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CUMBERLAND â With exactly 13:24 left in regulation, Cumberland High head coach Stefanie Capone-Bello called a timeout to express her dismay at her troops failing to heed her halftime advice.
âGirls, we just talked about this!â she stated to the huddle around her. âWe need to improve, or weâre not getting anyway. Youâre still swinging at the ball instead of passing it. Now letâs do a better job!â
Just 2:20 later, junior midfielder Lindsay Sheehan answered her soliloquy. She knocked a hard shot about a foot off the turf and past senior goalkeeper Alasondra Apici, and that helped the Clippers open their Division II-North campaign with a thrilling 1-0 triumph over Classical at Tucker Field on Monday afternoon.
âI didnât see the goal, not with all the bodies around the cage; there was quite the clump in front, but Iâm sure glad it went in,â Capone-Bello grinned after the verdict. âWe had a slow start because we just kept swinging at the ball. We just werenât using our skills, and we were playing frantic.
âIt took a while for us to get going, but â once we scored â we settled down,â she added. âThatâs when we finally started to play our game.â
If anybody knew exactly what happened on the dayâs lone tally, it was Sheehan herself.
âThe defense hit the ball up to me, and I managed to get it into the circle (around the net),â she described. âI just shot it in. I had to elevate it a little bit if I wanted it to go in. Once it did, I was pumped!
âI had my fellow midfielder (sophomore Cassidy Simanski) on my left, and (classmate) Karin Dion was directly in front of me. Sheâs the one that screened the goalie âŠ I knew our team would score. It didnât matter if it was me or anyone else. Iâm just glad we won.â
In the end, sophomore Michaela Simanski finished with two saves, and she had plenty of help from her defense/midfielders. They included Sheehan herself, the Simanski sisters, sophomore Reilly Clarey, junior Nicole Rochefort, senior sweeper Kaitlyn Carr and freshman Miranda Veilu, who assembled a superb defensive effort over the final 30 minutes.
âI thought my midfielders did a great job of defending the ball and controlling the pace of the game, and also moving it up to the forwards,â Capone-Bello noted. âI thought our underclassmen were very impressive, but â on the flip side â my seniors and juniors our really good leaders. Theyâre like coaches on the field.â
During the opening half, the two foes battled back and forth, each driving the ball deep into the otherâs zone but neither coming away with many shots on goal. Midway through the stanza, the Purple strung together four consecutive penalty corners, but couldnât manufacture an attempt on netminder Simanski.
Junior Genesis Castaneda came the closest from the left side, but Sheehan forced the turnover.
Both squads mustered six penalty corners in the half, and it looked like Cumberland might convert its sixth in the final minute. Thatâs when Dion, stationed just outside the left post, ripped a try at Apici (eight saves), but the latter used her right pad to boot it away.
A mere three minutes into the second session, Classical junior Jelyssa Rodriguez delivered an approximate 25-yard through pass to classmate Tessa Griffin, but two defenders deflected the latterâs shot away from harm.
Four minutes later, Cassidy Simanski whacked an attempt at Apici, but she returned the favor with another kick save.
Not long after came Capone-Belloâs timeout â call it a plea â and Sheehanâs heroics.
Down the stretch, Sheehan, senior Sarah Casey and Carr all forced stellar turnovers to keep the one-goal advantage intact.
Last season, Cumberland took its fine record all the way to the D-II semifinals before sustaining a 2-1 triple-overtime loss to eventual state champion Burrillville at East Greenwich High.
When asked if this group would hope to make a return trip at least as far, Capone-Bello responded, âI think we can. This is my fourth year coaching, and this is the first time our offense has been this strong. Usually, we were known for playing better defense, but couldnât get the ball in the net.
âThis season, Iâve got more experience offensively, despite the fact weâve only got four returning starters,â she added. âWeâre going to try to get back to where we were last year. Weâll see how things go.â