E.G. edges E.P. for D-II girls’ soccer championship

Avengers net winning goal in overtime, end Townies’ unbeaten season

By Mike Rego
Posted 11/23/20

JOHNSTON — East Providence High School’s dream of completing an undefeated 2020 Division II girls’ soccer season with a title came to a crushing end as the Townies fell to East …

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E.G. edges E.P. for D-II girls’ soccer championship

Avengers net winning goal in overtime, end Townies’ unbeaten season

Posted

JOHNSTON — East Providence High School’s dream of completing an undefeated 2020 Division II girls’ soccer season with a title came to a crushing end in the league championship game as the Townies fell to East Greenwich in overtime 3-2 Sunday afternoon, Nov. 22, at Johnston High’s Polisena Stadium.

The Avengers’ Gracie Kauffman accounted for the deciding goal in the first minute of the second five-minute extra session, taking a back pass from Isabelle Gelzhiser at the end line then beating EPHS keeper Kaylee Davenport (9 saves) cleanly and decisively with a low, hard shot inside the 18-yard box to the goalie’s left.

(The Rhode Island Interscholastic League soccer playoff format includes a full 10-minute overtime period, not sudden death, broken down into two five-minute sections.)

“It really couldn’t have been done without everybody’s effort. I was in tears. It was just a really good feeling,” Kauffman, a sophomore, said of her championship-winning goal.

The loss left the top-seeded Townies with a 7-1-1 record in league games this fall.

“A few were crying but a majority of the girls, including our captains — Ashley Dias and Lily Budnick — terrific captains, they took a leadership role yet again and put it into perspective,” EPHS head coach Angelo Pizzi said of his team’s emotions after the game.

“Some teams when they get into this position at end of season, it would be easy to point fingers, play the ‘would have-should have’ game. Our girls never did that. We talked about the big picture. People are literally dying and we have an opportunity to play a game, and that’s what it is, a game. Our girls realized that, they embraced it. They upheld ‘Townie Pride,’ and did their best for each other, the school, the community and they’re families. I’m so proud of them.”

East Greenwich, which a year ago won just two games while playing in Division I, finished with the same mark, but more importantly the championship trophy.

“It was a great game. East Providence really fought hard. They played a really great game,” said E.G. head coach Karen Lockhart.

She added, about a season conducted during the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, “This was a year, no one really thought we would get to this point. And especially for the seniors, they’ve lost a lot. They’ve lost proms. They’ve lost homecomings. They’ve lost a lot. So for them to win this tonight, I’m just really happy for them. They deserve it.”

Though likely difficult for EPHS to accept, the result was a fair one. East Greenwich commanded most of the possession during the 80 minutes of regulation and the 10 extra minutes.

Much of the Avengers early control didn’t actually lead to any real scoring chances, something the Townies eventually took advantage of by netting the game’s first goal.

Jordyn Brogan, who accounted for both of the Townies’ tallies, scored for the locals just two minutes before intermission, in the 38th minute, on what was East Providence’s best offensive sequence of the game.

Seven Townies in the midfield and defense had a touch. Emily Gorski and Lily Budnick closed down on an Avenger in the E.P. end, the latter coming up with the steal and pass to McKayla Lopes, who fed an open Olivia Williams in the middle of the pitch.

Williams slid the ball back towards Tessa LaRoche. LaRoche then sent a quick ball down the right side into the E.G. end. Manteiga got the better of an Avenger defender, delivering a cross at the far post to Brogan, who then slipped a perfectly placed shot into the far corner as E.G. keeper Rosalina Caliri (5 saves) edged off her line.

“First off, our hat’s off to the Avengers. They’re a very good team, well coached. Our girls showed grit, heart, determination. They never quit the entire game,” said Pizzi.

“They’re a really good team,” he continued. “They sent six people forward on us and were able to maintain possession and control the ball, but we were obviously happy we had the lead at the half.”

The Avengers, however, wasted little time leveling the score out of the break. Just 90 seconds into the second half, as E.P. got a bit careless with the ball in its own third, E.G.’s Sofia Barnes notched the tying goal.

Again, though, the Townies appeared to have taken back the momentum when in the 49th minute Brogan settled a cross from Olivia Williams and this time chipped a shot into the far corner over a helpless Caliri to make it 2-1 E.P.

But later, following another mistaken handle by the Townies deep in their territory, the Avengers once more equalized. This time, in the 60th minute, Maeve Phinney ripped a shot from some 30 yards out into the upper third of the E.P. net as all Davenport could do was watch.

“The first goal, I’m not sure how it happened, but the second goal we did lose our shape,” said Pizzi. “Even after that though we were still tied. We felt good about it going into overtime.”

Neither side came close to finding the winner during the remainder of regulation. In the first overtime section, each team sent tantalizing crosses to the far post, but no one was there to potentially put the ball into the open side of the net.

East Greenwich, as it did throughout, controlled the ball for much of the second extra section after scoring. E.P. did not have any meaningful attempts on goal before time expired in the game and on the Townies’ season.

“We took a (former) D-I team to 90 minutes. Like I told the girls, no one should be hanging their heads at all,” Pizzi added. “And they didn’t. They rallied around each other. They’re an incredible group. They’re a credit to their families and the community. They’re such quality young ladies. They do well academically. They volunteer their time. They’re great kids who happen to play soccer.”

— View a gallery of photos from the Division II girls' soccer championship game here...

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.