BURRILLVILLE — Mere seconds after Burrillville High had sailed to a 4-0 Division II-North victory over Cranston East on Thursday afternoon, players – as is standard fare – walked the sideline closest to the team benches and issued other high-fives while stating over and over “Good game.”
When it got to the head coaches, the Broncos’ Susan Burgess looked at the Thunderbolt’s Sarah Knowlton and offered something undecipherable.
Burgess then placed her arm around her and grinned, and Knowlton responded with a smile before the two embraced right at the midfield stripe.
“She told me, ‘It wasn’t that a good a game; I wish we had played better,’” Burgess smiled afterward. “I just said, ‘I love you!’”
It was perfectly understandable. For the first time in either’s lives, “Mom” had to battle “Daughter” in a competitive interscholastic tilt, and both claimed a perfect word to describe it as “weird.
“This is her first year; Sarah had been my assistant here for four years,” Burgess explained. “She was working as a full-time substitute (teacher) in Cranston, and – in August she discovered Cranston East was looking for someone to fill the field hockey position. Jobs being what they are, she had to do what she felt was right for her, so she took it, and I know why: She’s got a ton of experience.
“It was good to see her again, especially here, where she spent so much time helping me, but – before the game – I think the Burrillville kids were a little stand-offish (toward Sarah),” she added. “She has coached a lot of them for so long, and the girls weren’t used to seeing her on the other side. There were no hugs or greetings or anything. I think it’s because they didn’t want to get too emotional, and they wanted to stay focused on the game.”
Knowlton, who now, at 24, works as a full-time fourth-and fifth-grade teacher at Spurwink School in Lincoln, pretty much said the same.
“It was pretty strange,” she noted. “I’ve coached a lot of these girls since their freshman year, and my mom and I have taught them almost everything they know. In Burrillville, they just started up middle school teams and a feeder program, and there are none in Cranston. One of my goals is to build that kind of program so kids have some experience before they reach the high school level.
“I knew when I took the job here it was going to be a tough year,” she added. “(Cranston East) hasn’t had a successful program in quite a while. They’ve had one coach for a year or two and then a new comes in, so there’s been no consistency; there definitely hasn’t been enough support, either, but I’d like to change all that.”
As “Mama” Burgess indicated, however, the ‘Bolt has won three games this season already, and it’s only one shy of equaling the amount of wins Cranston East racked up a year ago. In fact, it entered this contest at 3-3.
“We talk almost every day, and she told me her first day of practice (in August), she had four kids come out for the team,” Burgess noted. “Of course, she was a little down about the turnout, but once she got to know the kids, she had about 20 freshmen and sophomores come out. Her numbers started to improve.
“I actually went to see her in a game against Rocky Hill at Cranston Stadium – as a mom just sitting in the stands – and they won it, 1-0,” she continued. “I’m really excited for her. This is the beginning of her coaching career, and I expect her to have some really good seasons at Cranston East. I know they’re going to learn the game and have fun doing it.
“The thing is, Sarah and I have the same philosophy, and that’s because we lived in the same house and we were always into sports. We believe in working hard, being disciplined and putting school first. I know she’s going to do well there – or wherever she chooses to coach. When she graduated (from Burrillville in 2005), she was All-State first-team (in D-II).”
As for the game itself, sophomore Kristina Iavarone finished with a goal and an assist, as did classmate Kasey Desrosiers. Senior tri-captains Laura Hauser (two assists) and Brittney Bebeau (goal) also helped out offensively.
Iavarone knocked home Hauser’s pass for what proved to be the game-winner just 5:33 into the initial stanza, and Desrosiers converted an Iavarone feed at 8:12.
In the second half, Bebeau scored on a wicked slap shot from just outside the circle (following a pretty pass from Hauser) only 9:23 into the second half, and the Broncos made it 4-0 at the 17:24 mark.
On the tally, Bebeau stole a pass near midfield, dribbled down the right side and crossed a pass to Desrosiers, who ripped a try at junior goalie Caroline Urena. She kicked it out, but fellow junior Mikayla Fernandez pounced on the rebound and poked it into the open net.
With the triumph, Burrillville remained unbeaten at 6-0-1, while the ‘Bolt – despite a whopping 16 saves from Urena – fell to 3-4.
“We played OK; I subbed in a lot of players,” Burgess said. “We’re having a pretty good year, and it’s because we have a lot of potential here. You can’t take anything for granted, because it’s not a matter of who beats who on a given day. Anyone can beat anyone else on any given day, so you have to play hard, take it one game at a time.”
Offered Knowlton: What I’m most pleased with is the fact they my kids didn’t give up. I’m afraid they got used to losing, that they’d be down two or three goals, and just stop playing. For the most part, that hasn’t been the case. We had a string of three straight wins over Toll Gate, Rocky Hill and then a 1-0 overtime (thriller) against Warwick Vets.
“With this game, we were more complacent,” she added. “I think they were distracted, for obvious reasons. They know my mom coaches here, and that everyone was here (including Knowlton’s grandparents, sister and boyfriend). I didn’t want them to feel like, given the circumstances, they had to go out and win. I made sure I told them that Burrillville’s a really good team, and to just go out and do the best they can.
“All I want from them is to work hard, play hard and have a desire to learn.”
Like Mom, like daughter.