PAWTUCKET — In the end, or more appropriately the final 15 minutes of their R.I. Division III Tournament preliminary-round contest, Tolman High players – those on the bench and, actually, a select few on the field – kept screaming, “Pass it to Morgan! C'mon, Morgan!”
Those chants were directed at freshman midfielder Morgan Clark, No. 6 on your roster.
“Morgan is only a freshman, and she's (senior scoring phenom) Ashley's little sister,” explained senior captain Jazmine Almeida, who hasn't played for roughly the past six weeks due to a left ACL injury. “We just want her to score in a game. Everybody loves little Morgan; she tries so hard. She plays in every game, but she never gets a goal.”
Morgan had a few opportunities to net her initial tally, but failed in her attempt. No one truly minded, however, after the Tigers rolled to a demonstrative 6-0 triumph over archrival Shea at the McKinnon-Alves Complex on Thursday night.
Deondra Flynn led the charge with a pair of goals, while the elder Clark manufactured a goal and an assist. In fact, three others in red and white also closed with a tally of their own as 11th-seeded Tolman not only improved to 6-9 on the season, but qualified to battle host North Providence in a D-III quarterfinal at 7 p.m., Monday.
The sixth-ranked Raiders' campaign ended at a disappointing 10-4-3.
“The girls just came ready to play,” head coach Bel Pereira stated afterward. “I wanted them to play good defense, that was my key, and they did. I always tell them they can't let their opponent score, and – if they do that – it will help control our passing game.
“If you don't allow any goals, and you make solid passes to the midfield, that will create opportunities for our offense,” he added. “That's just what happened.”
On this day, Pereira lauded the gritty play of four defenders, including seniors Amber Duhamel and Michaela Sinotte, sophomore McKenzie Hofknecht and freshman Cheyanne Dos Santos. Then again, the victory wouldn't have been possible without a stellar nine saves from senior goalkeeper Shelby Hofknecht.
As for the offense, Clark the senior converted a pass from classmate Cassie Desautel in the 13th minute, and Flynn recorded an unassisted goal (though it seemingly caromed off a Shea defender) three minutes later to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.
At that point, Shea mentor Danielle Bishop opted to pull junior tri-captain Jessica Caetano out of the net and place her in an offensive role, that due to her strong ball skills – not to mention right leg.
The decision proved fruitful for a while, but sophomore forward/midfielder Suzette Hernandez, who just recently posted a hat trick, chipped in a near point-blank attempt with less than a minute to play as Tolman went into the break with a 3-0 advantage.
Just five minutes into the final session, senior midfielder Nicole Bedoya received a feed from Clark deep outside the right section of the penalty box, and she lofted a lazy line drive that flew over freshman goalie Theodora Victor-Thorpe's head and into the far-side netting.
Eleven minutes later, Flynn and Desautel teamed up for the fifth tally, the former scoring on a superb pass.
That's when Pereira chose to put in all of his substitutes – and moved a few defenders to forward/midfield while pulling those offensive-minded girls back. Only two minutes after Flynn managed her second, in the 58th, Duhamel ripped an unassisted attempt past Victor-Thorpe with the Tigers' final goal.
Perhaps 40 seconds later, officials whistled Duhamel for an infraction against junior tri-captain Kathleen Gomes inside Tolman's penalty box. On the penalty boot, Gomes fired a low liner at Shelby Hofknecht, who dove right and knocked the ball away.
The Raiders had more than a few tries at penetrating Hofknecht's domain; in fact, with about 15 minutes left in regulation, Gomes drove an 18-yard shot at net, but Flynn – who else? – made a phenomenal block.
“The girls gave it a 110-percent effort, and that's all I had asked them to do,” Bishop stated. “I wanted them to play hard, and they did. Now we're just going to come back ready to make the playoffs again next year. I've got a lot of young players, so that's a positive.”