CUMBERLAND — The East Providence High School girls’ soccer team will get its chance to defend its Division III championship after the Townies overcame some ragged play and a persistent Narragansett side to defeat the Mariners, 3-1, in the playoff semifinals played at Cumberland’s Tucker Field Thursday night, Nov. 9.
Alyssa DeOliveira netted a hat-trick for the locals, who advance to the title game Sunday afternoon, Nov. 12, at Rhode Island College.
The goals were Nos. 17, 18 and 19 of the year for the sophomore forward. East Providence’s leading scorer Grace Abrams (39 goals, 10 assists) had the helper on DeOliveira’s second, which proved the game-winning tally. Lindsey Amaral and Lily Palumbo assisted on the others. Sophomore keeper Mia Jackson was credited with eight saves in the Townies’ net.
East Providence improved to 14-0-0 on the fall. The top-ranked Townies also upped their unbeaten run to 17 games stretching back to the 2016 regular season. The fifth-seeded Mariners finished with a 10-5-1 record in league game, including a 4-2 victory over Davies in their playoff opener the week prior.
The Townies, who defeated Narragansett 4-0 earlier in the year, were far from sharp in the semis, showing visible signs of rust according to head coach Angelo Pizzi from having not played a competitive contest in nearly three weeks since they pummeled Mt. Pleasant, 10-0, in their last regular season game on October 20. The locals were also dealing with illness and injury, the coach said.
East Providence was by far the more threatening side but just because if its speed advantage. The Townies’ passing and touches were neither crisp nor precise. And they failed to really open up the Narragansett defense, which was packed in middle of the pitch.
E.P. held possession right off opening kickoff, leading immediately to a shot that went wide. The ball was almost entirely in Narragansett end for the first 10 minutes. The Mariners’ first meaningful pressure didn’t come until the 16th minute, forcing Jackson to come off her line and make a play on a ball near the top of the 18 needed help to clear it out of danger.
DeOliveira, the most effective of the E.P. offensive players all evening, had her first best look at goal in the 19th minute, but her shot from distance was easily saved by Narragansett keeper Shannon O’Connell (12 saves). About two minutes later, an Abrams header from the top of 18-yard circle was pushed aside by O’Connell, leading to a corner, but the Townies were called for a foul in the ensuing scrum.
The only way it seemed for Narragansett to generate any semblance of an attack was when East Providence was either sloppy or made a mistake, which is exactly what happened in 32nd minute. The Townies failed to clear a free ball in the center of the field off a throw-in. The Mariners’ Rylie Mitchell controlled the ball and slipped a shot by Jackson for the game’s first goal.
The tally marked just the fourth time all year E.P. has given up a goal and just the third time all far the Townies were scored upon in the first half.
And it looked like for the first time in 2017 East Providence would trail at the break, but DeOliveira struck about a minute before intermission to make the score level at the half. Amaral’s free kick from the Townies’ end after a Narragansett foul found DeOliveira just onside and away from the last Mariner defender. She then calmly dribbled for a bit before calmly beating O’Connell to knot the score at one.
Three minutes into the second half, DeOliveira nearly struck again and on a very similar play, but this time O’Connell stoned her at the top of six.
In the 48th minute, however, DeOliveira and Abrams combined for a nifty goal. The former came to the ball in the corner and delivered a tight angle pass towards Abrams, who sent a shot towards net that DeOliviera punched in for the go-ahead goal.
The Townies were fortunate a bit later when a long shot by Narragansett off a free kick sailed over Jackson’s head and caromed off the post. But with no other Mariners in the area, there was no follow-up threat.
DeOliveira, who likely could have scored five times, was denied a few minutes later when O’Connell made a sprawling save on her next attempt, getting just enough of the shot from just inside the 18 to put it wide of the post. The Narrgansett keeper, though, paid for her hustle. She was shaken up and left the game.
DeOliveira finally pretty much put the game away in the 64th minute when she took a ball from Palumbo and beat the Mariners’ substitute goalie with a waste-high shot to complete her hat-trick.