PROVIDENCE --- With a combined 17 goals allowed between them this season, it was clear that scoring was going to be at a minimum in the Division II state finals between second-seeded Lincoln High and unbeaten No. 1 seed Exeter/West Greenwich.
That held true on Sunday afternoon at the Rhode Island College complex. But after a tight contest for 60 minutes, the Scarlet Knights broke through with two goals in a seven-minute span to pave the way for their second straight state crown with a 3-1 victory over the Lions in a rematch of last year's championship contest.
Tied at 1, senior Alexis Clements netted the eventual game-winner with 19:56 remaining. Her younger sister and tourney MVP, sophomore Alyssa Clements, put the game out of reach with her second goal of the afternoon at the 68th minute.
“I knew that it would be a very difficult game,” admitted E/WG coach Kevin Fraser, whose squad finished 18-0-0 in Div. II-South. Lincoln was 16-1-1 in II-North. “Lincoln is a tremendous team, very defensive team. They have given up, coming into today, nine goals all season. We have given up eight. I knew it would be a great defensive battle. We've had the opportunity to score more goals during the season (104 goals as opposed to 47 for Lincoln). We had more offensive power. I thought, and figured that if we continued to play our style, eventually we would be able to break through.”
Lincoln was trying to avenge last year's 2-1 loss to the Scarlet Knights in the finals. During the league season this fall, E/WG handed the Lions their lone loss with a 3-0 setback on Sept. 19.
“It's disappointing (today), but It doesn't take away from the season,” Lincoln coach John D'Aloisio said. “Just to get here is a great accomplishment.”
Exeter/West Greenwich scored the lone goal in the first half quickly with Alyssa Clements finding the net at 2:40. Clements took a feed from junior Kathleen Rafanelli and booted a high-rising shot from just outside the area that Lion keeper Aiden Cullen had limited time to react.
The Scarlet Knights dominated play in the first half with numerous opportunities to score. Cullen stopped a few of those prime chances with some heads-up play.
Clements had a chance on a breakaway attempt with 26-minutes left. After getting a pass from a running Kara Shaw at about the 30-yard line, Clements came barrelling through the Lions' defense. Just before she was about to fire a shot, Cullen rushed out of the net and scooped the ball up at the last second.
The Lions, who managed just one shot in the initial half, had their best chance to knot the score in the last minute off a throw-in that landed near the box. Instead of catching the ball, E/WG keeper Olivia Tourgee elected to kick the ball away and nearly missed in her attempt.
“The first half- the girls talked about it - we chose to go against the wind and get it out of the way,” D'Aloisio said. “They did a great job and held them to one goal and gave us a chance to win the game. The wind was definitely a factor.”
“We had some very good opportunities that we should have made on that we either kicked high or mis-kicked. We certainly had our chances. I was a little concerned going into the second half.”
Lincoln tied the game just 34 seconds after the break on a beautiful 35-yard direct kick from Melissa Sorkin. The junior unleashed a high kick that went over the out-stretched hands of Tourgee. On its descent, the goalie appeared to lose sight of he ball from the glaring sun.
“It was nice to get that,” D'Aloisio said. “We didn't really have many scoring opportunities.”
Alexis Clements gave the Scarlet Knights a 2-1 advantage when she fired a straight-on shot from about 23-yards out at the 61st minute. Exeter/West Greenwich sealed the deal when Alyssa Clements scored her second tally of the afternoon, taking a feed from junior Allisa Georgio from about 18 yards and avoiding heavy pressure by the Lions' defense before unleashing a shot from outside the goalie box that hit the right corner of the cage.
“The second goal was kind of a back-breaker,” D'Aloisio said. “It was hit to the area. It got knocked around a little bit. They are very strong from about 20 yards in. The ball bounced the right way and they put it away.”
The Lion coach was still full of pride as his saddened players gathered up their belongings and headed to the team bus for the 20-minute ride home. On its way to the finals, Lincoln defeated No. 7 seed Ponaganset and sixth-seeded Mount Hope by identical 1-0 scores in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.
“They were all close game,” D'Aloisio said. “I am very proud of them. After a tough bus ride home, they'll look back and I'm sure they'll be happy with the season.”
Lincoln 0 1 - 1
Exeter/West Greenwich 1 2 – 3
First half – 1 EWG, Alyssa Clements (Kathleen Rafanelli) 2:20;
Second half – 2. L, Melissa Sorkin (unassisted) :40; 3. E/WG, Alexis Clements (unassisted) 20:04; 4. E/WG, Alyssa Clements (Allissa Georgio) 27:38.