CUMBERLAND – For opposing Division I schools, there’s no secret strategy to beat Cumberland High.
While the Clippers possess a talented squad this fall, if the opposition can keep multiple all-stater Stephanie Ribeiro away from the ball the odds are favorable that a victory will come its way.
East Greenwich witnessed that on Friday.
Despite blanket coverage all afternoon, Ribeiro managed to still score three goals in their crossover match. And that was all that was needed to upset the previously-unbeaten Avengers, 3-1, at the Tucker Field complex.
The win is the Clippers’ fifth straight after starting the season with a pair of losses to South Kingstown and three-time defending state champion La Salle Academy and a tie to Smithfield.
“We started off with three of the toughest teams and we came out of it 0-2-1. I was proud of my girls because they did not get their heads down,” said first-year Cumberland coach Anthony Silva, whose squad improved to 5-2-1 in Div. I-North. East Greenwich dropped to 8-1-0. “We played some tough teams. We played them tough and they stepped up and now they are continuing to play hard and play teams tough and we are getting the results.”
As for Ribeiro, the Clippers’ standout senior, she now has scored 22 of her squad’s 28 goals this season. She ranks No. 2 in the state behind La Salle all-stater Mckenzie Meehan, who had 24 tallies prior to the Rams’ matchup with Toll Gate yesterday.
“In my eyes, Stephanie is the best player in the state,” Silva said. “She is amazing with her foot skills. I have never seen anything like it; the way she gets the ball, the way she turns, her release on the shot from pretty much anywhere. She is just unbelievable. Every team that we have played this year had been man-marking her with a player behind her. Every team that we played had two people on her. In all reality, she still finds a way to score. She’s just a gifted player.”
Ribeiro scored once in the opening half and two more in the latter half. While her first two scores demonstrated her outstanding skills and her ability to avoid an intense defense on her, the third showed just why she should have serious consideration for All-American status by the end of the season, something she came close to attaining last year as a junior.
With 15 minutes left in the contest, Ribiero got the ball near the left sideline, kicked the ball over a defender’s head and then bullied her way through the Avengers’ defense and blasted a shot that hit the right corner of the cage, a shot that E.G. keeper Alexandra Place had no chance at saving.
“She juggled it over a girls head to begin with to get it in that position,” Silva said. “Then she has two or three girls on her. But she has that quick release and her shot is just so accurate.”
Said Ribeiro: “I just did a couple of moves, kept my head up and just ripped the shot and it went in.”
The Clippers did a good job of controlling the action in the opening half and took their 1-0 lead at the 11-minute mark when Ribeiro took a feed from senior Allison Bouchard and blasted a straight-on shot from about 18 yards. The high-scoring senior had 11 of the Clippers’ 13 shots in the half, but benefitted from some nifty passing from her teammates.
Cumberland was able to get its game-winner at the 55th minute when Ribeiro got an assist from senior Taylor Lopes from the left side, avoided heavy pressure from the Avengers’ Marissa Light and Emily Lewin and unleashed a direct kick from 20 yards that hit the left corner of the net.
“She makes the most of every opportunity,” Silva said. “You can hear other coaches holding their breath every time she touches the ball. They do a good job, but once she gets the ball you can just see it. Everyone knows. She just finds a way.”
After Ribeiro scored her third unanswered goal 10 minutes later, the Avengers avoided the shutout when their top player, senior Megan Greineder, scored with about 2:30 remaining on a long, 40-yard shot that tipped the out-stretched hands of goalie Bridgett Hollenbeck. Silva credited junior Chloe Andrews and senior Taylor Lopes for their job of containing Greineder for most of the afternoon.
Hollenbeck, a junior, was outstanding for the Clippers in their victory. She finished with 17 saves, most coming on legitimate scoring chances by the Avengers. She came up biggest down the stretch.
With about 12 minutes to go, Hollenbeck withstood a heavy attack from E.G. just feet from the cage. Not too long after that, she stopped a perfect header inside the box off a corner kick by the Avengers. She also had a couple of diving saves during the crucial minutes.
“Bridget has played amazing for us all year,” Silva said. “She was hitting ball over and doing a great job of not letting any shots that are on goal. She did a great job, especially coming out. When the ball is played past our defense, she does an excellent job of coming out and getting that ball. That’s what we need out of her and she does a great job of it.”
East Greenwich 0 1 – 1
Cumberland 1 2 – 3
First half – 1. C, Stephanie Ribeiro (Allison Bouchard) 11:00.
Second half – 2. C, Ribeiro (Mikala Joly) 55:00; 3. C, Ribeiro (Taylor Lopes) 65:00.
Saves – C, Bridget Hollenbeck 17. EG, Alexandra Place 21. Shots – C 24. EG 18.