PAWTUCKET â€“ Even though goals were hard to come by on Friday night when Tolman hosted Middletown in a Division II playoff game, there was no shortage of exciting action and stunning developments during the 100 minutes of soccer and the dramatic shootout that ended the evening with the Tigers advancing to the D-II semifinals.
Tolman, which saw a hard-earned 1-0 lead disappear in the final minute of regulation, won the game on the basis of shootout goals by Sebastian Estrada and Calvin DeOliveira along with four pressure saves from keeper Adam Ghazal.
The final score was 2-2 after two overtimes and then 2-0 Tolman in the shootout.
â€śIt was a great game with a few controversial calls,â€ť Tolman coach Jack Couto said as his players celebrated in the middle of the field. â€śAdam came up big in the shootout.â€ť
The Tigers, who finished 13-1-2 in the North during the regular season, were only slight favorites over a Middletown team that went 11-4-1 in the South. Tolman beat Middletown in a playoff shootout last year. Both teams had plenty of respect for what the other could do.
When Tolmanâ€™s Preston Kamara scored five minutes into the game off a rebound of a hard shot by Estrada, the Tigers had an early lead. It would be the only goal in the first 78 minutes of the match and it came because the Middletown defense failed to mark Kamara, who came in hard from the right side to convert the rebound of a shot that Islanders goalie Kyle Hassan could not control.
Things began to change early in the second half when Tolmanâ€™s leading scorer, Manny Wongen, limped to the sidelines with what appeared to be a groin pull. Middletown gradually began to assert itself in the offensive end while Tolman went on the defensive, trying to break up plays and keep the Islanders out of the scoring column.
With less than two minutes remaining in regulation, Middletown came across midfield and began a final push. A collision about 10 yards in front of Tolmanâ€™s goal gave Middletownâ€™s Jeremy Frank a direct kick and the diminutive midfielder stuck it in the top right corner of the goal to tie the game.
It was a shocking end to regulation for the Tigers, who quickly regrouped and went back to work on offense. Estrada made a push towards the Middletown goal and was tripped at the 15-yard line, setting up an indirect kick for Anderson Monteiro, who powered a hard kick at the right corner of the net that Hassan could not stop.
In soccer, overtime consists of two 10-minute periods so the two teams kept on playing. The first overtime ended with Tolman ahead, 1-0. Two minutes into the second overtime, Middletown caught another break. Tolman was setting up for an indirect kick from near midfield when the official ruled the Tiger kicker had booted the ball with his foot while setting up his kick. The ref blew the whistle, Middletown grabbed the ball and suddenly midfielder Ryan Bertsch had the ball behind Tolmanâ€™s defense, heading straight at Ghazal, beating the Tolman goalie to tie the game once again.
The rest of the second overtime proved inconsequential, setting up the shootout session. Each coach picked 10 players. The first five would go in the first shootout session. The second five would be needed only if the first session ended in a stalemate.
Middletown sent Frank up first and Ghazal stopped his shot just inside the right post. Hassan did the same on Monteiroâ€™s shot for Tolman. Ghazal then left his feet and dove for another save at the right post.
Sebastian Estrada lined up his shot and went the other way, beating Hassan at the left post. Ghazal went airborne for another acrobatic save, keeping Tolmanâ€™s lead at 1-0 in the shootout.
Calvin DeOliveira then gave Tolman a 2-0 lead with another shot to the left post.
The shootout ended when Middletownâ€™s Daniel Coogan failed on his attempt.
Tolman now advances to the D-II semifinals where it meets todayâ€™s East Greenwich-Mount St. Charles winner on Monday evening at 5 p.m. at E.G.â€™s field. The Avengers won the South division title with a 12-4-0 record.
Tolman, now 14-1-2 on the season, hopes to have Wongen back for Mondayâ€™s game.