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.
“Our division is very close,” Lincoln coach John D’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.
“We played North Smithfield twice this season,” D’Aloisio said. “We beat them 3-1 and 1-0. North Smithfield is well-coached and disciplined. They have a strong goalkeeper. It’s going to be a close game.”
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 year’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, that’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 isn’t paying attention.
“I was very impressed with all the teams in our playoffs,” D’Aloisio said. “Just about anybody could win it all.”
D’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 haven’t lost a game since.
“This is my first year as head coach,” D’Aloisio admitted. “The girls took me this far. It’s very gratifying to coach them because they are a great group.”
Lincoln’s leading goal scorer is junior co-captain Jillian DeSimone, who accumulated 15 goals during the regular season.
“Jill is very fast and has great ball control skills,” D’Aloisio said. “She always draws extra coverage from the other team.”
The Lions exemplify the team approach, spreading their scoring around, while allowing only 8 goals on defense in 18 games.
“I think that’s impressive,” D’Aloisio said. “Our 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.”
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.
“We’re ready to play,” D’Aloisio said. “The playoffs are going to be a lot of fun.”
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.