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Scarborough surges late to edge Massabesic in semifinals



BOX SCORE

Scarborough 12 Massabesic 9

M- 4 5- 9
S- 6 6- 12

First half
22:37 M N. DesVergnes (unassisted)
19:36 S Stolz (free position)
18:49 S Stolz (free position)
18:33 S Sellinger (unassisted)
17:40 M E. Jacobs (unassisted)
16:08 S Bilodeau (Stolz)
14:27 S Spooner (Bilodeau)
13:31 M Duffy (free position)
6:38 M Baker (E. Jacobs)
3:06 S Sellinger (Spooner)

Second half
21:38 S Conley (Spooner)
21:04 M Stephenson (M. Jacobs)
17:11 S Stolz (free position)
16:20 M Baker (unassisted)
15:14 M E. Jacobs (free position)
14:42 M Stephenson (unassisted)
11:40 S Spooner (free position)
10:01 M E. Jacobs (unassisted)
8:07 S Stolz (unassisted)
6:20 S Sellinger (free position)
14.7 S Sellinger (free position)

Goals:
M- E. Jacobs 3, Baker, Stephenson 2, N. DesVergnes, Duffy 1
S- Sellinger, Stolz 4, Spooner 2, Bilodeau, Conley 1

Assists:
M- E. Jacobs, M. Jacobs 1
S- Spooner 2, Bilodeau, Stolz 1

Draws (Massabesic, 16-7)
M- E. Jacobs 13 of 20, M. Jacobs 3 of 3
S- Stolz 7 of 22, O’Brien 0 of 1

Ground balls:
M- 33
S- 41

Turnovers:
M- 16
S- 17

Shots:
M- 22
S- 26

Shots on cage:
M- 20
S- 15

Saves:
M (Park) 3
S (Murphy) 11

SCARBOROUGH—The Scarborough Red Storm are back among the girls’ lacrosse elite.

Friday evening at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex, the Red Storm took another huge step in their season of resurgence with their biggest win to date.

And they’re not done yet.

Second-ranked Scarborough hosted always-tough No. 3 Massabesic in a Class A South semifinals and a little over a month after letting a late lead slip away in a frustrating one-goal home loss to the Mustangs, the Red Storm couldn’t hold a three-goal second half advantage and faced the biggest gut-check/character-check of their season.

And they passed with flying colors.

Scarborough started fast, taking the lead on two quick goals from junior Darby Stolz and another from classmate Maya Sellinger, then went up, 5-2, on goals from junior Natalie Bilodeau and senior Paige Spooner, but Massabesic wouldn’t make anything easy and was within two, 6-4, at halftime.

Senior Kayla Conley put the Red Storm up three early in the second half and after the Mustangs countered, Stolz’ third free position goal made it 8-5 with 17 minutes to play.

But Massabesic roared right back, getting goals from senior Emily Baker, junior Emily Jacobs and junior Brianna Stephenson in a 98-second span to tie it up.

Spooner put Scarborough back in the lead, but with 10:01 remaining, Jacobs tied it again, 9-9.

Then, as she has all season, Red Storm senior goalie Kathleen Murphy came up huge when it mattered most, preventing the Mustangs from taking the lead and with 8:07 to play, Stolz fought her way through seemingly the whole Massabesic defense before finishing to give Scarborough the lead for good.

Sellinger added a pair of late free position goals and the Red Storm closed out a 12-9 victory, their first in the semifinal round in six years.

Sellinger and Stolz both scored four times, Murphy saved 11 shots and Scarborough improved to 11-3, ended the Mustangs’ season at 8-6 and advanced to take on top-ranked Kennebunk (14-0) in the Class A South Final Tuesday at 6 p.m., in Kennebunk.

“We knew we could do it and we worked so hard,” said Stolz. “They caught up and we knew we had to fight harder than we had before to get back on top.”

Another close one

Massabesic and Scarborough have been top contenders ever since lacrosse went to two classes back in 2006 (there are now three).

The Mustangs and Red Storm have been chasing undefeated Kennebunk all season and it was no surprise to see them square off in the semifinals.

Massabesic lost to Berwick Academy, two-time reigning Class A champion Falmouth, perennial Class B powerhouse Yarmouth, Kennebunk and Windham and won its other seven regular season games.

In the Class A South quarterfinals Tuesday, the Mustangs eliminated No. 6 Biddeford, 11-5.

Scarborough, under the leadership of third-year coach Emily Field and a determined group of players, enjoyed a tremendous bounce-back season, winning its first four games and nine of 12, losing only by a goal at home to Massabesic, at Greely and by a goal at Falmouth in the regular season finale.

Tuesday, in the quarterfinal round, the Red Storm shot to a 7-0 halftime lead and went on to eliminate No. 7 Gorham, 11-3.

In the teams’ first meeting, May 4, Murphy made 17 saves, but three goals from senior Noelle DesVergnes gave the Mustangs a narrow 8-7 victory.

The teams had squared off five previous times in the playoffs with the Mustangs holding a 3-2 edge (see sidebar, below). The most recent encounter came in the 2017 Class A South quarterfinals (a 13-3 Massabesic victory).

Friday, on a 58-degree night, 25-degrees chillier than the quarterfinal two days ago, Scarborough started fast but could never pull away and that set the stage for a dramatic second half that ultimately wound up triumphant.

Stolz was clearly on a mission from the instant the national anthem ended and she won the opening draw and took the game’s first shot, but missed just wide.

“Personally, I get really nervous before games, so that’s a barrier for me,” Stolz said. “If I come out strong on the draw, it sets the tone for the game.”

It would be the Mustangs scoring first, as DesVergnes finished unassisted with 22:37 to play in the first half.

The Red Storm then got their offense going three minutes later, as Stolz was awarded a free position and beat Massabesic junior goalie Haley Park to tie it.

A mere 47 seconds later, Stolz earned another free position and finished that one as well for a 2-1 advantage.

“I can get really in my head on free positions, so I just focus and I try hard to just find the spot where I want to place it,” Stolz said.

Stolz won the ensuing draw and that led to Sellinger’s first goal, an unassisted tally with 18:33 on the clock, to cap a three-goals-in-63-seconds surge.

Massabesic would answer with 17:40 to go, as Jacobs scored for the first time, unassisted.

After Murphy kept Scarborough on top by making her first save, on a free position shot from junior Micaela Jacobs, the Red Storm transitioned to offense and Stolz set up Bilodeau for a 4-2 lead with 16:30 left.

After Stephenson hit the post for the Mustangs, Sellinger scooped up the ground ball and raced the other way. She then passed to Bilodeau, who spotted Spooner alone in front and Spooner took the pass and scored for a three-goal advantage with 14:29 remaining.

“Maya is a game-change type of player,” Field said. “She came up huge with goals, but her play in the midfield helped us a lot too.”

Massabesic wouldn’t buckle, however, as junior Mary Duffy beat Murphy on a free position 58 seconds later and after Murphy saved shots from Emily Jacobs and junior Hannah Samson, Emily Jacobs set up Baker to pull the Mustangs within one, 5-4, with 6:38 on the first half clock.

Scarborough got a little breathing room with 3:06 remaining, as Spooner fed Sellinger for a goal and the Red Storm held a tenuous 6-4 lead at halftime.

Massabesic had an edge in the draw circle in the first 25 minutes and shots were even, but four Murphy saves kept Scarborough on top.

In the second half, the Red Storm continued to have difficulty shaking the Mustangs until they rose to the occasion with the game on the line.

A minute into the second half, Murphy denied Emily Jacobs, then with 21:38 to go, Spooner set up Conley for a 7-4 Scarborough lead.

It took just 34 seconds for Massabesic to answer, as Stephenson scored for the first time, from Micaela Jacobs.

After Murphy saved a Duffy free position shot, Stolz got her chance at the other end and with 17:11 to play, Stolz scored a free position for an 8-5 advantage.

Again, the Mustangs answered, as after Murphy saved a shot from Emily Jacobs, Baker batted home the rebound with 16:20 on the clock.

With 15:14 remaining, Emily Jacobs scored on a free position to pull within one, forcing Field to call timeout.

It didn’t help, as 32 seconds later, Stephenson scored on a curl move around the goal and just like that, for the first time since the score was 1-1, the contest was deadlocked.

A minute later, Duffy threatened to put Massabesic ahead, but Murphy made the save. Emily Jacobs then had a look as well, but Murphy stopped her cold.

The Red Storm then went on offense and with 11:40 left, Spooner finished a free position for a 9-8 lead.

It wouldn’t last, as with 10:01 to go, Emily Jacobs scored unassisted after a nice spin move to tie the contest for the third and final time.

But that would prove to be the Mustangs’ highwater mark, as they wouldn’t score again.

With 9:25 remaining, Emily Jacobs had a great look to put Massabesic ahead and Murphy wasn’t able to cleanly make the save, as the ball trickled behind her, but she stopped it before it crossed the line to keep the game tied.

And that’s as close as the Mustangs would come to going on top.

Stolz then did everything she could, literally, to put Scarborough ahead to stay.

After junior Maegan Donovan forced a turnover to get the Red Storm the ball, Stolz got possession and made her move, weaving through the defense and finding just enough room to shoot past Park to give Scarborough a 10-9 lead with 8:07 on the clock.

“I honestly don’t remember even taking the shot,” Stolz said. “I just remember going in and seeing my lane and seeing the spot on the opposite side of (the goalie) and hoping I would make it.”

“(Darby’s) insane,” Sellinger said. “It’s so awesome she can pick up on those opportunities and pick out the open lane.”

“That was pure heart,” Field added. “(Darby’s) not the only one out there who does that. When the girls decide they want something, they go out and accomplish something. That’s big growth for us.”

Massabesic attempted to rally and got a look from Micaela Jacobs with 7:16 remaining, but Murphy preserved the lead.

The Red Storm then went back on the attack, as junior Erin Bresnahan made a nice run, and with 6:20 to go, Sellinger earned a free position and finished it for a little insurance.

Then, after a Mustangs’ turnover, Murphy helped clear the ball and Scarborough was able to milk several minutes off the clock, despite a miss from Stolz and a save on a shot from sophomore Molly Henderson.

Finally, with 16.9 seconds to play, Sellinger earned a free position and since the foul was on Park, the goalie came out of the cage for the free position and with 14.7 seconds left, Sellinger fired the ball into an open net to begin the celebration in earnest.

“I was just trying not to miss,” Sellinger said. “It was good that it was an open net. That clinched it.”

The Red Storm then ran out the clock and advanced.

“After losing to Massabesic last time in the last few minutes, I didn’t want that to happen again,” Stolz said.

“It was definitely nerve-wracking, but we had to make sure we didn’t get frustrated and play our own game to get us where we wanted to go,” Sellinger said. “I think we really had heart this game. We all wanted it so badly. It was so exciting. We had a lot of good energy and that translated into our game play.”

“I knew it wouldn’t be easy,” Field added. “Deja vu is a good word. I knew it would be a really hard game and it would be about momentum, lulls and fighting through the lulls. They needed to believe. We both had skills. We just needed to believe. Once we retook the lead and capitalized on the excitement and built on it, that carried us through to the end.”

Sellinger and Stolz each scored four goals to pace the offense. Spooner added two goals and two assists and Bilodeau and Conley each tickled the twine once.

Bilodeau and Stolz also had an assist apiece.

Murphy excelled again in the clutch, making 11 crucial saves.

“We have so much confidence in Kathleen,” said Stolz. “She’s honestly the best. She keeps us in a lot of games. The defense is great too.”

“When someone gets a shot past Kathleen, they’ve earned the goal, but she comes up huge when we need her to,” Field said.

Scarborough enjoyed a 41-33 advantage on ground balls (Stolz led the way with nine, while Henderson and Sellinger scooped up eight apiece), had a 26-22 edge in shots and overcame 17 turnovers.

For Massabesic, Emily Jacobs scored three goals, Baker and Stephenson added two apiece and DesVergnes and Duffy each had one.

Emily Jacobs and Micaela Jacobs had one assist apiece.

Duffy led the team with nine ground balls.

Park made three saves.

The Mustangs won 16 of 23 draws and put 20 shots on cage, compared to 15 for the Red Storm. They turned the ball over 16 times.

“It takes a lot of energy out of you when you constantly have to (come from behind),” said Massabesic coach Brooks Bowen. “We spent the whole game filling that hole, then we finally evened it up and it really took the wind out of our sails when it slipped away at the end. I felt like if we got one or two in after we made it 9-9, we could have controlled the tempo. I’m proud of my girls and I’m happy for Scarborough. We used to have some great games. This is a great place to come play. They’re enthusiastic, we always bring a good fan base. It makes for a great game.”

The Mustangs came a long way in a short time this spring and should be even stronger in 2022.

“We talked through COVID about procedures and it’s had an affect on everybody,” Bowen said. “I’m just happy we had a chance to play. We were continuing to jell coming into the postseason.

“We lose four seniors. Our biggest class is our junior class. We’re trying to fill gaps and get a good cycle going.”

A daunting challenge

Scarborough will have its hands full Tuesday night.

Kennebunk has dominated its competition this spring, only getting seriously tested once, a two-goal home victory over Yarmouth. The Rams opened the playoffs with a 19-3 quarterfinal round victory over eighth-ranked Bonny Eagle, then had no trouble with No. 5 Thornton Academy in Friday’s semifinal round, 18-2

Scarborough, which last took part in a regional final in 2015, didn’t face Kennebunk this season. The teams have an extensive postseason history, playing six times in six years between 2008-13. Each squad won three of those encounters with the Rams’ 9-5 win in the 2013 Western A semifinals the most recent.

The Red Storm will be decided underdogs, but you’d better believe they’ll welcome the challenge and it won’t be wise to pick against them.

“We’re all just excited to be here and keep playing,” Sellinger said. “I think we just have to go in with heart and play our game and stay composed.”

“I’ve wanted this for so long,” said Stolz. “My freshman year, we went 1-11, so coming all this way is amazing. We have to keep working on transitions and finding open players on cuts. We have to keep our composure. I’m thrilled to play in a regional final. I remember learning lacrosse from the players who won titles (a decade ago). It’s an amazing feeling to be in their shoes now.”

“I don’t fully have words for it because it’s a new experience,” Field added. “I always tell the girls it’s a great day to play lacrosse, so to get to keep playing and to be able to say, ‘See you at practice on Monday,’ that’s big. Coming into the season, I didn’t expect (we’d go this far), but I was cautiously optimistic. I’m learning to believe with them.

“As we did in the last 10 minutes or so tonight, we need to have faith and celebrate small victories all over the field. Every draw, every ground ball won, every turnover forced is a celebration for us. I’d say making it to the regional final, we’ve already won this season, so we’ll go out and have some fun and see what we can do.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Previous Scarborough-Massabesic playoff results

2017 Class A South quarterfinals
Massabesic 13 Scarborough 3

2016 Class A South quarterfinals
Massabesic 15 Scarborough 4

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2015 Western A semifinals
Scarborough 10 Massabesic 4

2007 Western A Final
Massabesic 9 Scarborough 8

2006 Western A semifinals
Scarborough 15 Massabesic 14