in control, the goal woke up the Red Storm.
For the next 18 minutes, Scarborough pushed for the equalizer, but shots either went wide or were saved by Stags sophomore goalie Cindy Clark.
Finally, with 7:25 left before halftime, the Red Storm drew even, courtesy senior Sarah Bunting. Off a penalty corner, Bunting pounced on a rebound and sent it into the cage.
“You knew (Cheverus would) come in fired up,” said Mariello. “They had an outstanding shot that first goal. We just had to hang tough and know in time it would pay for us if we played our game and we did.”
A mere 90 seconds later, Scarborough was ahead to stay when Bunting fed senior Rachael Millett for a goal.
“You’d think that (our) goal would have fired us up,” lamented Cheverus coach Amy McMullin. “There was just no change in the team after. Right there, that was a bad sign. It was only a matter of time until (Scarborough) scored. We couldn’t get the ball out of our defensive end.”
If that wasn’t enough, the Red Storm took a 3-1 lead at the break, courtesy a goal with 28.8 seconds remaining. After a long shot was played by Clark, junior Lindsay Dobecki set up Bunting for a shot that rattled the cage, giving the hosts huge momentum.
“A 2-1 game at halftime is a lot easier to deal with than a 3-1 game,” said McMullin. “You never want to give up a goal right before halftime. It hurt.”
“It was definitely a backbreaker-type goal,” said Mariello. “Sarah’s playing her role. She does an excellent job being by the goal. She’s very gritty. She kept her stick on the ground and was in the right place. She doesn’t give up until the ball’s in the goal.”
Scarborough had an 8-1 advantage in penalty corners the first 30 minutes and kept the pressure on in the second half.
Cheverus did have a good opportunity to get close with 21:05 to play when it earned back-to-back penalty corners, but a Sawchuck shot was blocked by Red Storm junior Abbie Rutt and after Sawchuck got to the rebound, sophomore goalie Shannon Hicks (who was inserted into the game at halftime) made the save.
From then on, Scarborough put the finishing touches on the Stags.
With 16:49 to go, Dobecki set up Bunting for her third goal and it was 4-1.
“Sometimes we’re a little late starting off, but once we get going, there’s no stopping us,” Bunting said. “I have so many people behind me bringing the ball to me. I can’t express how important they are to me. I finished and get the credit, but they did 99 percent of the work. It’s such a good feeling, every single goal. Every time you hear the ball hit the back of the goal, it’s just so great.”
With 6:57 remaining, sophomore Ali Pelczar (off a corner) tipped home senior Kristen Felt’s shot to make it 5-1.
Then, with 3:34 to play, Felt did it herself, scoring on a corner (the Red Storm had a commanding 13-3 advantage for the game) to account for the 6-1 final score.
“We’ve been waiting for Cheverus this whole time,” Bunting said. “We knew they’d bring everything. They’re a really hard team to beat. We’re both far up in the (Heal Points). It was almost like a championship for our area. After the first goal, I think it was a bit of a wakeup call for us. We knew we had to bring everything and we did. The score proved it.”
“It was a great team effort,” added Mariello. “We tried to keep the ball away from their key players.”
The Stags fell to 9-3 and will likely drop from the No. 2 spot in the Western Class A Heal Points standings they occupied coming in. Cheverus is right back at it Saturday, hosting Portland, then closes the regular season Tuesday, at home versus Thornton Academy.
“We’re young,” McMullin said. “This isn’t the team I thought would show up today. We’ll regather our thoughts. We won’t give up. We’ll show if we’re mentally tough or not.”
Scarborough appears to have the top seed in Western A locked up, meaning it will play all of its regional playoff games at home (the school will host the regional finals, regardless of who advances), meaning the Red Storm once again find themselves in great position to go all the way.
“We always had faith in ourselves that we’d be good,” Bunting said. “We didn’t expect to be as good as we are now, but we’ve stepped up to the challenge. We really want to keep the title. Homefield advantage is huge for us. We’re so much more comfortable and we don’t want anyone to beat us on our field. I think (the South Portland loss) motivated us. It was a bummer for us, but it was worth it. It’s what we needed. We’ve come back strong.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com
Cheverus’ Sarah LaQuerre and Scarborough’s Stephanie Felt get tangled up while in pursuit of the ball.
Cheverus forward Emily Sawchuck breaks down the field with the ball as Scarborough defender Shauni Cowan tries to track her down. Sawchuck opened the scoring with a penalty corner goal, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Scarborough’s Karli-An Gilbert and Cheverus’ Gabi Cardona chase after a loose ball.
Scarborough’s Dominique Burnham gets low to knock the ball away from Cheverus’ Emily Rodrigue.
Cheverus’ Annie DiLisio and Scarborough’s Grace Whelan race after a ball headed for the end line.
Scarborough’s Sarah Bunting tucks a goal into the cage as Cheverus goalie Cindy Clark and defender Taylor Witham are too late as they slide over during Friday afternoon’s field hockey game at Scarborough. Bunting scored three times as the Red Storm dominated, 6-1.
More photos below.