(Ed. Note: For the complete Scarborough-Thornton Academy game story, with additional photos, see theforecaster.net)
It took the Scarborough field hockey team 59 minutes and 58 seconds to complete something it had been trying to accomplish since 2009.
Win another state title.
More to the point, beat Skowhegan to bring home a Class A state crown.
After falling to the Indians in each of the past two season finales, the Red Storm made the most of their opportunity this autumn.
After a dominant 14-0 regular season, Scarborough earned the top seed in Western A and had little trouble eliminating eighth-ranked Biddeford and No. 4 Thornton Academy by 3-1 scores.
Last Thursday, in a “neutral field” regional final game played on their home turf, against third-ranked Marshwood, the Red Storm again prevailed, 3-1, to punch their state game ticket.
The first goal came midway through the first half, when senior Maddy Dobecki, a finalist for the Miss Maine Field Hockey award, fired a blast which senior standout Kristen Murray redirected into the cage for a 1-0 advantage.
“Times like that, when it’s a quick drive, coming in fast, all I’m trying to do is get my stick on it,” Murray said. “Even if it doesn’t go in, there will be a rebound or it will throw the goalie off enough that one of our other players will score. I was just lucky enough to get it in.”
“It’s not a designed play,” Dobecki said. “We just work really well together. We’ve been playing together forever. (Kristen’s) always able to connect on the hits I send in. That was huge. It shifted momentum in our favor. We were pumped up.”
Despite outshooting the Hawks, 5-0, Scarborough only led by that goal at halftime, but it got a little breathing room with 16:23 to play when the same dynamic tandem struck again on a penalty corner.
But just when the Red Storm appeared home free, Marshwood senior standout Lindsey Poirier weaved through the defense before burying a shot to give the Hawks life with 5:09 still to play.
Scarborough coach Kerry Mariello called timeout to settle her charges and with 2:10 remaining, sophomore Kristen Levesque got her stick on the ball in a scrum and rattled the cage to slam the door on the Red Storm’s 3-1 victory.
“It’s huge for us,” Dobecki said. “It’s our third year in a row (going to states). The seniors are that much more excited. Doing it on our home turf means so much more.”
“We’ll take it, in whatever fashion it comes,” Mariello said. “The focus, precision and execution came at the right time. We had to shut down the key players on the other team and not allow opportunities. They can’t score without the ball, so we tried to keep possession as much as possible. We did a good job of that.”
Saturday, Scarborough travelled to Thomas College in Waterville to meet Skowhegan for the fourth time in the past six state finals. The Red Storm won the 2009 encounter (2-1, on Ellie Morin’s overtime goal), but lost, 2-1, in overtime in 2008, by a 3-0 margin in 2012 and 4-1 a year ago, even though that game was more competitive than the score suggested.
Murray scored Scarborough’s lone goal last season and she would tally the only goal Saturday, but this time, it produced a championship.
While the Red Storm’s defense put forth its best effort all year, shutting Skowhegan out for the first time in five years, Scarborough wasn’t able to score either and the game was 0-0 at halftime.
Early in the second half, the Indians appeared to take the lead on a goal off a penalty corner, but it was ruled that the ball hadn’t come out of the circle first and the Red Storm breathed a sigh of relief.
“It was the best moment of my life,” said Scarborough senior defender Kaitlin Prince.
Then, with time winding down and overtime appearing imminent, the Red Storm produced the long-awaited goal.
The inserter on the game-winner was sophomore Ashley Levesque. The pass went to Dobecki and a wild scramble ensued with the ball popping up in the air and eventually landing on the stick of Murray.
“There was just a fumble in the circle,” Murray said. “We were all working hard and the ball popped up and I just hit it as hard as I could. I was hanging out by the penalty stroke spot, about five yards out. The goalie was behind me. She is very aggressive. She came out far.”
Only 2.1 seconds remained and Scarborough had 1-0 lead.
A blink of an eye later, the Red Storm had the championship.
“We had our best game ever,” said Murray, who scored in every playoff game. “That was the best our defense has ever played. I can’t thank them enough for clearing the ball out. As a team, we couldn’t have worked together any better.”
“What it meant for us is everything,” Mariello said. “To have a vision to get this dream started, the motivation, conviction and confidence to reinforce that vision and to finish in such explosive fashion is indescribable. Each time we took the field, the flame grew and eventually grew to a point where it had completely taken over these girls’ hearts and soul. They were not going to lose.”
The win was especially meaningful for a tremendous senior class, one which didn’t lose a regular season game in their careers.
“They got the fairy tale ending that they deserved,” Mariello said. “This senior class did whatever they needed to do to understand and execute all of the components to building a champion. They not only got their wish granted in gaining the ultimate prize, but they instilled a standard of high moral character that is so valuable to each member of this program, from our youth kids to the coaching staff. These girls are at the top of any game, especially life. There’s no group more deserving.”
Graduation will deliver a blow this coming spring, but anyone expecting Scarborough to not be back in the hunt in 2015 will be in for a surprise. This program has never repeated, but don’t bet against them.
“Although we lose a remarkable group to graduation, I am anticipating we are in the thick of it again,” Mariello said.
Bangor Daily News staff writer Larry Mahoney contributed to this story.
Scarborough senior Kristen Murray (center, arms raised) celebrates her goal with 2.1 seconds left which gives the Red Storm a 1-0 lead over perennial champion Skowhegan in Saturday’s Class A Final. Scarborough prevailed by that score to win the program’s second title.
To the victor goes the spoils and Scarborough senior captains (from left) Maddy Dobecki, Kristen Murray and Abby Walker show off the championship trophy after the Red Storm’s victory Saturday.