SCARBOROUGH—The Red Storm are mortal and the Stags are pretty darn good.
That’s the lesson gleaned from Wednesday evening’s field hockey showdown at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex.
In a highly anticipated midseason battle of undefeateds, Scarborough, the defending Class A state champion, put its five-year, 66-game regular season unbeaten streak on the line against a Cheverus squad that has done better than expected so far this autumn.
The Stags, who had only beaten the Red Storm once previously and never in the regular season, came out guns ablazing, taking a quick lead when freshman Sophia Pompeo finished unassisted in the seventh minute.
Before Scarborough knew what hit it, it was down two goals, as on a penalty corner, sophomore Hannah Abbott fed senior Abby Ford, whose shot beat Red Storm senior goaltender Alyssa Souza for a 2-0 advantage.
No one on hand expected Scarborough to go quietly and sure enough, with just 2:35 remaining in the first half, opportunistic junior Lily Nygren buried a loose ball to pull the Red Storm within a goal.
Cheverus then had to hold on for dear life in the second half, but thanks to the smothering play of Ford and her fellow defensive midfielders, senior Colleen Slattery and junior Charlotte Noyes, the Stags often stopped the potent Scarborough attack before it could get started.
The Red Storm had two penalty corner chances in the final seconds, the second coming after time expired, but Cheverus stood tall and went on to a surprising 2-1 victory.
The Stags improved to 6-0, dropped Scarborough to 5-1 and handed the Red Storm their first regular season loss since Oct. 2, 2010 in the process.
“We knew the pressure was on them,” said Cheverus coach Amy Ashley, whose 89th career victory had to be one of her sweetest. “We felt no pressure. We wanted to play our game. We decided to leave everything on the field. We feel we’re strong enough that if we do that, we can get a victory.”
While the rivalry (which started in 2004) has been one-sided, anytime that Cheverus and Scarborough do battle it’s worth tuning in, as the squads have produced some epic games in recent seasons.
Prior to Wednesday’s encounter, the Red Storm had won 12 of the 14 all-time meetings (please see sidebar, below), with the Stags taking one (an epic upset in the 2010 semifinals) and the teams tying, 1-1, two years ago.
Last fall, Scarborough eked out a 1-0 victory at Cheverus en route to the championship.
Both teams expected to compete this fall, but few thought they’d each reach the sixth game of the season without a blemish.
The Red Storm opened with a 2-0 win at Marshwood, then outlasted visiting Massabesic in double overtime, 3-2. After blanking host Deering, 4-0, Scarborough downed visiting Gorham, 3-1. Monday, the Red Storm held on for a 1-0 triumph at Bonny Eagle.
The Stags had to go to overtime in their opener to beat visiting Westbrook, 2-1. After edging host Windham, 1-0, Cheverus dominated visiting South Portland, 7-0. Last Thursday, the Stags had to go overtime again, but they upset host Thornton Academy, 3-2. Monday, Cheverus avoided a letdown with a 1-0 home win over Sanford.
Wednesday, the Red Storm hoped to extend their streak to 67, but for the first time, the Stags got the better of them in a regular season contest.
Thanks in large part to a fast start.
Cheverus controlled play early and in the third minute, senior Caroline Baker managed a weak shot, but Souza made the save.
Then, with 23:10 to go in the first half, Pompeo took a long pass from senior Becca Archer and ran up the left side. With Abbott to her right, Pompeo kept the ball and before Scarborough senior defender Emma Hall could get to her, Pompeo fired a shot which eluded Souza and rattled into the cage for a confidence-inspiring 1-0 lead.
“I got the ball from Becca and I took it and I put it in the net and we were up one,” said Pompeo, who already has the game-winner in double overtime at Thornton Academy on her resume. “It really helped to score first. If we were behind, we wouldn’t have had that confidence.”
“Sophia is one of my favorite players,” Ford said. “I’m so glad she came here. I can trust her with the ball. There’s nothing she can’t do.”
“The past couple games we haven’t had a good first half and a couple of the girls said that we’re a second half team,” Ashley added. “We didn’t want to be a second half team today because we knew Scarborough would jump on us. We wanted to make a statement early and we did. It was a very important goal, but I also let them know that a few years ago (2010), we scored first against them and lost, 6-1, so it’s not just about scoring first.”
Two minutes after Pompeo scored, Archer took a pass from senior Emily Michaud and appeared poised to double the Stags’ lead, only to see Souza make a terrific save.
The Red Storm’s momentum was short lived, however, as after Souza saved a shot by Abbott, Cheverus earned a corner and with 18:36 to play in the half, Ford took the pass from Abbott, the inserter, settled the ball and launched a shot that eluded the defense and Souza to make it 2-0.
“That first goal gave us emotion and made us want to score more,” said Ford. “We wanted to keep scoring so they couldn’t come back. We went through our normal corner. It just came to me and I shot it. I hit it well.”
Scarborough coach Kerry Mariello called timeout and implored her charges to wake up and play their game.
Sure enough, the Red Storm had some chances, but for several minutes, the Stags didn’t buckle.
With 15:10 remaining in the half, junior Ashley Levesque had a good look, but her bid was saved by Cheverus sophomore goalie Deirdre Sanborn.
After the hosts denied a Stags’ corner (Pompeo had a shot blocked), Scarborough got a corner of its own and junior Kristen Levesque rifled a shot just wide of the cage and just beyond the reach of Nygren.
“We have a saying, ‘One minute,'” Ford said. “It’s the most dangerous minute after a goal. Either a team will score or we’ll shut them down. We kept that mentality the whole game.”
“(Kerry’s) a good coach,” Ashley said. “I knew she was trying to motivate them and they wanted to come out and score right away. We had to hold them and put the pressure back on them.”
The Red Storm finally broke through with 2:35 to go in the half.
Ashley Levesque set it up with a long drive that deflected off a defender’s stick. The ball sat in front and before Sanborn could clear it, Nygren, who so often is in the right place at the right time, got to it first and tapped it into the cage to cut the deficit to 2-1.
“We needed that goal for momentum,” Mariello said. “It showed we could hang with them and that we had confidence.”
Cheverus had a 6-4 shots advantage in the first 30 minutes and had two penalty corners to one for Scarborough.
Neither team would score in the second half, but both had chances.
The Stags, as they’ve done regularly this season, switched goalies at halftime, as sophomore Kat Kane replaced Sanborn.
Cheverus, as it did in the first half, had good scoring chances early in the second half as well, but on a corner, Michaud hit the outside of the post with a ringing blast and on another corner, Ford looked to score again only to see Red Storm senior defender Catie Coombs make a clutch save to keep the score, 2-1.
Scarborough earned a corner with just under 20 minutes to play and sophomore Lucy Bogdanovich fired a promising shot, but it hit the foot of a teammate.
After a Mariello timeout with 16:57 remaining, Kristen Levesque’s blast trickled through the crease untouched.
The Red Storm then had a corner, but the Stags cleared the ball.
Ashley called timeout with 10:06 showing and prepared her charges for a final push.
Souza had to deny good looks from Pompeo and Archer to keep her team alive.
Then, with 1:41 to go, a rush by Scarborough junior Cara Reynolds was broken up.
Reynolds tried again 33 seconds later, but Ford took the ball.
With 54.1 seconds left, Kane had to come up clutch to deny a bid from Kristen Levesque.
With 25 seconds to go, the Red Storm earned a corner, but Cheverus senior defender Elise Bourassa cleared the ball out of harm’s way.
Scarborough got one final corner just before the end of regulation and by rule, was allowed to play it out before the game was official.
Nygren inserted the ball up top, but it got past Kristen Levesque and Hall couldn’t handle it.
The final whistle sounded and at 7:26 p.m., history had been made.
Cheverus 2 Scarborough 1.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Ford said. “It means so much. We only beat them one other time. It’s the game we waited for all year. We had a lot of confidence. We came into this like any other game and warmed up like any other game. We were just ready to end their streak and come out and win and keep our perfect record.”
“It was awesome to break their streak,” said Pompeo. “It’s an amazing feeling. I love the coaches and this team is so supportive. We’re like a family. We just put it all on the field. This gives us so much confidence to keep going in our season.”
“I’m very proud,” Ashley added. “We’ve gotten progressively better. When we’re relax, we play well. We just focus on ourselves and getting the job done. I knew they’d come back, but I’m proud that we stayed composed and held them in the second half. We held on for dear life. Those are situations you want to be in. If you have those in the regular season, those will only make you stronger in the postseason. Anytime you have two great teams, it’s never over. I was nervous at the end that we’d petered out. We weren’t going to the ball. They beat us to the 50-50 balls. I didn’t sub much and at the end, we were tired. I was hoping the adrenaline would win out over the fatigue.”
The Stags wound up with a 10-7 shots advantage. Kane and Sanborn each made three saves.
What can’t be quantified was Cheverus’ defensive effort. On countless occasions Wednesday night, the Stags prevented Scarborough from transitioning in the manner it’s accustomed to.
“We’re focusing on defense this year more than anything,” said Ford. “In the midfield and inside the 25.”
“Our strongest line is Colleen, Abby and Charlotte,” Ashley said. “They all started last year. Abby’s one of the best defenders in the state by far. The other two are such athletes and they can get up and down the field and hold strong. They did a great job keeping the ball away from (Scarborough) as much as possible.”
The Red Storm had a 5-4 edge in corners and got eight saves from Souza, but it wasn’t enough.
“Every team we face, it’s the first 10 minutes I worry about,” Mariello said. “They capitalized on opportunities and we got behind and had to play catch up. We did a darn good job of coming back and giving the maximum effort we needed. The second half was a fight. We had some chances. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t.
“Cheverus is a great team. They’ve beaten some great teams. They’re hustlers. They beat us the ball. They had big hits when they needed to. They have confidence and momentum going.
“I’m pretty proud of how we played in this game. It’s a game we needed to move forward. We’ll see them in the end.”
When Scarborough last lost a league game, 2-1, at South Portland in the ninth game of the 2010 season, this year’s freshmen were in fourth grade. The seniors from that 2010 team have already graduated college. No matter how hard Biddeford, Bonny Eagle, Cheverus, Deering, Gorham, Marshwood, Massabesic, McAuley, Noble, Portland, Sanford, South Portland, Thornton Academy, Westbrook and Windham tried, they just couldn’t solve the Red Storm in the regular season (see sidebar, below, for the full streak).
“What can I complain about?” Mariello said. “Eventually a streak will end. You don’t even notice when it’s happening. You just strive to win and we’ve been successful at the end of games. What a great feeling to be a part of this. I can’t take the credit. It’s all the girls, for sure.”
The league as a whole is very strong this year and both teams know they’ll have few breathers the rest of the way.
Scarborough (second in the Southern Class A Heal Points standings) will look to start a new streak when it goes to Windham Friday. A trip to Thornton Academy looms next Thursday.
“The girls knew about (the streak), but the loss doesn’t mean anything except it’s a little bit of an ego pain,” Mariello said. “We’ll push through this and be there at the end when it matters. We’ll see how the girls respond. It’s a good wakeup call for us. We have a lot of big games left. We just want to finish in a good situation and hope to play on turf (in the playoffs). If not, we’ll play wherever and whenever.”
Cheverus (first in the region) is back in action Friday when it hosts Noble. After traveling to Portland for a playoff rematch Tuesday, the Stags welcome Marshwood and go to Massabesic.
Cheverus, which started 5-0 a year ago only to go 0-7-2 down the stretch, knows it’s accomplished nothing yet.
“This is huge, but I think we’ll keep practicing the way we have and not get too full of ourselves,” Ford said. “We talk about last year all the time. We don’t want another season like that. We’ll keep pushing.”
“We have to go back to work tomorrow,” Ashley said. “It’s nice to see we can get victories against good teams, but we still have things to work on. We can’t be satisfied. It’s only six games into the season. We talk about last year all the time. We can’t dwell on it, but we have to learn from it. I’m happy we were the team to knock them off, but we have many more games and I’m sure we’ll see them again.”
Cheverus freshman Sophia Pompeo is mobbed by her teammates after scoring the first goal of Wednesday’s 2-1 upset victory at Scarborough. The Stags beat the Red Storm for just the second time ever and snapped their 66-game regular season unbeaten streak in the process.
Bruce Feeley photos.
Cheverus sophomore Hannah Abbott races down the field with Scarborough junior Kristen Levesque in hot pursuit.
Cheverus junior Charlotte Noyes tries to keep up with Scarborough junior Kristen Levesque.
Cheverus senior Becca Archer looks for a shot, but is surrounded by Scarborough senior Emma Hall (20), sophomore Lucy Malia and senior goalie Alyssa Souza.
Scarborough junior Ashley Levesque’s momentum is slowed by Cheverus senior Becca Archer (1) and freshman Sophia Pompeo.
Cheverus freshman Sophia Pompeo cruises in from the left side and with Scarborough senior Emma Hall racing over and with sophomore teammate Hannah Abbott also in the play, Pompeo prepares to shoot past Scarborough freshman goalie Alyssa Souza for a 1-0 lead.
@ Scarborough 1 Cheverus 0 (OT)
Scarborough 2 @ Cheverus 0
@ Scarborough 4 Cheverus 0
Scarborough 3 @ Cheverus 2
Scarborough 3 @ Cheverus 2
WESTBROOK W 2-1
@ Biddeford W 8-1
CHEVERUS W 6-1
@ Noble W 8-0
@ Gorham W 2-0
@ McAuley W 7-0
BONNY EAGLE W 2-1
@ Westbrook W 3-0
@ Portland W 3-0
SANFORD T 2-2
@ Marshwood W 2-1
SOUTH PORTLAND W 9-0
CHEVERUS W 2-1
GORHAM W 3-0
@ TA W 2-0
@ Windham W 2-0
DEERING W 8-1
@ Noble W 5-0
KENNEBUNK W 5-0
MCAULEY W 10-0
@ Bonny Eagle W 7-0
WESTBROOK W 2-0
PORTLAND W 6-0
@ Sanford W 1-0
MARSHWOOD W 1-0
@ South Portland W 4-0
@ Cheverus W 4-0
@ Gorham W 3-0
TA W 4-0
WINDHAM W 2-0
@ Deering W 4-0
NOBLE W 6-0
@ Kennebunk W 5-0
@ Marshwood W 2-1
MASSABESIC W 5-1
@ Noble W 9-0
SANFORD W 6-0
@ Windham W 2-0
PORTLAND W 5-0
@ TA W 2-1
WESTBROOK W 2-0
SOUTH PORTLAND W 10-0
@ Biddeford W 10-1
BONNY EAGLE W 4-0
@ McAuley W 13-0
CHEVERUS T 1-1
@ Deering W 4-0
MARSHWOOD W 3-0
@ Massabesic W 3-0
NOBLE W 12-0
@ Portland W 7-0
@ Sanford W 2-1 (OT)
WINDHAM W 9-0
@ South Portland W 6-0
TA W 1-0 (OT)
@ Westbrook W 5-0
BIDDEFORD W 8-0
@ Bonny Eagle W 10-0
MCAULEY W 10-1
@ Cheverus W 1-0
DEERING W 5-0
@ Marshwood W 2-0
MASSABESIC W 3-2 (2 OT)
@ Deering W 4-0
GORHAM W 3-1
@ Bonny Eagle W 1-0