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PORTLAND—Something had to give when the 13-0 Cheverus Stags hosted the 12-0 defending Western Class A champion Scarborough Red Storm in a field hockey showdown Thursday afternoon.
While the Stags were able to strike first, ultimately, the powerhouse Red Storm wore them down, tying the game before halftime on a penalty corner, going ahead on a penalty corner with 19:17 to play, then putting the finishing touches on a 3-1 victory on a goal with just seconds left.
Scarborough wrapped up the top seed for the upcoming postseason and looks as if it will be mighty tough to beat in its quest for a first state championship.
“This was our last grass game,” said Red Storm coach Kerry Mariello. “Our schedule was laid out perfectly. We
had competition at the end. We’ll go into playoffs with intensity and
energy. We want the ultimate prize. We’ve done it all and the girls have been outstanding.”
Cheverus is only in its sixth varsity season and has gotten better each year. Last fall, the Stags made a spirited run to the regional semifinals before losing in overtime to Westbrook. This season, Cheverus opened with a 4-0 home win over Deering and never looked back, winning three close contests (2-1 over Sanford, 1-0 over Westbrook and 3-2, in double-overtime over Gorham), while rolling over the rest of the competition to a 13-0 start.
Scarborough is another program that has only gotten better each year. Last season, the Red Storm advanced to the state final for the first time, but despite outplaying Skowhegan, lost 2-1 in double-overtime to the eight-time champs. This year, Scarborough hadn’t been challenged, winning its first 12 games by a composite 75-8 margin.
Last year, the Red Storm held off the Stags in overtime, 1-0.
Thursday, Cheverus got on the board quickly. Just 4 minutes, 7 seconds in, senior Maggie Grindatti set up classmate Theresa Hendrix for a blast which eluded Scarborough senior goalie Jordi Saunders to make it 1-0 Stags.
Moments later, Mariello called timeout and the Red Storm responded and began to carry play. After some close calls, Scarborough drew even with 7:56 left in the first half when junior Kristen Felt sent the ball in on a corner, freshman Stephanie Felt played it over to senior Heather Carrier and Carrier blasted it past Cheverus senior goalie Audrey Grinnell into the cage.
The Red Storm had an 8-1 edge in corners in the first half, but the game was tied at the break.
“I kind of anticipated that (Cheverus would score first),” Mariello said. “We had to adapt
to the field. I knew once we got one in, it would be ours the rest of
After senior standout Brittany Ross shot wide and senior Ellie Morin was denied by Grinnell on a corner, Scarborough broke the tie with 19:17 left in regulation. Again, the goal came on a corner. This time, Morin redirected Ross’ shot into the cage to put the visitors ahead to stay.
With 16:45 remaining, Cheverus sophomore Sarah LaQuerre had two good looks, but was denied by Saunders, leading to a penalty corner. Junior Emily Sawchuck then had a shot, but Stephanie Felt swept it away.
With just over 12 minutes to go, Grinnell took a deflected shot off the head and had to momentarily leave the game. Senior Saundrine Lanouette stepped into the fray and was promptly tested, but turned away a pair of shots long enough for the Stags to get possession and put Grinnell back in the cage.
“I didn’t put (Saundrine) in a great situation, but she came through,” said Stags coach Amy McMullin. “That shows you have a great team.”
Cheverus’ last good chance to tie the score came with 2:53 left, but LaQuerre’s rush was broken up.
Then, with time running out, Ross, who had been frustrated time and again, finally got in the scoring column with a blast past Grinnell with just three seconds remaining, bringing the curtain down on Scarborough’s 13th straight win, 3-1.
“Cheverus is such a good team,” Ross said. “We love games like this. They’re a lot more fun. It will get us ready for the playoffs. When we got behind, we stepped up a lot. It really helped us. We stepped up and they didn’t score again. We’re definitely a turf team. It was a little hard to adjust to the grass at first. We’re definitely a second half team. We knew we had it in us. It felt good to score at the end.”
The Red Storm finished with a 16-3 edge in penalty corners and dominated play for a good three quarters of the contest.
“We had to push through,” Mariello said. “We held strong. Our defense was phenomenal. It
was an opportunity for them to finally shine and show their stuff. We
know Brittany’s going to be keyed on. We know we have a great
supporting cast around her.”
Cheverus was disappointed after its first loss since last October 25, but still has a lot to look forward to.
“It was a great game,” McMullin said. “Unfortunately, we had a few things not go our way
and it resulted in goals. We didn’t take advantage when we got the ball
in the circle. It’s hard to hold a lead in this kind of game. One
goal’s never enough. We had opportunities to get more, but we couldn’t.
It was a great game. If we had to take a loss, we’ll take it today.
We’ll move on from here.”
The Stags will likely be the No. 2 seed for the Western A tournament and will host up to two playoff games. Cheverus feels like it’s best work is ahead.
“It has been an amazing season,” McMullin said. “We believed since Day 1 that we could do this. I wouldn’t have believed 13-1. It’s
nice to see we can come out and win tough games and do well. We have a
lot of talent. We’re a very strong team. We’re in a good spot. I think we can still play better. If we play Scarborough again, I think we’ll play better and they probably will too.”
As for Scarborough, it’s state title or bust. The Red Storm close the regular year Saturday afternoon (4 p.m.) at home versus Gorham. Scarborough will then have homefield advantage right through the regional final round and will get to play on turf again if it gets to the state final (which is at Yarmouth High this year).
“Gorham will be another great challenge for us,” Mariello said. “They’re a very skilled team. They’ll want to knock off No. 1.”
“It’s been a fun season,” added Ross. “It’s not all about one person. That’s why we’re such a good team. We think about last year and losing the state game in overtime. A championship is on our minds this year.”
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com