TIVERTON — The sixth seed Tiverton Tigers girls soccer team entered their Division II state championship game as significant underdogs but gave undefeated and top-ranked Exeter-West Greenwich Scarlet Knights everything they could handle before ultimately falling 2-1.
Exeter-West Greenwich entered the game as two-time defending state champs without having lost a game either this season or last. But they were severely tested in this championship game by a veteran Tiverton squad.
The first half was a see-saw battle with the Scarlet Knights holding the edge for the first 20 minutes and the Tigers holding the edge over the last 20 minutes. And for the first time all season, Exeter-West Greenwich trailed as the Tigers were the first to score.
In the 30th minute, Tiverton’s Rebecca Mauricio sent a cross in front of the goal and Mackenzie Mello passed it on to Olivia Bergandy who drilled the ball into the open net. As the Tigers continued to control possession and put pressure on the Scarlet Knights it seemed like Tiverton would make it to halftime with the lead. But Exeter-West Greenwich got a break on a scramble in front of the Tiverton net and Emily Lepage of EWG put the loose ball into the net with two minutes to play in the half.
Tiverton came out of the half with determination but Exeter-West Greenwich slowly took control of the game and kept constant pressure on the Tigers. When the Tigers were able to mount an offensive surge, they were turned away by Scarlet Knights goalie Kathryn Regan.
As the second half wore on Exeter-West Greenwich continued to press and their efforts were rewarded when a Tiger foul led to a free kick that Tiger goalie Haley Higginbottom tipped off the crossbar and the ball fell in front of the net where Kara Shaw of EWG pounced and drilled the ball into the back of the net.
The Tigers’ supporters were loud and tried to cheer their team on to victory as Tiverton pressed for the tying goal. A shot by Sam Welchman just missed the net and the Exeter-West Greenwich defense smothered several other Tiverton attempts. The clock ran out before Tiverton could get the equalizer and their upset bid was over.
The Tigers’ path to the championship game was the result of a 3-0 win over 11th seed Burrillville in the preliminary round then a 1-0 overtime win over third seeded Lincoln in the quarterfinals and a 2-1 win over second seeded Pilgrim in the semi-finals. When the final whistle blew, the Tiverton girls were runners-up for 2012, a significant feat for a team that, based on school-size, could have played in Division III but chose the challenge of playing in Division III.
Playing in the final soccer game of their high school careers were seniors Maya Bergandy (captain), Olivia Bergandy, Erica Farias, Haley Higginbottom (captain), Elizabeth Janick, Rebecca Mauricio, Megan Thornton, Samantha Welchman and Jackie Wilson (captain).