Two weeks after their first victory, the Warwick Vets boys’ soccer team hit another milestone on Tuesday when it beat North Providence 7-3 to push its record above the .500 mark for the first time in a long time.
It felt much like the first milestone – tough weather conditions and an opponent that wouldn’t go away.
The ’Canes navigated those challenges again.
“They’re learning it,” said head coach Mike Kenney. “We knew going in that they we’re going to have to learn how to win. We’re not winning them easy. It’s never comfortable. But they’re getting it.”
The ’Canes have now won three of four since an 0-2 start, and the only loss in that span was a 1-0 decision against unbeaten Prout. Their first victory came against Rogers and they then beat St. Raphael 5-1 last Wednesday.
The positive trend continued on Tuesday, even though it wasn’t easy. A steady rain fell throughout the game, and the Cougars never stopped pushing. They controlled much of the action and forced goalie Mike Riccitelli to make a lot of plays.
But the ’Canes had the finishing touch.
Murilo Bellacosa gave Vets an early 1-0 lead. The ’Canes came up empty on a few golden opportunities over the next few minutes, but they struck again in the 24th minute when Sompathay Sadakhom punched in a rebound for the 2-0 lead.
From there, the Cougars made their run. Two defensive breakdowns led to two goals in less than a minute from Felix Jayson. All of a sudden, the teams were back at zero.
Letting teams back in has been a problem for the ’Canes – but they’ve also usually had the solution.
And they did again on Tuesday.
Just three minutes after Jayson’s goal, Vets was awarded a penalty kick after a foul in the box. Dylan Robert took it and buried a left-footed shot into the right corner to put the ’Canes back on top. They went to halftime leading 3-2.
In the second half, the strong response continued. Robert scored again 10 minutes into the half to make it 4-2 before Cody Sullivan dribbled through two defenders in the midfield, jumped over a slide tackle and made a move around the charging goalie for another goal and a 5-2 lead.
“This was a good one,” Kenney said. “We’re not winning them easy. It seems like we put up a score, but we’re never comfortable the way the games are going. But it’s a good effort all the way around.”
North Providence again made a push, scoring with 15 minutes left to make it 5-3. But the ’Canes quickly put the game away. With eight minutes to go, Sullivan got loose on a break and delivered his second goal. He did the same thing six minutes later for the hat trick and the final 7-3 margin.
Finally, the ’Canes could relax.
“It’s probably being a little nervous from the last couple of years – that nothing’s safe,” Kenney said. “It’s in everybody’s heads – here we go again. We’re trying to get rid of the here we go again. It’s taking them a little while but they’re figuring it out.”
The ’Canes are also getting healthier, with Robert back in the fold after a knee injury kept him out and Sullivan getting back to full strength after an ankle injury. Sweeper Will Hay injured his ankle last week and will be out for a while, but Brad Robert has picked up the slack at the defensive end.
Vets will try to keep the good times rolling when it visits Johnston on Friday at 6 p.m. The Panthers are 1-5-2.
“I’m happy with the result,” Kenney said. “I’m happy to be above. 500. We’ll move on and try to keep it going.”