WOONSOCKET — It’s been a long, difficult year for Woonsocket High, but on Tuesday afternoon, the one-win Villa Novans nearly came away with the highlight of their season and a big upset victory over their playoff-bound, crosstown rivals.
Down by a 2-0 score after a half of action, Mount St. Charles Academy battled back with three goals in the first 25 minutes of the second half and held on for a 3-2 victory before a large gathering at the Mounties’ lower soccer field.
The Mounties’ win, which came less than 24 hours after they rolled to a 5-0 triumph over East Providence High at Pierce Field, boosted their Division II-North record to 12-3, and while their magical comeback was the story of the game, so was the Novans’ exceptional play, especially in the opening half.
“I have to hand it to Woonsocket,” added MSC coach Marek Wolny, whose team outshot the Villa Novans, 26-6, but only 9-4 in the opening half. “They did a fantastic job today. I really have to commend them, and I’m fortunate to be walking out of here with a win.”
“They really played an amazing game,” Woonsocket coach Kathleen Fagnant said of her players. “They’ve been getting better with every game. I have no complaints. The people that needed to step up did, and like I said, we’re just getting better and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
While the Novans received a magnificent effort from senior keeper Kelsey Boucher, who turned away 23 shots, it was MSC senior striker’s Caitlin Shea’s team-leading 15th goal of the year 15 minutes into the second half that enabled the hosts to knot the contest, and junior midfielder Rita Donohue who added the game-winner less than 10 minutes later.
The Novans, who produced a total of just two goals in their previous six games, matched that goal total in the final 18 minutes of the first half on unassisted goals by juniors Kayla Bessette and Krislyn Godin.
The Mounties eventually cut their deficit in half just two minutes into the second half on a goal by senior Danielle Deschene that was set up by Brianna Whitney, and Shea soon tied the contest with an unassisted goal as she beat Boucher to a loose ball in front of the net and tapped it past her.
Donohue’s game-winner came off a well-placed corner kick by Alyssa Ribeiro that sailed onto the doorstep of the net and bounced around several players. Deschene blasted an up-close shot off Boucher’s leg, but the rebound went right to Donohue, who fired it into the top left corner of the goal.
“The girls turned it around and played a much better second half than they played in the first half,” said Wolny. “We applied a lot more pressure and connected a lot more passes, which we were not doing. We didn’t shoot enough in the first half, and if we did shoot, it was over the net, off to the side, or right into the goalie’s hands.”
While the Novans wrap up their season today with another road game against a playoff-bound team, Ponaganset High, the Mounties finish their regular season with three tough tests against teams they may also see again in the postseason.
They will visit another neighboring foe, North Smithfield, on Friday at 7 p.m., and after a 2 p.m. game on Saturday at home against unbeaten Division II-South leader Exeter/West Greenwich, they will entertain the Chieftains on Monday at 3:30 p.m.
“It’s a nice little tune-up for the playoffs,” remarked Wolny. “If you have to face playoff contenders like that in your last three games, I think you’re a better off team heading into the playoffs. You pretty much know what you’re in for, so I’m pretty happy about that.”
In Monday night’s victory over the Townies, the Mounties received goals in the first half from Shea and Daniela Gigliello and in the second half from Haley Connors, Jane Moniz, and Ashley Curran. Ribeiro assisted on both of the first-half goals, and goalie Marie Ryan earned the shutout with seven saves.