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Eight teams will square off today-- weather permitting -- in the Division II playoffs. And perhaps six of them could actually win the state title that will be decided this coming Sunday at Rhode Island College.
â€śOur division is very close,â€ť Lincoln coach John Dâ€™Aloisio admitted over the weekend. His Lions host North Smithfield at 4 p.m. today.
A day-long rain is in the forecast. Any games postponed today likely would be made up on Tuesday.
â€śWe played North Smithfield twice this season,â€ť Dâ€™Aloisio said. â€śWe beat them 3-1 and 1-0. North Smithfield is well-coached and disciplined. They have a strong goalkeeper. Itâ€™s going to be a close game.â€ť
Lincoln won the Division II-North regular season title with a 12-1-5 record, edging Ponaganset (12-2-4) by just one point. Last yearâ€™s unbeaten regular season champion, Mount St. Charles, finished third with an 11-5-2 mark. North Smithfield came home fourth with a 9-7-2 mark. In a five-school North division, thatâ€™s four teams above .500.
The South featured co-champions as Exeter/West Greenwich and Pilgrim finished with identical 13-2-3 records. Lincoln lost a 2-1 decision to EWG in mid-September and beat Pilgrim 2-1 in early October.
Central Division champ Tiverton brings a 12-2-4 record into the playoffs.
EWG earned the No. 1 seed, based on its win over Lincoln. Tiverton, Pilgrim, Ponaganset and Mount St. Charles could all be considered state title threats. And anyone who overlooks North Smithfield isnâ€™t paying attention.
â€śI was very impressed with all the teams in our playoffs,â€ť Dâ€™Aloisio said. â€śJust about anybody could win it all.â€ť
Dâ€™Aloisio took over as head coach after Lincoln, the Division III state champion in 2005-06, finished with a 6-9-1 record in Division II last season.
The Lions began their season by tying Mount St. Charles. They whipped Woonsocket 6-0 and then lost to EWG on Sept. 17. They havenâ€™t lost a game since.
â€śThis is my first year as head coach,â€ť Dâ€™Aloisio admitted. â€śThe girls took me this far. Itâ€™s very gratifying to coach them because they are a great group.â€ť
Lincolnâ€™s leading goal scorer is junior co-captain Jillian DeSimone, who accumulated 15 goals during the regular season.
â€śJill is very fast and has great ball control skills,â€ť Dâ€™Aloisio said. â€śShe always draws extra coverage from the other team.â€ť
The Lions exemplify the team approach, spreading their scoring around, while allowing only 8 goals on defense in 18 games.
â€śI think thatâ€™s impressive,â€ť Dâ€™Aloisio said. â€śOur defense is very good. Our keeper, Aiden Cullen, has been fantastic. She always seems very relaxed out there. I think she keeps the rest of the team calm.â€ť
Lincoln, which outscored its opponents 47-8 this season, just needs to keep doing what worked during the regular season. North Smithfield is a good offensive team that netted 41 goals while yielding 31.
â€śWeâ€™re ready to play,â€ť Dâ€™Aloisio said. â€śThe playoffs are going to be a lot of fun.â€ť
In other games today, Tiverton (12-2-4) visits Ponaganset in a matchup of the fifth and fourth seeds. Sixth-seeded Mount St. Charles (11-5-2) visits third-seed Pilgrim (13-2-3). Top seed EWG (13-2-3) hosts No. 8 Mount Hope (8-7-3).
The semifinals will be held on Wednesday evening at Cranston Stadium with the finals set for 3 p.m. on Sunday at Rhode Island College.