CUMBERLAND — Looks like this new Division II thing is suiting Cumberland just fine.
After years of struggling in the Division I ranks and winning no more than five games in each of the last eight seasons, the Clippers are thriving in the state’s second division and off to their best start in recent memory.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Clippers raised their record to 3-0-1 by stomping winless Toll Gate, 7-1, at Tucker Field, a game that saw junior Bekka Benjamin score her team-leading fifth and sixth goals of the season and the hosts score three times in a span of 3:24 during the first half to help them assume a 4-0 halftime command.
The seven goals also represents the most goals in a game scored by the Clippers in a very long time, considering they had played in a league as tough and competitive as Division I, where scoring seven goals during a four-game stretch would be deemed a remarkable feat.
“It’s my third year here, and the past two years, we’ve definitely struggled up in Division I,” added Cumberland coach Stefanie Capone-Bello. “[Playing in Division II] has been great, but being in Division I for the past two years definitely helped us. We played against some very good teams, and even though we didn’t win much, we made big improvements from the first game of my first year to last year’s last game.
“And I think [the improvements] show up here a lot. We’re moving the ball well, and we’re doing a great job in front of the goal. It was a struggle, but I think it was worth it.”
The Clippers, who have now outscored their opponents by a 15-2 margin, had their way with the Titans, who have allowed 21 goals in their four losses and scored their first goal of the season with just 15 seconds to play in the game. The Clippers kept the action on the Titans’ side of the field for nearly 90 percent of the afternoon, outshot the Titans by a 24-2 count, and totaled 11 corners to their visitors’ three.
Benjamin’s first goal came 9:36 into the contest off a pass from classmate Megan Martin, and 65 seconds later, Martin netted her fourth goal of the year. Benjamin then made it a 3-0 game with her next goal at the 13-minute mark, and with 4:59 to play in the half, Frances Hawkins found the back of the cage with a long shot.
The Clippers’ second-half goals came from Sonja Czekalski (off a pass from Hawkins at the seven-minute mark), freshman Karin Dion (with classmate Cassidy Simanski assisting at 19:10), and senior tri-captain Caylin Legare (with 2:34 on the clock).
After Legare’s goal, the Clippers and goalie Liz Alberg seemed to be headed for their third straight shutout, but Toll Gate got on the board in the waning seconds on a goal by Molly Turner.
All in all, it was a great win for the Clippers, but they won’t have much time to celebrate it. They return to action today with a 3:30 p.m. showdown back at Tucker against another unbeaten team that’s down from Division I, Burrillville. The Broncos improved to 4-0-1 on Wednesday by topping the Rocky Hill School, 2-0.
On Friday, the Clippers hit the road to face winless Warwick Vets, but over the next two weeks, the schedule gets a lot tougher, for awaiting the Clippers are difficult tests against Chariho (3-1-2), Classical (3-1-2), and two-time champion Smithfield (2-0-2).
“Everything is very close right now,” said Capone-Bello. “I’ve been checking [the standings] and everybody seems to be within a point or two of each other. The season’s flying by, but it’s still early, so there’s a lot of time and a lot of games still to be played. We just have to keep playing hard.”