PORTLAND—The prospect of getting up early to play a 9:30 a.m. game in the rain doesn’t appeal to most, but Cheverus’ field hockey team is happy to play anytime, anywhere, in any conditions.

Because every time the Stags take the field, they emerge victorious.

Top-ranked Cheverus continued its undefeated run Saturday morning at Shea Field in a Class A South semifinal against No. 5 Falmouth, thanks to a dynamic performance from the Johnson sisters.

Freshman sensation Lucy Johnson, who has already emerged as one of the league’s special players, gave the Stags the only goal they’d need just seven minutes in, finishing a penalty corner.

Johnson struck again with 3:59 to play in the first period, again off a corner, with the assist going to her talented sophomore sister, Lily Johnson.

Lily Johnson then assisted a third first quarter goal and the third from a penalty corner, which was finished off by junior Olivia McCartney, for a commanding 3-0 lead.

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Cheverus continued to control play in the second period, but couldn’t score.

The Stags then returned to their scoring ways in quarter number three, as Lucy Johnson scored for the third time before Lily Johnson got in on the fun, scoring twice on corners, the first from senior Norah Slattery and the second from freshman Lillian Magda, to make it 6-0.

Cheverus tacked on a goal from freshman Zoey Radford in the final stanza, assisted by Lucy Johnson, and went on to a decisive and impressive 7-0 victory.

The Johnsons had a hand in all seven goals and the Stags improved to 16-0, ended the Navigators’ season at 11-5 and advanced to set up a compelling Class A South Final showdown against second-seeded Scarborough (16-1) Wednesday at Freeport High School at a time to be announced.

“We had so much energy the whole game and our teammates on the sidelines were so supportive,” said Lily Johnson. “The coaches gave us positive feedback and that all helped us. I’m not surprised we’re 16-0. We’ve grown so much.”

Saturday morning special

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Cheverus has been a top contender for over a decade, but never before had the Stags gone through the regular season without a blemish.

The Stags opened by blanking visiting Marshwood, 8-0, then downed visiting Biddeford, the two-time reigning regional champion (6-2), and host Sanford (8-0), before earning their biggest victory of the regular season, edging visiting Scarborough (1-0). After beating host Bonny Eagle and visiting Kennebunk by 3-0 scores, Cheverus blanked visiting Windham (5-0) and host Thornton Academy (4-0). The Stags then downed visiting Noble (5-1), host Gorham (2-0), visiting South Portland and host Portland by 11-0 margins and closed with wins at Westbrook (11-1) and Massabesic (3-2).

Cheverus played its quarterfinal round game at Deering High School Wednesday and dispatched No. 8 Kennebunk, 5-1.

Falmouth, meanwhile, came into the season unheralded, but just got better and better.

After falling, 2-0, at Scarborough in the opener, the Navigators downed visiting Kennebunk (4-1), edged visiting Windham (3-2), eked out a 2-1 overtime victory at Thornton Academy, then blanked visiting Noble (4-0) and host Westbrook (5-0). After falling at Gorham (3-0) and Massabesic (3-2), Falmouth handled visiting Marshwood, 6-1, and blanked host Portland/Deering (5-0). The Navigators dropped a 1-0 decision at Biddeford, then closed with shutout home wins over Bonny Eagle (3-0) and South Portland (7-0).

Falmouth had no trouble with No. 12 Marshwood in the preliminary round, winning, 4-0, then turned heads Wednesday at No. 4 Massabesic, springing a 2-1 upset.

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The teams didn’t play during the regular season and had no playoff history.

Saturday, on a windy and rainy morning (49 degrees at the start), the Stags started strong and never looked back.

Cheverus controlled possession from the get-go and after Lily Johnson missed just wide on a corner, the Stags went ahead to stay with 7:59 left in the opening stanza, when, off a corner, Lucy Johnson got to a loose ball in the circle and fired a blast past Navigators sophomore goalie Jenna Nunley.

Exactly four minutes later, Lucy Johnson scored for the second time, this time on a backhanded rocket after Lily Johnson sent her the ball.

“(The early start) wasn’t as tough as I thought it would be,” Lucy Johnson said. “I went to bed early and had a good a breakfast. The fast start was important. If we start fast, we have more confidence throughout. We just have to make sure we’re talking and read the corner. Lily is so unselfish.”

“Lucy has been amazing this year,” said Lily Johnson. “I’m so proud of her. She has done so well and has improved so much. I’m so glad to watch her. We have great chemistry.”

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“I don’t know if we’d played a Saturday game this season, so we got them here early and did some things inside, to make it almost feel like school, to keep the routine,” added Cheverus coach Theresa Hendrix. “These girls were ready.”

Goal number three came with 1:23 remaining, as off another corner, Lily Johnson poked the ball toward the goal and McCartney was waiting by the near post to send it home for a 3-0 advantage.

“We worked on reading the corners and finding who was open,” Hendrix said. “The girls worked together and that made the difference.”

Cheverus nearly scored again off a penalty corner after time expired, but Nunley denied Lily Johnson.

In the second quarter, Nunley stood tall to keep her team’s faint hopes alive, twice stopping shots from Lucy Johnson in close, robbing Lily Johnson and sophomore Taylor Krieger off a corner, then making three quick saves in succession off another late corner to keep the score 3-0 at halftime.

The Stags out-shot the Navigators, 11-0, in the first half and took 15 corners, scoring on three of them.

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Only eight saves from Nunley kept it from being a runaway.

But Cheverus would break the game open in the third quarter.

With 9:43 left, Lucy Johnson got her hat trick, scoring unassisted.

“Lucy’s impressive,” said Hendrix. “She has such passion and heart and then you add that on to her skill, you’d never know she’s a freshman.”

Falmouth then finally got into the Stags’ defensive zone, but after a rush, a shot from senior standout Chloe Bush hit the side of the cage, then moments later, off their first corner opportunity, the Navigators couldn’t generate a shot, as Lucy Johnson broke it up.

Lily Johnson then got in on the scoring fun with 2:51 on the clock, as, off a corner, Slattery passed the ball across to her and Johnson rattled the cage.

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Sixty-five seconds later, Lily Johnson scored her second goal, again off a corner, this time on a rebound off a shot from Magda, to make the score 6-0.

“Lily does all the behind the scenes things,” Hendrix said. “You don’t realize how much she contributes until you watch her. She makes so many things happen between the 25s.”

With 11:30 to play, the Navigators, off a corner, finally put their first shots on frame, but Cheverus junior goalie Logan LeFevre denied both Bush and senior Mallory Roy.

The Stags then got one more goal with 7:49 left, as Lucy Johnson passed to Radford, who put the ball in the cage.

Cheverus ran out the clock from there and celebrated its 7-0 victory.

“We had a lot of energy this morning,” Lily Johnson said. “We came together as a team and got pumped up. We communicated very well on the corners.”

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“We didn’t get to play (Falmouth) this year,” said Hendrix. “We got some input, but we just talked about focusing on us and what we needed to do and playing hard today. Today was a great example of us playing together as a team. The girls are so coachable and are able to focus on playing the game. They came out and put into the game what we worked on in practice.”

The Stags finished with a 17-2 shots advantage, got two saves from LeFevre and had a commanding 18-2 advantage in penalty corners.

Falmouth got 10 saves from Nunley, but it just wasn’t the Navigators’ day.

“We just didn’t come out the way we’d hoped,” said longtime Falmouth coach Robin Haley. “Some of it was probably nerves. They have a lot of quality players. We had some good spurts, but we couldn’t really connect. Playing on grass isn’t an excuse, but we only played on grass twice this year.

“I’m super-proud of this group. They didn’t give up. Nobody had us in the top 10. We lose a fair amount. This season’s leadership was a big reason why we went as far as we did. We have big shoes to fill, but we learned a lot for building for next year.”

Scarborough showdown

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Cheverus edged Scarborough in the teams’ regular season meeting Sept. 16, on Lucy Johnson’s goal and a smothering defensive effort. The Red Storm have won three of four prior playoff meetings, with a 2-0 victory in the 2018 Class A South quarterfinals the most recent.

This is the Stags’ best chance to win a championship and they’ll go into the regional final full of confidence.

For good reason.

“I feel like if we keep our energy up and play our game, we’ll be successful,” Lucy Johnson said. “I’m so excited. We’ve done so well this season and I don’t want it to end.”

“I feel like if we keep working hard, we can go a long way,” Lily Johnson said.

“It’s just one game at a time,” Hendrix added. “We talk about the process and having an opportunity to just play. Scarborough’s a really good team. They play well together. We’ll focus on what we can bring and on playing together from the start.”

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


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