On a beautiful sun-splashed field at Cranston Stadium Saturday, the sixth seeded Tiverton Tigers girls soccer team punched their ticket to the Division 2 state championship game with a 2-1 victory over the second seed Pilgrim High Patriots.
Tiverton came out in the first half playing outstanding ball possession soccer and in only the third minute of the game Samantha Welchman broke in on the Pilgrim goalie and slipped a left-footed shot into the left corner for a quick 1-0 lead for the Tigers. Jackie Wilson provided the pass through the defense that sent Welchman in alone.
Tiverton continued to control possession of the ball and were rewarded with a free kick after a Pilgrim foul in the 15th minute. From 40 yards out Allison Benevides drove a feed into the 6-yard box and in the battle for possession a Pilgrim defender headed the ball into her own goal to put Tiverton up 2-0. Tiverton continued to maintain control but Pilgrim did provide their fans with some hope in the 17th minute when a low shot was driven across the face of the goal and eluded goalie Haley Higginbottom. But the ball struck the goalpost and was cleared away.
Coming out of the half, Pilgrim showed the desperation of a team facing elimination and took control of possession. Tiverton’s Higginbottom was called upon to make numerous saves but at the 57th minute Pilgrim broke through when they headed a ball in off a corner kick to close the game to 2-1.
Tiverton tried to regain momentum but Pilgrim continued to pressure the Tigers. For the remainder of the game, Pilgrim worked to score the equalizer but the Tiverton defense, led by Maya Bergandy, Elizabeth Janick, Grace Cavanagh, Alli Benevides and Rachel Mauricio continued to successfully defend the final third of the field and Higginbottom was ready when Pilgrim did manage to get a shot on net.
For the game Pilgrim had four corner kicks to Tiverton’s one and Higginbottom was called on to make 12 saves. With the victory the Tigers earned the right to face top seed Exeter-West Greenwich in the championship game Monday at 2 p.m. at Rhode Island College. EWG, the defending state champion, is undefeated in two years and comes in off a 5-1 victory over North Smithfield. Tiverton however, is playing their best soccer of the season.