WATERVILLE, Maine — After losing to Skowhegan in the last two state Class A field hockey championship games, the frustration for the Scarborough High School Red Storm ended in dramatic fashion Saturday at Thomas College’s Bernatchez Field.
Senior forward Kristen Murray scored off a penalty corner with only 2.1 seconds remaining in regulation to give the Red Storm a 1-0 victory that capped an 18-0 season.
Defending four-time state champion Skowhegan, which had beaten Scarborough 4-1 and 3-0 in the two previous state games, concluded a 15-3 season. Skowhegan was seeking its 13th state championship in 14 years.
Scarborough was the only team to interrupt the run, claiming the 2009 title game with a 2-1 win over the Indians.
“We had our best game ever,” said an excited Murray. “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.”
The inserter on the game-winner was Ashley Levesque, who was to the left of Skowhegan junior goalkeeper Leah Kruse.
The pass went to Miss Maine Field Hockey finalist Maddy 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. We were all working hard and the ball popped up and I just hit it as hard as I could (out of the air),” said Murray. “I was hanging out by the penalty stroke spot, about five yards out. The goalie (Leah Kruse) was behind me. She is very aggressive. She came out far.”
Murray’s goal was one of few glittering scoring chances manufactured by either team as the defenses dominated the game. Both teams swarmed the ball leaving the opponent with little time or space to make a play or generate an attack.
Senior sweeper Kaitlin Prince was immense in the back for the Red Storm as she intercepted a number of Skowhegan passes and made several important clears while marshaling the back line.
Tori Timm, Emma Hall and Rose Kirsch efficiently teamed with Prince in the back to shut out a Skowhegan team that had averaged 4.9 goals per game and hadn’t been shut out in over five years. Dobecki and Abby Walker were stellar in the midfield.
Alyssa Souza made one save on seven shots for the winners. Four other shots were blocked by the defense.
“We knew our level of intensity had to be top-notch and we had to play mistake-free and that’s what we did,” said Scarborough coach Kerry Mariello.
Prince said they have become familiar with Skowhegan’s style of play by facing them in the two previous state games and they were prepared.
“We knew they liked to do a lot of big drives so we stopped those and we played our game which is a big passing game … spreading the ball out … using the whole field and getting everyone involved,” said Prince.
The Indians’ Renee Wright actually did find the back of the Scarborough cage with 21:15 to go in the second half off a penalty corner but referees Anita Thomas and Mary Parker waved it off, ruling that the ball hadn’t completely cleared the penalty circle before Wright brought it inside the circle and shot it.
The ball must completely clear the line before it is brought back into the circle and Thomas said it sat on the line but never cleared it.
Wright emphatically disagreed.
“I knew I brought the ball out and then brought it in (before I shot it),” insisted Wright. “I can assure the referee of that as can the people who were around me. Apparently the referee didn’t think so. That’s her opinion. I can’t control that.”
Prince said that when the referees waved off the goal “it was the best moment of my life.”
Tori Mullin and Haley Carter were among the defensive stalwarts for the Indians, who had the better of the play in the second half after the Red Storm had the edge in the first half.
“We gave it our all,” said Mullin. “Our main goal was to get the ball out of our circle, pressure them and attack them so they couldn’t do anything.”
“It was a great game. It was back and forth the whole game. I don’t know what to say,” said Skowhegan Maine Sports Hall of Fame coach Paula Doughty.
Wright and Miss Maine Field Hockey finalist Rylie Blanchet were Skowhegan’s top offensive threats.
Kruse made three saves on nine shots and her teammates blocked four of them.