SCARBOROUGH—After surviving its quarterfinal round playoff game in dramatic, last-second fashion, Scarborough’s defending Class A field hockey state champion had the look of a team primed for another deep run.
That’s until Thornton Academy showed up at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex for a Class A South semifinal round tilt Saturday afternoon.
The third-seeded Golden Trojans, who had never beaten the second-ranked Red Storm and had lost a frustrating one-goal home decision to Scarborough exactly one month earlier, came out sizzling and got the jump just over five minutes in, when sophomore Taylor Ouellette scored on a rebound.
Thornton Academy almost doubled its lead, but Red Storm senior goalie Alyssa Souza literally used every body part at her disposal to keep her team within hailing distance at halftime.
Scarborough hoped to rally in the second half, but its potent offense was held without a shot and with 20:51 to play, Ouellette finished a feed from senior captain Libby Pomerleau to double the lead and the Golden Trojans went on to a historic 2-0 victory.
Thornton Academy beat the Red Storm for the first time in program history, improved to 14-2, advanced to face top-ranked Cheverus (14-2) in the regional final Wednesday at Fitzpatrick Stadium at a time to be announced and ended the Red Storm’s fine season at 13-3, snapping Scarborough’s 10-game regional postseason win streak in the process.
“(Thornton’s) a great team,” said Red Storm coach Kerry Mariello. “They were the better team today. They were deserving of this game.”
Entering Saturday’s game, Scarborough had played in seven semifinals since 2007 and won all but one of them (a 2-1 loss to Cheverus in 2010). Last year’s semifinal brought a visit from Thornton Academy and the Red Storm prevailed, 3-1, behind goals from Lily Nygren, Kristen Levesque and eventual state game hero Kristen Murray.
On Sept. 24, Scarborough went to Saco and improved to 14-0 all-time against the Golden Trojans, thanks to a 2-1 win behind goals from Nygren and Levesque.
That was part of another strong regular season by the Red Storm, one which didn’t produce a perfect record, but 12-2 was good enough to earn the No. 2 seed in Class A South and Wednesday, Scarborough survived No. 7 Falmouth in the quarterfinals, 1-0, on sophomore Rachel Paradis’ dramatic goal with 17.9 seconds to play.
Thornton Academy has lived up to preseason billing as a top contender, also going 12-2 in the regular season (Cheverus handed the Golden Trojans their other loss) and as the third seed, it eked out a 2-1 win over No. 6 Marshwood Wednesday, on a goal from freshman Abby Pomerleau with 91 seconds to play.
In addition to last year’s victory, Scarborough beat Thornton Academy in two other playoff meetings: 2-0 in the 2009 Western A quarterfinals en route to a championship and 4-0 in the 2012 quarterfinals en route to a trip to the state final.
Saturday, at high noon, the teams squared off again, but from the get-go, it was clear the Golden Trojans weren’t leaving town without a victory.
The first good scoring chance resulted in the game’s first goal.
It was set up by a long hit from Thornton Academy junior Isabella Robinson, which was stopped by Souza, but Ouellette got the loose ball, shot, had it blocked by Souza, then collected the ball again and shot into the cage for a 1-0 lead with 24:55 to play in the first half.
“Marshwood was a really tough game and I think that game prepared us for this kind of intensity level,” said Golden Trojans coach Lori Smith. “The kids were ready. They were focused and calm. We’ve had a lot of tough games.
A minute later, Thornton Academy earned a penalty corner and had a great look to double its lead, but a rocket off the stick of senior captain Grace Pickering was just wide of the near post.
With 19:37 to play, Souza turned acrobat to keep her team within one.
After Pomerleau set up Pickering for a breakaway, Pickering shot, but Souza dove and stopped the ball with her facemask. Pickering tried once more, but a prone Souza saved that shot too.
“Alyssa saved us,” Mariello said. “She did it all season. She knew she had to leave it all there and she did.”
With 16:54 left before halftime, Scarborough sophomore Lauren Topchik fired a shot which deflected high, forcing Golden Trojans junior goalie Isabella Capozzi to swat it away.
Little did anyone know, but that would prove to be the Red Storm’s only shot on goal all afternoon.
Late in the half, Souza kicked away a Pomerleau bid and it was on to halftime with the score still 1-0.
In the first half, Thornton Academy had a 7-1 shots advantage, but Souza’s six saves kept the game in doubt.
The visitors came out with equal intensity in the second half and after Ouellette was denied by Souza, her next shot found its mark.
With 20:51 left, Pomerleau played a cross through the crease and Ouellette calmly redirected it into the cage to make the score 2-0.
From there, the only question was if Scarborough could generate any offense and the answer was no.
The Golden Trojans’ defense and midfield was smothering, preventing the Red Storm from getting looks.
After Souza denied Thornton Academy junior Emma Dutremble midway through the half, Scarborough finally earned its first penalty corner with 12:25 to go, but the hosts couldn’t muster a shot, as Pickering broke up the opportunity.
Souza continued to shine down the stretch, denying three straight shots from Pomerleau, then diving to rob Pomerleau with 4:12 remaining.
The Red Storm earned two more corners, but couldn’t put a shot on goal and at 1:15 p.m. after nearly a year as state champion, Scarborough’s reign ended with a 2-0 setback, much to the exhilaration of the Golden Trojans.
“I’ve never beaten them as a coach and I’ve been at it a long time,” Smith said, amid the postgame celebration. “It’s huge. I’m so happy for this team. We’re such a family. It’s been a great season and I think they deserve it. To see their hard work pay off is really huge. The minute our regular season game ended, I wanted another shot at them, so I was happy when I heard they beat Falmouth. I knew our kids could do it and I’m happy for them. Everybody gets really hyped to play them. I was really proud of the defense that we didn’t allow any corners by halftime, because they have dangerous corners.”
The Red Storm got 13 saves from Souza and had a 4-3 edge in corners, but that wasn’t enough.
“We can’t hold our heads down,” Mariello said. “We made some great saves and great plays defensively. It could have been worse. We had to play near perfect. The opportunities we had were stopped by their defense.”
Thornton Academy finished with a whopping 16-1 shots advantage (15-1 on frame). Capozzi had to make just one save.
The Golden Trojans lost Cheverus, 3-2, in overtime, Sept. 10 at home. The teams have met just once prior in the postseason, a 1-0 Stags’ victory in the 2007 preliminary round.
“We’re not done,” Smith said. “We’re looking forward to the next one.”
If this was a rebuilding year for Scarborough, then pity the rest of the league. The “rebuilding” Red Storm managed to win 13 games and get to the semifinals for the eighth time in nine years.
“It’s hard to describe all we lost (after last year),” Mariello said. “We lost 11 players, including four all-state players. We were basically brand new coming in. We had ailments, we had personal issues going on, but we won in a lot of ways the scoreboard doesn’t represent. The girls definitely exceeded expectations.”
Scarborough graduates Souza, defenders Caitie Coombs and Emma Hall and forward Grace Bailer.
Everyone else returns.
“Hopefully we’ll come back healthy,” Mariello said. “We’ll be excited to see what next year brings.”
Scarborough junior Lily Nygren tries to get the ball from Thornton Academy junior Sidney Hurst.
Always dangerous Scarborough junior Kristen Levesque tries to get a step on Thornton Academy freshman Catherine Henaire.
Scarborough sophomore Lucy Malia is slowed by Thornton Academy freshman Abby Pomerleau.
Scarborough junior Tori Timm tries to get around Thornton Academy sophomore Taylor Ouellete. Ouellette had both goals in the game.
Scarborough junior Annika Battista takes a shot.
Scarborough senior goalie Alyssa Souza denies Thornton Academy senior captain Libby Pomerleau during the teams’ Class A South semifinal Saturday afternoon. Despite 13 saves from Souza, the Red Storm’s reign as Class A champion ended with a 2-0 loss.
Mike Strout photos.
Scarborough junior Cara Reynolds and Thornton Academy junior Sidney Hurst fight for possession.
2014 Western A semifinals
@ Scarborough 3 Thornton Academy 1
2012 Western A quarterfinals
@ Scarborough 4 Thornton Academy 0
2009 Western A quarterfinals
@ Scarborough 2 Thornton Academy 0