In just its second season, the Warwick Vets girls’ soccer team is the state champion after pulling off a thrilling victory over Curtis Corner Middle School in the title game at East Greenwich High School on Friday afternoon.
After a scoreless first half, Curtis Corner went ahead, 1-0, early in the second half. But, with 4:50 remaining in regulation, Amelia Murphy floated a direct free kick over the Curtis Corner keeper to tie the score at 1 and send the game to overtime.
A pair of five-minute overtime periods wouldn’t settle the stalemate, so the game would be decided by penalty kicks. There, Vets would prevail, 2-0, getting goals from Murphy and Dasani Stewart, while goalkeeper Janelle Mixner made two outstanding saves and forced two other misses to secure the victory.
“These girls have been working hard for a long time together, and they deserve everything,” Vets head coach Nicole Kenney said following the win. “The thing I love about this team is that they don’t give up. In the playoff games leading up to today, they never gave up. We had a shootout on Tuesday, kind of the same thing. Janelle was clutch, and they just never gave up.”
Curtis Corner was able to carry the play for the opening 10 minutes of the first half, but Vets escaped that early pressure unscathed.
Near the midway point of the first half, Vets started to get some offense going, as Sarah Lynch sent a shot just over the net after a nice give-and-go with Alanna Coffie, and a minute later, Coffie had a chance out in front that was saved by the Curtis Corner keeper.
Curtis Corner’s Jami Hill had a chance in the waning minutes of the first half when she found herself all alone in front, but her shot sailed high of the goal.
Just 2:10 into the second half, however, Curtis Corner was able to net the game’s first goal, when Ella Wholey’s cross found Reagan Bell, who floated a shot just over the outstretched arms of Mixner to make it 1-0.
After that, though, it was all Warwick Vets as it pressed to find the equalizer.
That pressure paid off for the ’Canes near the five-minute mark, earning a direct free kick to the right of Curtis Corner’s net.
Murphy stepped in and, even though she didn’t have a great angle for a shot, she floated a shot over the keeper and into the net to tie the score at 1.
In addition to providing offense, Murphy did a tremendous job neutralizing Curtis Corner’s attack as one of Vets’ top defenders.
“Amelia is definitely one of those girls that you can always depend on,” Kenney said of Murphy. “She never breaks a sweat, has control of the back end and just does a phenomenal job back there. In our last game against Chariho, she had another free kick go in the back of the net. She’s just an all-around great player.”
Murphy’s tally forced overtime. And, in the opening seconds of the first extra period, it looked as though Coffie had netted the potential game-winner. She fired a shot that hit the post, and the ball rolled along the goal line before being cleared away by a Curtis Corner defender.
The game then went to penalty kicks. Mixner made saves against Curtis Corner’s first two shooters, Avery Martin and Ellie Edwards. Stewart then stepped in as Vets’ second shooter and calmly booted the ball to the back of the net to give the ’Canes a 1-0 advantage. After another Curtis Corner miss, Murphy made it 2-0 with a goal for Vets. Curtis Corner’s Malia Young then stepped up needing to score to extend the shootout, but her shot missed the mark, clinching the state crown for Warwick Vets.
Kenney couldn’t have been more proud of her group. She noted that the team returned a strong core from a season ago, and that core meshed well with the seventh-graders who were added to the team this fall.
“They’re like a little family,” Kenney said of her tight-knit group. “It shows on the field, but it also shows off the field.”