WOONSOCKET â€“ For the first three quarters of Fridayâ€™s game, Woonsocket High goalie Kory Lawrence didnâ€™t have to contend with too many shots fired his way by opposing Mount Pleasant.
But when the Kilties picked up their intensity a few extra notches in the crucial stage of the tilt, and Lawrence was called to action, the Villa Novan senior delivered.
Lawrence stopped two game-changing, close-ranging shots the final 20 minutes of the contest with a pair of diving saves, paving the way for a 2-1 decision for the Villa Novans at Barry Field. The victory improved Woonsocketâ€™s early-season record to 2-0 in Division II-North.
â€śHeâ€™s a great goalie. Heâ€™s played really well the last year and a half since (former starting goalie) Michael Forest had a knee injury,â€ť said WHS coach Andy Rao, whose team opened up its league season last Friday with an identical 2-0 shutout of Mount St. Charles. â€śHeâ€™s a senior this year. He did a great job at Mount last Friday and again today.â€ť
Playing under a hot sun on a field infested with swarms of bugs, Woonsocket managed to take a 1-0 lead by the break when senior Edel Santos took a feed from junior teammate Sebastian Mercado at the 12-minute mark and knocked in a backwards header past MP goalie Julio Roslaes at the right corner of the post.
The Kilties knotted the score in the second half at 10 minutes when sophomore Ram Sang took advantage of some loose coverage by the Villa Novans near the net and booted a wide-open shot to the left side of the cage, clear out of the range of Lawrence.
Woonsocket scored its eventual game-winner at the midway point of the second half. Less than a minute after Santos nearly blasted in a straight line drive from 30-yards out, sophomore Newton Kittavong netted the decisive goal from just outside the crease on a perfectly-placed assist from Mercado from the right corner of the field.
â€śSebastian Mercado pushed the ball past a defender and hit a nice cross and Newton finished it on one touch,â€ť Rao said. â€śIt was a nice goal.â€ť
Missing some key players and with the unseasonably warm conditions yesterday, Woonsocket began to lose a little steam the final 20 minutes of the contest. That enabled a determined Kilties squad to never allow their divisional foe in the comfort zone.
â€śI think we played better in the first half than the second half. I think our legs got a little tired,â€ť Rao admitted. â€śWe are missing our left fullback Steve Silva. Heâ€™s a solid player for us at that position and we had to try and make up for it and put different players there. Matt Menorath, who is our right forward, is also injured but he played through the game. He was kind of gimpy out there.â€ť
â€śThey came on strong those final 20 minutes and started to take it to us.â€ť
Lawrence made his first crucial saves on a hard-hit ball by senior Kelvin Morales from about 10 yards that forced the Novan keeper to make a leaping catch to the right of the cage. He was tested again a few minutes later, making another diving save on a close-ranger from the Kitlies.
â€śThe players were out of position and he had to come up with some key saves, and he did,â€ť Rao said. â€śThey were fantastic.â€ť
Senior defender Destri Desilets managed to thwart away a few potential shots in the closing minutes to secure the triumph for the Villa Novans.
Woonsocket has lost three starters from last yearâ€™s team that finished seventh in the league with a 5-7-4 mark. Rao feels this seasonâ€™s squad should fare much better.
â€śThis year we have 12 seniors that have been with us most of the three years when we played back in Division I,â€ť said the WHS coach, whose squad is in its second year as a Div. II team after several in the top division. â€śWe have a lot of game experience. I think we should be playoff contenders. I think we should be one of the top four in our division.â€ť
Mount Pleasant 0 1 â€“ 1
Woonsocket 1 1 â€“ 2
First half â€“ 1. W, Edel Santos (Sebastian Mercado) 12:00.
Second half â€“ 2. MP, Ram Sang 10:00; 3. W, Newton Kittavong (Mercado) 20:00.
Saves â€“ W, Kory Lawrence 10. MP, Julio Rosales 8. Shots â€“ W 9. MP 11.