PROVIDENCE – After exactly 100 minutes of regulation and overtime play, Lincoln High found itself in an eerily similar position in the R.I. Division II championship game against Toll Gate late Saturday afternoon.
Back on Nov. 2, the Lions played ninth-seeded East Greenwich to a 1-1 quarterfinal stalemate before eventually claiming a 2-1 shootout victory; that came via a 4-3 penalty-kick count.
Against third-ranked Toll Gate, Lincoln seemed to have some confidence built in following that previous third OT triumph, but one swing of the leg turned the tide.
With this latest shootout tied at 3-3 and only one shot left before the sudden-death phase, senior defender Zach Bromage whistled a grounder inside the right post to garner for the Titans a thrilling 1-0 decision over the Lions before at least 600 fans at the Rhode Island College soccer stadium.
According to Bromage himself, it was the first state title claimed by the Warwick school in nearly a quarter century.
“I tried to trick (LHS junior keeper Jack Bacon) with my eyes,” Bromage grinned after the upset. “I was looking left, but I shot to Zach's right; he dove, but he couldn't get it. I don't know him, and he's a really good keeper, but this feels great. We beat the No. 1 seed!”
Lincoln's campaign came to a bitter end at 14-5-3.
Head coach John D'Aloisio's crew, not to mention Toll Gate, exhibited outstanding defensive play throughout, as evidenced by the total shots on goal in regulation. The Titans managed seven and the Lions a half dozen, though the higher seed manufactured four more tries in the pair of 10-minute OT sessions.
In the penalty-kick segment, senior Brian Hasegawa drilled a high line drive over junior netminder Ezequiel Franco, but TG classmate Jose Beltran answered with a grounder inside the left post. Senior tri-captain Alex D'Aloisio then fired a low liner past Franco, but the official indicated he stopped just before punching the ball left and disallowed it.
Undaunted, the younger D'Aloisio scored on the same shot as the Lions took a 2-1 lead, though senior co-captain Nathan DaCosta tied it for the Titans.
Lincoln tri-captain Ryan Labrie attempted to crush a low liner past Franco, who responded with a save, but junior Josh Sandin's high liner sailed just over the crossbar to keep the score knotted at 2-2.
Junior David Jessey put LHS back on top after rifling a hard one past Franco, but senior David Moreno-Garcia returned the favor to tie it once more at 3-3.
Fellow Lions' tri-captain Mateuz Puzanowski whistled a grounder inside the right post, but the TG keeper dove to his right to make the stop. That's when Bromage's tally sealed it for the Titans.
“I knew they had good shooters, so when it came down to penalty kicks, I knew what we had to do,” noted the elder D'Aloisio. “It came down to penalty kicks, and sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. I just feel bad for the kids; they've worked so hard this season. This one's tough.”
If there was any good news for the Lions, All-Tournament team selections included Bacon, D'Aloisio the younger and senior John Ariza.
They were joined by Toll Gate's Franco and co-captains DaCosta and Corey Favino.