WESTBROOK—The Storm crashed the field vs. the Blazes on Friday afternoon, Sept. 15, riding an early wave of dominance to the game’s lone goal, a Lauren Topchik strike. Westbrook pushed back from there, turning the game into a great back-n-forth tussle, but couldn’t even things out in the end and ultimately fell 1-0.
“This was a wakeup call for the kids,” said Blazes co-head-coach Beth Murphy, longtime program leader. “You can’t go out and just play at your pace right off, when a team’s going to come out and come that hard at you.”
“Scarborough’s a great team; their forwards are extremely fast,” said Murphy’s partner in crime, her fellow head coach Theresa Hendrix. “It was the first time we, at the beginning of the game, came out against a team that’s really going to go that hard. It’s not a surprise to the girls, but we had to make a few adjustments right there at the beginning.”
Scarborough overwhelmed Westbrook in the opening minutes of the bout; the Blazes’ brief stabs upfield availed them little, and, roughly four minutes in, after turning the ball over on the attack, they fell behind on Scarborough’s transition: Stormer Lucy Malia escaped forward, carried into Westbrook’s weakly-defended end and one-timed to Topchik, who redirected past goalie Kim Goddard.
“Our midfielders didn’t get back quick enough,” Murphy said of Scarborough’s tally, “and it left our three defenders back there – actually, it was two defenders, because we had a little bit of a breakaway. And Lucy Malia is so quick off that wing. She tired out, but that first spurt, she had a nice ball down the side…They transitioned a lot quicker than we did.”
“You’ve got to give kudos to [Scarborough],” Murphy said. “They know what they’re doing.”
“We’re used to pushing our defenders up,” Hendrix said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to recover from it. So that was the difference we had to make, was move them back a little bit and recover and keep up with [Scarborough’s] speed.”
Down 1-0, the Blazes pushed back, slowly driving the play – over the course of the remainder of the half, roughly 25 minutes – toward midfield, inching closer and closer and closer to what any team hopes for against top-ranked Scarborough: an even matchup. Eventually, Westbrook achieved that balance, forcing their guests to trade offensive and defensive stretches with them.
“They stayed with it,” said Murphy. “It’s not like they bowed out after one goal. It’s Scarborough, so you know they’re going to come to play. We knew they were going to come out fast; we’ve seen them play, we’ve played against them before.”
“Our girls responded,” Hendrix said. “They did what was asked, and they never gave up, and that’s all you can really ask of your team.”
But the Blazes – in large part thanks to the Storm’s impenetrable defense – simply couldn’t capitalize. Minutes burned off the clock, halftime elapsed, more minutes burned off the clock; both squads turned chances, but at the final buzzer, Topchik’s early blow proved the knockout blow. 1-0.
“We had some opportunities,” Murphy said. “We still couldn’t quite get any good shots, but it was a good battle between both. We pretty much, kind of, controlled a lot of the second half. We had a couple kids that really got the ball moving for us – Mad LeBeau, she plays defense for us everywhere.”
“Having it up in that area and just not getting good shots off, which is something we’ve been working on,” Hendrix said. “Their whole team came back and played defense, and it’s hard to play four or five v. 10.”
Murphy applauded a couple of Blazes for their efforts. “Ariana St. Clair did a nice job on Lucy,” she said, “and Maddie Herbert, both; we tried to get them on Lucy to tire her out. I think that kind of worked, once we didn’t let her get the ball. Cam, defensively, LaPierre, she played a tough game; Kallie Cyr – the two defenders, they did a nice job. Katie Champagne, our other little sophomore, had some nice moves going down the field.”
The result bumps Scarborough to 6-0 in 2017. It’s the Storm’s closest call of the season (a good sign, perhaps, for the Blazes – even in defeat). Scarborough hosts Marshwood on Tuesday the 19th, then travels to Deering on Monday the 25th.
Westbrook drops to 4-1. The Blazes opened their autumn with a trio of wins over weaker teams – Falmouth, Sanford and Portland – before triumphing 1-0 in their first real challenge, a road bout vs. Marshwood. They travel to Deering on the 19th, host Noble on the 21st and visit Bonny Eagle next Monday.
“A lot of the teams we’ve played,” Hendrix said, “there’s been one or two girls. [Scarborough] has a slew; their whole forward half really puts that pressure on. Our defense is used to kind of pushing up, and today we kind of had to play a little bit further back. But it was good to see them, especially going forward, because we’ve got a few big games coming up.”
Adam Birt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CurrentSportsME.
Avery Tucker drives for the Blazes vs. visiting Scarborough.
Blaze Mary Keef tries to work the ball inward against a tough Scarborough defense.
Ariana St. Clair cuts cross-field for the Blazes.
The Blazes battled admirably against the Storm on Friday; here, Katelyn Champagne drives forward on the attack.