Scarborough senior Lucy Malia races up the field with South Portland junior Kiley Callow in pursuit during the teams’ season opener Wednesday evening. Malia had a goal and led the Red Storm to a 3-1 victory.

Joe Carpine / photos.

More photos below.

SCARBOROUGH—South Portland’s field hockey team is legitimate and resurgent, but the opening statement of the 2017 season was made by one of the league’s perennial powerhouses.

The Scarborough Red Storm.

Wednesday evening at the Kippy Mitchell Sports Complex, the Red Riots hoped to begin the year with a statement victory, but Scarborough, despite somewhat tempered expectations this fall, remains a force to be reckoned with and any reports of the Red Storm’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

After some near-misses in the early going, Scarborough took the lead for good with 1:47 to play before halftime, when senior Rachel Paradis banged home a shot.

Less than five minutes into the second half, the Red Storm doubled their lead, as senior Lucy Malia, whose speed and playmaking ability created numerous scoring chances from start to finish, scored on a rebound off a penalty corner.

South Portland refused to go quietly, however, and with 15:28 to go, senior standout Bonge Lako, finally healthy after missing the 2016 season with a leg injury, showed why she’s so dangerous, finishing a feed from freshman Lucie Beaulieu to cut the deficit in half.

That’s as close as the Red Riots would get, however, and with 7:41 remaining, junior Caitlin Tyrrell scored an insurance goal and Scarborough went on to a 3-1 victory.

The Red Storm were able to do what last year’s team couldn’t, win their opener, and they stayed undefeated at home all-time against South Portland in the process.

“It’s a first game and a level of intensity a lot of these girls aren’t accustomed to, but it was a good start and we’ll connect more,” said longtime Scarborough coach Kerry Mariello. “We’ll have battles every single game. Once we get it all together, we should do OK.” 

In the hunt

South Portland broke through and made the playoffs last fall, finishing 6-9 after a 3-0 loss at Cheverus in the Class A South preliminary round. With Lako back in the lineup, as well as the return of several other key players, the Red Riots expect to make an even bigger jump this season.

Scarborough has long been at the top of the standings. Last year, the Red Storm started 0-2, won 13 games in a row, then lost, 2-0, to Marshwood in the semifinals to wind up 13-3. Scarborough has some holes to fill, but expects to be one of the last teams standing once more.

The neighbors have been meeting since 2003 and entering play Monday, Scarborough held a 11-2 advantage (see sidebar, below), including six wins in a row.

Last fall, goals from Sydney Rusak and Ashley Levesque helped the Red Storm to a 2-0 win at South Portland.

Wednesday, on a cool (69 degrees) but pleasant evening, the Red Riots sought their first win over Scarborough since Oct. 2, 2010 (2-1 at home) and their first ever at the Red Storm, but Scarborough did enough to make it seven in a row in the series.

In just the second minute, Malia raced up the right flank and passed in front to senior Lauren Topchik, but Topchik’s shot just missed wide.

After Topchik shot wide again, sophomore Carrie Timpson was denied by South Portland sophomore goalie Maddie Drolet point blank.

Midway through the first half, the Red Riots earned their first penalty corner and sophomore Lydia Grant managed a shot, but Red Storm senior goalie Sam Carriero made the stop.

At the other end, Timpson hit the side of the cage and a Malia shot off a rush was turned aside by Drolet.

Finally, with 1:47 to go in the half, the hosts broke through.

The play was again started by Malia, who rushed in, but was denied by Drolet. The ball then came to Paradis and her blast deflected off a stick and sailed just under the crossbar for a 1-0 lead.

“I look to take the ball as far as I can,” Malia said. “We travel in packs, so I have pass options. My goal is to get the ball in the circle as fast as I can for someone to take a shot.”

“We just let Lucy go,” Mariello said. “Speed kills and she has gears she switches and accelerates. Why not utilize that? You risk turnovers when you pass, so we just let her go with it.”

Scarborough nearly got a second goal just before halftime, but with 15.3 seconds remaining, Drolet dove to rob Timpson.

The Red Storm were able to double their lead with 25:14 to play, this time scoring off a penalty corner.

Malia inserted the ball and it eventually came to Paradis, whose shot was saved by Drolet, but Malia was there to bury the rebound, making it 2-0.

“I inserted the ball up and we successfully did our corner,” Malia said. “The ball wasn’t meant to go to me, but it did.”

Scarborough went for the knockout blow, but couldn’t deliver it, as South Portland junior Kiley Callow made a clutch defensive save, Drolet denied Malia with a kick save, then Drolet robbed Malia in front.

With 16:14 to go, Red Riots coach Leslie Dyer called timeout and it paid immediate dividends.

Out of the stoppage, South Portland won possession of the ball and in transition, with 15:28 remaining, Beaulieu passed to Lako, who one-timed a shot past Carriero, making it 2-1.

“I love having Bonge back,” Dyer said. “We know she’ll be huge for us.”

Without momentum on their side, the Red Riots tried to earn the equalizer, but never got a good look.

Then, after Malia missed just wide, Tyrrell opened the game back up with 7:41 left, as she redirected a shot past Drolet and into the cage to make it 3-1.

Down the stretch, South Portland kept pressuring, but Grant was denied by Carriero, Lako was barely wide on a great look and a late rush by Lako was broken up as Scarborough went on to a 3-1 victory.

“We had first game jitters,” Malia said. “We’ll improve on offense. It was hard at first to get touches.”

The Red Storm were impressed by their opponent.

“Leslie’s done a good job over the years and they’re starting to believe,” Mariello said. “They’re really executing. It’s just a matter of breaking down the door. I think they’ll upset some teams this year. Thankfully it wasn’t us.”

Scarborough had a 16-6 edge in shots and got five saves from Carriero. The Red Storm also held a 5-3 advantage in corners.

Drolet made 13 saves for the Red Riots. 

“Maddie has a year under her belt and she knew what to expect,” Dyer said. “She definitely kept us in the game. She’s focused and she’s big for us.”

Ultimately, South Portland couldn’t generate enough offensive chances to spring an upset.

“We only had six shots and you can’t score if you don’t shoot,” Dyer said. “We had some opportunities, but we didn’t move the ball fast enough. That’s something to work on.

“We’re still finding our way, but I think we’ll upset some teams. We learn from every game. To see Scarborough in the first game was rough, but I think my girls played well.”

Next up

South Portland hopes to get in the win column when it welcomes Noble in its home opener Friday.

“We know we can hang with the top teams,” Dyer said. “We have to clean up a few things. The girls want it this year. Hopefully, we can keep going forward. We have a couple games where if (tonight’s team) shows up, we should come out on top, but you have to earn every game.”

Scarborough, meanwhile, will be tested Friday at Falmouth, which is now a full-fledged member of the SMAA.

The Red Storm will look to make another statement.

“We still have talent,” Malia said. “A lot of teams will underestimate us because we lost a lot of starters, but we’ll always come out with a bang.”

“I know we’re better (than people think) and the girls know we’re better,” Mariello said. “We just have to get past our jitters, take a deep breath and play our game.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Scarborough senior Rachel Paradis tries to fight past South Portland junior Gracie Kierstead. Paradis had the game’s first goal.

South Portland senior Bonge Lako reaches for the ball as Scarborough junior Anna Walker defends. Lako had the Red Riots’ lone goal. 

South Portland sophomore Maddie Drolet watches in vain as the first goal of the game sails over her and into the cage. Drolet did make 13 saves in defeat.

South Portland sophomore Lydia Grant sends the ball up the field.

Scarborough senior Lauren Topchik (13) and sophomore Carrie Timpson try to play the ball in front of South Portland sophomore goalie Maddie Drolet.

Previous Scarborough-South Portland results

Scarborough 2 @ South Portland 0

@ Scarborough 3 South Portland 1

Scarborough 6 @ South Portland 0

@ Scarborough 10 South Portland 0 

Scarborough 4 @ South Portland 0 

@ Scarborough 9 South Portland 0

@ South Portland 2 Scarborough 1 

@ Scarborough 7 South Portland 0 

Scarborough 2 @ South Portland 0 

@ Scarborough 3 South Portland 2 

Scarborough 5 @ South Portland 2
Western A preliminary round
@ Scarborough 3 South Portland 2 (15 penalty corners)

@ South Portland 3 Scarborough 1 

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