They‚Äôve spent the past eight weeks working hard and overcoming some tough league opponents for the right to play in a meaningful game on Veteran‚Äôs Day weekend.
For neighboring schools Tolman, Cumberland, and St. Raphael, that weekend has finally arrived, and the meaningful games that they will participate in will be their quarterfinal-round games of the Division II playoffs.
PAWTUCKET ‚ÄĒ ‚ÄúThis game is going to be like ‚ÄėThe Thrilla In Manila,‚Äô‚ÄĚ La Salle Academy soccer coach Mario Pereira was saying on Tuesday night. ‚ÄúThis is going to be a classic ‚Ä¶ two great teams trying to sort things out ‚Ä¶ two teams with a lot of skilled players ‚Ä¶ and kids on both sides who share an incredible passion for the game.‚ÄĚ
Pereira was talking about Saturday‚Äôs Division I state championship soccer game between his squad and Pawtucket‚Äôs Shea High. It is a heavyweight matchup between a private school and a public school, between the so-called rich kids and the city kids.
KINGSTON ‚ÄĒ For the first time in its long history, Cumberland will play for a state championship.
The Clippers earned a berth in Saturday‚Äôs Division II championship match on Wednesday night by surviving a hard-fought 3-1 triumph over a Central Falls team that was determined to spring its second upset victory of the playoffs at URI‚Äôs Keaney Gymnasium.
Senior standouts Micaela Malboeuf (13 kills, 25 digs) and Michelle Malboeuf (11 kills, 20 digs) had big games for the Clippers, who defeated the Warriors by scored of 25-18, 25-19, 22-25, and 27-25 to advance.
‚ÄúWith the benefit of hindsight, I wish I could have done more.‚ÄĚ
‚Äď Joe Paterno
Who would have thought it would end this way for the legendary Penn State coach of 46 years? Paterno, the man of high moral values, the guy who once vowed not to retire and ‚Äúleave college football to the Barry Switzers and Jackie Sherrills‚ÄĚ of his coaching fraternity, had failed the biggest morality test of his life.
EAST GREENWICH ‚ÄĒ There are strength in numbers for sure on the soccer pitch, to which East Greenwich High will attest.
The Avengers consistently flooded the penalty box area with defenders, forming a protective cocoon that allowed goalie Oscar Goodwin to thrive while simultaneously left Tolman High‚Äôs array of skill players singing the blues.
CRANSTON ‚ÄĒ Shea High shook free from a determined Cumberland team on Monday night at Cranston Stadium and advanced to the Division I state finals for the second straight season with a 3-0 victory over the Clippers.
The Raiders, who lost in the 2010 finals to Barrington, will meet top-ranked La Salle in Saturday‚Äôs high noon showdown at Rhode Island College‚Äôs pitch. The two teams tied 2-2 during their only regular season meeting.
CUMBERLAND ‚ÄĒ After shaking off some rust in the first game, Cumberland High went into playoff mode and is now just two bigs wins from the school's first-ever state championship.
Fueled by an outstanding night from junior Sam Bertherman and a solid all-around effort from her teammates, the third-seeded Clippers swept by No. 6 seed Tolman, 3-0, in the Division II quarterfinals on Monday at the Wellness Center. Cumberland won with scores of 25-23, 25-4, 25-9.
CRANSTON ‚Äď Form held true in three of the four Division I quarterfinal playoff games contested over the past three days. Top-seeded La Salle, third-seeded Shea and fourth-seeded Barrington all advanced. Only second-seed Central Falls fell by the wayside, beaten 3-2 by seventh-seeded Cumberland on Saturday afternoon.
That sets up unbeaten La Salle versus defending champion Barrington in tonight‚Äôs 5 p.m. opener at Cranston Stadium followed by Shea and Cumberland at 7 p.m.
Throw out the regular-season records because in Division II, the playoffs beckon.
In a division known for staging ‚ÄúPre-Thanksgiving Madness‚ÄĚ due to an eight-team field, the Div. II playoffs get underway this coming weekend with four quarterfinal-round matchups. For local entries Tolman, St. Raphael and Cumberland, the mission is clear ‚Äď extend the season to Nov. 30, the date set aside for the semifinals.