LINCOLN â Jillian DeSimone stood anxiously on the rain-soaked Ferguson Field sidelines, her teamâs perfect season hanging in the balance.
If ever there was a time for Lincoln High to prove it was more than a one-player show, this was it.
Playing without DeSimone for most of the second half after the stateâs leading goal scorer picked up her yellow card of the game, the Lions rode Ashley Moreauâs five goals and Nina Fournierâs goalkeeping to a 12-9 victory over Cumberland High School on Monday.
DeSimone netted a hat trick before exiting, pushing her season total to 96. Paige Snyder added two goals for Division II-North champion Lincoln (14-0), which completed its first unbeaten regular season in the programâs 11-year history.
âAwesome,â Lions coach Susan Renzi of a team that improved from a two-win 2010 season and hadnât won more than four games in any of the previous nine seasons. âIâm very happy.â
Not as thrilled was Cumberland coach Scott Carpenter, whose the Clippers fell to 10-3 despite goals two-goal efforts from Arianna Coutu, Sophie Kissaberth and Alexandra Sheehan.
âWe made too many mental mistakes,â Carpenter said. âWe gave the ball away all over the place. Weâd work our rear end playing patient defense, get the ball back and give it away within one pass. Thatâs frustrating.â
It was made more frustrating by the fact that DeSimoneâs departure, which came 8:20 into the second half, put the Lions down a player for the remainder of the contest.
âSheâs the No. 1 goal scorer in the state, so when you have that opportunity, youâre hoping to capitalize on it,â Carpenter said. âI said to my girls, âThatâs a missed opportunity, and we didnât capitalize on that opportunity.ââ
DeSimone, a junior tri-captain, tried to make the best of her early dismissal, bellowing out cheers and instructions to her teammates. Monday marked her first two-yellow card game of the season.
âAs a captain I feel like I should be leading these girls,â said DeSimone, who was penalized for what one official termed as dangerous play, âso when I get a yellow card or I get sent off the field, itâs kind of not being the role model I should be. That notâs good sportsmanship, so I feel like itâs my job to support them, even from the sideline.â
Led by Moreau, the undaunted Lions didnât miss a beat.
âItâs funny, because all the other teams go at Jill, but I actually have a lot of other girls,â Renzi said. âThey go after Jill, and the other girls have stepped up to the plate. Weâre not just Jill-dependent, like everybody thinks.â
Lincoln took an 8-6 advantage into halftime and led 9-8 in the second session when Moreau took over, scoring three of the gameâs final four goals. The sophomore midfielderâs tally with 1:39 remaining essentially decided the outcome.
âAshley Moreau really, really stepped up her game today,â DeSimone said. âI was so proud of her.â
Having dropped an 11-10 double-overtime decision to Lincoln on April 27, Cumberland entered Mondayâs game eyeing revenge.
Instead, the Clippers absorbed another tough loss.
âObviously Lincolnâs got a really strong team, from the girl in the middle [DeSimone] all the way back to their defense and their goalie [Fournier], who I thought played great today,â Carpenter said. âWeâre pretty evenly matched teams, and it just comes down to the team that plays better that day. Unfortunately, they played better two games in a row than we have.â
Cumberland concludes its regular-season schedule Tuesday against North Providence High School in a game that will decide the Clippersâ playoff seeding. Lincoln has earned Division-II Northâs top seed, and it will host its quarterfinal matchup.
After authoring a regular season for the record books, what do the Lions have in store for an encore? Stay tuned.
âOnce the playoffs start, I always think of it as anything can happen,â DeSimone said. âItâs kind of a clean slate. That undefeated record doesnât even matter anymore, so we just have to take it one game at a time, one play at a time. We definitely have what it takes. If we keep playing like weâve been playing, I definitely think we can finish this season off with success.â
For Renzi, it simply comes down to desire.
âMy girls want it,â she said. âAnd if they want it, theyâre going to get it.â