NORTH SMITHFIELD — Staring at a scoreless tie after the first half of Thursday’s Division II-North matchup with North Smithfield, Jillian DeSimone wasn’t nervous. But the Lincoln senior knew something had to be done differently if the Lions were going to escape the Northmen Athletic Complex with a ‘W’.
“I think in the first half we were just too relaxed,” she said. “I think that’s one of our problems. At the beginning of the game we were just too relaxed. We just needed to pick up the intensity.”
Coming off a shutout loss a few days earlier to unbeaten II-South leader Exeter/West Greenwich for their first defeat of the young season, the Lions did indeed pick up their intensity in the latter half, erupting for all their offense in the final 14 minutes to post a 3-0 win over the Northmen. DeSimone did her part to ignite her teammates by scoring twice. Junior teammate Brittany Redding also found the net.
The Lions, now 4-1-1 in the league and two points behind first-place Mount St. Charles (5-1-1), were the aggressors for most of the first half. But they had trouble scoring, partly due to the Northmen’s defensive pressure.
The Lions held a 9-3 margin on shots before the break.
“I thought Lincoln did a good job of holding the ball and chasing the ball a lot in the first half,” said first-year North Smithfield coach Jeremy Sherer, whose squad fell to 3-3-1 for the season. “Lincoln had most of the possession in probably the first 30 minutes. The last 10 minutes, I think we came on strong. We finished the first half well. Lincoln tried to play everything through (DeSimone). We did a good job stopping her, but you make one mistake (and it can hurt).”
That “mistake” came with 26:14 left in the game when DeSimone beat a North Smithfield defender on a breakaway attempt on the left side. She unleashed a kick just a few yards from the post that found its way into the right corner of cage, clear out of the range of N.S. keeper Sidra Ethier (16 saves).
“My coach is always telling me shoot on the ground because I had a couple of breakaways in the first half,” DeSimone said. “I just broke in. They had a pretty solid defense and luckily I was able to get by with the shot.”
Lincoln would make it a 2-0 game with 11 minutes remaining on another breakaway, this one coming from Redding. Running down the middle of the field, Redding got the ball on a perfect feed from freshman midfielder Elizabeth Young and then fired a shot from about 18-yards out to the left corner.
“They have a really good defense so basically I just took the ball and tried to get by the goalie, and it worked out,” she said.
Sherer has seen his squad climb out of a few early-game deficits already this fall. But once Redding scored her tally, he felt it affected his squad’s confidence.
“I like this team’s resilience and its ability to come back from a deficit,” said the N.S. coach. “I think we actually started to play in the second half, but that second goal definitely took some wind out of our sails.”
North Smithfield didn’t contest Lion goalie Aiden Cullen (five saves) too many times during the course of the game. The Northmen’s best chance to put a number on the scoreboard came with 14:34 left in the game when senior Rachel Hardy fired a straight-on shot from about 10 yards that Cullen was able to catch despite a congested box in front of her.
Sherer believes his team is still in the adjustment period of having a new coach.
“For the most part, they are still getting used to me,” he said. “By the end of the season, they’ll get used to how I want to play possession soccer.
“We have showed a lot a resilience (this year) coming from behind, either coming out with a win or a draw,” he continued. “We have a tendency to be a second-half team. This is a fantastic group. It’s a joy to work with them as a first-year coach.”
Lincoln, whose lone loss was a 3-0 blanking by the Scarlet Knights this past Monday, will have a few days off before its back on the field. The Lions travel to Wood River Junction on Monday night at 6 to face Chariho Regional.
North Smithfield also plays Monday night, taking on Tiverton in an away contest that begins at 7.