BIDDEFORD—The only thing more perfect than ruining a rival’s perfect season would be avenging consecutive state championship losses.

Scarborough’s girls’ soccer team will get that opportunity Saturday, thanks to a stirring victory over undefeated Cheverus in Tuesday evening’s Class A South Final at Waterhouse Field.

The third-ranked Red Storm, who lost in the state game the past two seasons and dropped their regular season finale at the Stags two weeks ago, came out quickly and took a 1-0 lead on a goal from senior Ashley Sabatino 12 minutes into the game.

Cheverus drew even with 28:40 to play, when senior standout Lauren Jordan scored off a corner kick, but with 20:29 remaining in regulation, Scarborough freshmen phenom Ali Mokriski scored her latest big goal and it held up, as the Red Storm went on to a 2-1 victory.

Scarborough improved to 15-2, won its ninth straight regional playoff game, ended the best season in Stags’ history at 16-1 and in the process, advanced to the Class A state final Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Hampden Academy against Camden Hills (17-0), the team which has stood between the Red Storm and a Gold Ball each of the past two autumns.

“I hope the third time’s a charm,” said Sabatino. “I’ve been thinking about how badly I wanted to get back and play Camden Hills. If we made it, I didn’t want to play anyone else from the North. I used that as motivation.”

Too close to call

The Red Storm and the Stags were the cream of the Class A South crop this fall and it didn’t come as a big surprise to see them do battle Tuesday.

Scarborough opened with shutout wins over visiting Kennebunk (2-0) and Deering (3-0), host Biddeford (11-0), visiting Thornton Academy (1-0), host Westbrook (10-0) and visiting South Portland (3-0). After downing visiting Portland (4-1), the Red Storm blanked host Sanford (5-0) and Massabesic (6-0) and visiting Noble (3-0). After edging host Marshwood, 2-1, Scarborough blanked visiting Falmouth (2-0), then lost, 2-1, at Gorham and fell at Cheverus in the regular season finale, 1-0, suffering back-to-back losses for the first time since 2001.

The Red Storm held off No. 6 Falmouth, 1-0, in their quarterfinals, then Friday, in the semifinals, Scarborough scored early in each half and eliminated No. 7 Noble, 3-1.

Cheverus, meanwhile, started with a 5-1 home victory over South Portland, then blanked host Portland (1-0), host Marshwood (1-0) and visiting Massabesic (6-0), before downing visiting Gorham (5-2), host Kennebunk (3-0) and visiting Deering (4-0). The Stags then eked out a 3-2 win at Falmouth, before blanking host Bonny Eagle (2-0), shutting down visiting Windham (1-0), rolling at Biddeford (5-0), blanking visiting Thornton Academy (4-0), winning at Westbrook (5-1), then closing with a 1-0 home win over Scarborough.

Despite earning the top seed for the first time, Cheverus found nothing would come easily in the postseason. The Stags shut out No. 9 Kennebunk, 3-0, in the quarterfinals, then Friday, had to go to penalty kicks before outlasting No. 4 Gorham, 1-0 (3-0 on PKs).

In the regular season meeting Oct. 22, sophomore Riley O’Mara scored the only goal and Stags’ junior goalkeeper Neve Cawley made a huge early save on Mokriski.

The teams had played five previous times in the postseason, with Scarborough taking each of them, including last year’s regional final, 3-1.

Tuesday, on a 49-degree evening, the Red Storm did it again.

Scarborough put its first shot on frame 90 seconds into the game when senior Josie Patten launched a bid which Cawley saved.

After Cheverus cleared a Red Storm corner kick, the Stags got their first chance, as senior standout Emma Gallant showed her nonpareil speed, outrunning the defense down the left side before firing a bid off her left foot that Scarborough senior goalkeeper Nikki Young couldn’t reach, but fortunately for the Red Storm, the ball rolled just wide of the far post.

After Patten missed just high, Sabatino had a shot saved, but with 28 minutes left in the first half, Sabatino got another opportunity and this time, made sure she put her team on top.

The goal was set up off a run by sophomore Caitlin Noiles down the right flank. Noiles crossed the ball into the box, Jordan deflected it out to Sabatino and after taking a couple touches, from about 20-yards out, Sabatino’s powerful left-footed shot deflected off Cawley and into the net for a 1-0 lead.

“That goal was great and it gave us momentum,” Sabatino said. “In practice, we’ve worked on shooting. I’ve practiced shooting today and it went well, so I was confident to take it. The ground being so slippery helped and the ball slid across and went in.”

“Ashley’s goal was huge,” Red Storm coach Mike Farley said. “It was a skipping ball and she did a good job getting it on goal. She’s been big for us all year. She’s so technical. She played an amazing game today.”

“We gave away the ball in the midfield to a player who we didn’t want to give the ball to and she finished,” lamented Cheverus coach Craig Roberts.

Neither team scored again before halftime, but opportunities did present themselves.

After Young broke up a Gallant rush, Cawley twice denied junior Grace Pettingill.

With 16:24 left in the half, Gallant got a good look from the side of the box and her soaring shot was promising, but Young leaped to knock it away.

Down the stretch in the half, Young broke up a pass from Gallant to junior Helena Bolduc in the box and a Gallant free kick rolled just wide.

In the first half, Scarborough enjoyed a 5-1 edge in shots on frame and had all three corner kicks, but four saves from Cawley kept the Stags in the game.

And when the second half began, Cheverus roared back.

Just 33 seconds in, the Stags demonstrated how beautifully they can move the ball, as Gallant passed to sophomore Julia Kratzer, who set up O’Mara for a run down the right side. O’Mara fired a shot that Young got a hand on, but couldn’t stop, but just before the ball found its way into the goal, Scarborough senior captain and defender Madison Marikno was there to sweep it off the line and junior Maddie Scammell booted the rebound out of harm’s way, preserving the lead.

The Red Storm tried to add to their lead, but Sabatino missed just high and a long bid from Noiles was caught by Cawley.

Then, with 28:40 left in regulation, Cheverus got the equalizer and it came off a corner kick.

Gallant served the ball in and Jordan fought her way through traffic near the back post to knock it home, making the score 1-1.

“We responded well after their initial push and had some chances, but we couldn’t string together passes and had to play direct,” Roberts said. “At halftime, we talked about what we had to change. Right off the bat, we started to combine and played more settled and got a great opportunity.”

“Credit (Lauren) on that one,” Farley said. “She’s tough to deal with on set plays. They’re dangerous on those.”

The Stags never got a look at a go-ahead goal, however, as after Patten missed just wide, Scarborough went back on top to stay.

With 20:29 on the clock, after Sabatino dribbled the ball, she crossed it to Pettingill, who tapped it in front to Mokriski, who sent a high shot just past Cawley’s outstretched hands to the goalie’s left and it sailed just under the crossbar and in for a 2-1 advantage.

“We held our ground and continued to get forward and kept building and getting chances,” Mokriski said. “I had to focus and stay in the game mentally. The ball just came across from Grace and I one-timed it and it went top corner. I thought it was going to go over, but it was just a lucky shot, I guess.”

“I held (the ball) and waited for something to happen,” Sabatino said. “I cut back and served it back post and hoped someone would run on to it and make something of it and we did.”

“It was just us wanting it a little bit more, getting a foot on a ball in space,” Farley added.

“They just got a ball to the far post, which they got to first, which they did with 50-50 balls most of the night, and that was that,” Roberts said.

The game was far from over, but the Red Storm’s defense would hold off the Stags’ attempts to answer again.

Scarborough cleared a Gallant free kick with 12:45 remaining.

Then, with 10:10 left, Gallant took a free kick from just beyond the top of the box and she got a low shot through the wall, but it rolled just wide of the post.

With 7:52 to go, Gallant eluded three defenders and managed to cross the ball, but Young got to it first.

With 6:10 on the clock, junior Mia Kratzer took a free kick but sent it high.

The Stags got two more chances, but Gallant’s 30-yard blast was saved by Young and after Mia Kratzer sent the ball to Jordan, her header went wide.

Scarborough ran out the clock from there and at 8:03 p.m., celebrated its 2-1 victory.

“It’s amazing,” Mokriski said. “I never thought this would happen, but we earned it. I’m really excited for states.”

“We were doubted getting back here, but to get back here and win is amazing,” Sabatino said. “I think we used the first (Cheverus) game as motivation because we don’t lose often in the regular season. It was a tough loss, but we came back and won tonight. Cheverus has dangerous free kicks, but our defense held their own we held on.”

“I’m really happy for the girls,” Farley added. “That was a big win. A classic game between the two of us. (Cheverus) showed a lot of heart. They pounded us in the second half. We had to change our shape and deal with the amount of players they were putting forward. We felt we left some things on the table last game against Cheverus. This game, they came out better and we came out better too. It was just a fun game to be a part of.

“I didn’t see any wilting after they scored to tie it up. We didn’t let down and got the goal, then when they pushed everyone forward, Nikki and the defense did a good job hanging on. Cheverus is a good offensive team. Emma’s one of the fastest players I’ve ever seen. Madison Marinko was huge when (Emma) got in behind to chase her down and force her to go wide and she even blocked a shot, which is hard to do.

“It’s awesome because we’ve lost 12, 13 players, some All-New England players. It shows we have a program that has kids ready to step in and every once in awhile, you get a freshman like Ali who puts you over the top. She’s been phenomenal. She allows every one to play in a more natural position.”

Scarborough had a 9-4 shots advantage, a 3-1 edge in corner kicks and got three saves from Young.

Imperfection

Cheverus got seven saves from Cawley, but tasted defeat for the first time all year.

“We stayed right in it,” Roberts said. “The girls didn’t quit. That’s what happens when you have eight great senior leaders. We have great resiliency. You don’t run the table in the regular season and win two games in the playoffs, including one on penalty kicks, without being resilient and that came from our seniors for sure.

“It hurts. Our goal was to win a state championship. We thought we had a team that could do it. We also said we’re going to play for each other, have fun and work hard. We didn’t want to have any regrets when they season’s done. There isn’t a coach or player who should look back and say, ‘I wish we’d done this or that.’ Scarborough was just better today. Hats off to Mike and the girls. They’re a good team and they play hard and they were one goal better.”

The Stags will not only say goodbye to Gallant and Jordan, two of the best players around, but also Samantha Belaire, Sarah Cummings, Emily Huntington, Julia Ryan, Grace Shimansky and Caroline Taylor, who will also graduate in the spring.

“Our seniors couldn’t have done anything more but win a championship,” Roberts said. “If they’re not the best team in Cheverus history, I’d love to see a team that was better. They set a high standard. They were a great group to coach. We had ups and downs, but we all pulled together. I don’t have any regrets, I’m just disappointed for the girls.”

The 2020 Stags will try again to reach the pinnacle. Cawley returns in goal and the Kratzer sisters, along with several other promising players, also will be back.

“I think we still have good players in the program,” Roberts said. “The bar has been set high. You have to be willing to put in time during the summer and for eight weeks during the season to make your teammates and the program a priority. This upcoming summer, a huge goal of ours is to find leadership that gets others to buy in, like this year’s seniors got others to buy in for them.”

Hampden-bound

Scarborough, meanwhile, has a golden opportunity to win the program’s third Class A title Saturday, but the Red Storm have their hands full against a dynamic Windjammers’ squad.

Scarborough lost to Camden Hills (which beat Bangor, 1-0, in its regional final Tuesday) in the state final, 3-2, two years ago and 1-0 last fall.

The Red Storm are hoping this time will be different.

“It’s going to take a Herculean effort from us, to be honest,” Farley said. “They have really good, skilled offensive players. We’ll have to defend like we did today, be scrappy about it. We have to get after the ball and block shots. We have to put them under pressure. Last year, we defended the whole time. We have to figure out a way to push the other way. Maybe the best defense is a little bit of offense.

“It’s awesome to go again. I’m not ready for this to be over. They’re great kids. They like playing together. We’ll give it a shot.”

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

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