PROVIDENCE — The scoreboard doesn’t always tell the true story of a soccer game.
That may have been the case on Sunday as darkness enveloped the R.I. College soccer field while Lincoln and Exeter/West Greenwich battled through a tense Division II state championship final.
When the final whistle sounded, EWG celebrated a 2-1 victory over the gallant Lions, who hung tough in a game that saw the Scarlet Knights own a 24-10 advantage in shots on goal.
“They just had a little too much offense for us,” Lincoln High coach John D’Aloisio said. “It could have been a 3-1 or 4-1 game if not for our goalie, Aiden Cullen, who I thought could have been voted the MVP of the game.”
Cullen saved at least two goals while standing as the last line of defense for the Lions, who took an early 1-0 lead on Melissa Sorkin’s 30-yard direct kick that drove EWG goalie Olivia Tourgee over the goal line while making a belated save of the powerful boot.
Sorkin’s goal came 15 minutes and 16 seconds into the first half. It was more the product of her strong right leg than any offensive threat the Lions had put together.
EWG’s defense had a plan to double-cover Lincoln’s leading offensive threat, forward Jillian DeSimone, whenever the junior received the ball. And that strategy proved effective for most of the game.
Five minutes after Sorkin scored, Cullen made her first amazing save, diving to stop a hard shot by EWG’s Kara Shaw.
Cullen’s teammates were doing the best they could to thwart repeated intrusions by the Scarlet Knights.
Sophomore Ashley Moreau and senior Elizabeth D’Amelio led a strong effort by the Lions at midfield and beyond as the Knights began to control the tempo of the match. Even so, Lincoln would take a 1-0 lead into halftime.
The Lions, who only gave up eight goals in the regular season, continued to thwart EWG’s. Senior Nora Kinslow blocked one of Shaw’s hard passes with her body to break up a developing play by the Division II-South champions, who had scored 71 goals during the regular season (Lincoln won the North with 48 goals scored).
The game changed quickly six minutes into the second half when the Knights got the tying goal on a throw-in by Karen Rafanelli that senior Cara Caliri booted past Cullen from close range.
“They have one of the longest throw-ins I’ve seen in girls soccer,” D’Aloisio admitted. “We knew about their thrower but she got the ball in deep and they just knocked it past Aiden.”
The Knights, who edged Lincoln 2-1 in their only regular season meeting, got another quality shot three minutes later. Cullen again was equal to the task.
The Lions achieved some offensive pressure with 18 minutes left in regulation but couldn’t get off a decent shot. Then with 11:40 left, DeSimone went down the right side and drilled a searing crossing pass. No teammates were positioned to convert the ball, which was gathered in by an EWG defender and reversed back up the field.
With 8:30 left, EWG really put the pressure on Cullen, creating an open shot for Allisa Georgio in front of the net. Georgio had the whole net to shoot at but slipped as she put her foot to the ball. Cullen came out of nowhere to snare the slow-moving shot before it crossed the goal line.
Before the Lions could breathe a sign of relief, the Knights set up for a corner kick that landed in a crowd of players, right in front of Lincoln’s goal. Shaw swiftly booted the ball past Cullen and the Knights had their first lead of the game with 7:57 showing on the scoreboard clock.
Lincoln sent the ball in deep just once in those final 7 minutes and 57 seconds. The Lions could not produce a single shot on goal as time escaped from the scoreboard clock. DeSimone tried her best to create a couple of scoring chances but was run off the ball by the Knights’ defenders.
Once the final whistle blew, the Lions trotted over to their side of the field, gathered their emotions, and then joined together at mid-field for the closing ceremonies. Each player received a medal for finishing second in the state. D’Aloisio accepted a silver plaque denoting the same accomplishment.
“We had a tremendous season,” the first-year coach said. “The girls were wonderful to work with. They really pulled for each other. I know they are disappointed right now but they can leave the field with their heads held high.”