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LINCOLN â€“ You could say the elements helped even the playing field between Lincoln and North Smithfield. With a steady rain sweeping across Chet Nichols Field, Tuesdayâ€™s Division II quarterfinal match became a matter of survival.
Thanks to two goals in the final nine minutes, the Lions emerged from this mud bath with a 2-0 victory over the Northmen, who played the game minus the services of head coach Steve DeMeo. DeMeo was relieved of his coaching duties after Mondayâ€™s arrest for allegedly transmitting inappropriate messages to a minor.
â€śWeâ€™ve been focused on the game. All the girls came together and definitely support one another,â€ť said Elena Williamson, who was elevated to varsity head coach after piloting the Northmenâ€™s junior varsity program.
The win vaults Lincoln into Thursdayâ€™s semifinal round at Cranston Stadium, where division rival Mount St. Charles waits. The Lions and Mounties played two evenly contested games during the regular season, a 1-1 draw on Sept. 7 that was followed with a 2-1 Lincoln win on Oct. 20.
â€śWeâ€™ll have our work cut out for us again,â€ť said Lincoln head coach John Dâ€™Aloisio as he attempted to keep the rain out of his face.
With impromptu rain showers limiting the number of scoring chances for the No. 2 seed Lions and the seventh seeded Northmen, the sides found themselves hoping for a little luck. One of the few breaks emerged after the teams slipped and slogged their way to scoreless soccer for 70 minutes. Opportunity arose for Lincoln in the 71st minute, when senior captain Jill DeSimone was tripped in the far corner.
The Lions, regular season champions of II-North, were awarded a penalty shot, which Dâ€™Aloisio appointed Elizabeth Dâ€™Amelio to take. The senior captain backed up Dâ€™Aloisioâ€™s faith in her by drilling a lower liner that slid to the right of North Smithfield goalie Sidra Ethier (15 saves).
Lincoln continued to stay aggressive, which paved the way for Olivia Maxellâ€™s goal with three minutes remaining. An on-target cross feed from junior Sarah Oates resulted in Maxell firing at an open target, giving the Lions a comfortable two-goal cushion as the final minutes ticked down. Lincoln goaltender Aiden Cullen, who has allowed only eight goals in 19 games this year, earned her 12th shutout of the season.
â€śIn the second part of the second half we had a lot of pressure down (in North Smithfieldâ€™s end) and I think they just finally found an opening,â€ť said Dâ€™Amelio. â€śIt was a good pass and a good finish.â€ť
Dâ€™Aloisio didnâ€™t mince words when asked how gratifying it was to watch Lincoln emerge victorious given the treacherous conditions. â€śItâ€™s a great group to coach and theyâ€™re just motivated. The conditions were miserable but they stayed with it and the goals finally went in.â€ť
Added Williamson, â€śIt was good game. Both sides played well and both had to endure the elements. The girls, they gave 110 percent. Itâ€™s not perfect soccer weather, but they gave a tremendous effort.â€ť