In 160 minutes of soccer against Lincoln this season, Warwick Vets has shut down nearly everybody in a Lions uniform.
The one exception sealed their fate again Friday night.
Lincoln junior Hailee Jarry scored the only goal in a regular season win over the ’Canes. In Friday’s Division II semifinals at Cranston Stadium, she struck twice more, rallying her team from a 1-0 deficit early in the second half and giving the Lions the lead with a dramatic goal in the 78th minute. That was enough to get top-seeded Lincoln into the finals with a 2-1 victory.
“I think Lincoln just came out on fire in the second half,” said Vets coach Fred Schweizer. “When you’re up against a scorer like Hailee Jarry, you can’t give her space. We did and she burned us both times. And we didn’t capitalize on our chances.”
The Hurricanes had the upper hand for the first half, which is a lot more than they could say for their regular-season meeting with Lincoln, when they gave up a goal just 30 seconds in. This time, they controlled possession from the opening whistle and largely kept the ball in their offensive zone.
Meanwhile, the Lions were on their heels, partially because of what happened the day before. When the semifinal game was postponed from Thursday to Friday due to weather, the Lions held an indoor walk-through. Near the end of it, starting goalie Lauren Hervieux went down with a serious knee injury. She was on crutches Friday, which forced freshman Jianna Iaciofano into emergency duty.
The ’Canes made good on all the early control with a goal in the 23rd minute. Lauren Almonte tracked down a through ball in the box, won a battle for possession and scooped a left-footed shot past Iaciofano and into the net.
“Warwick Vets definitely had us on our heels in the first half,” said Lincoln coach Chris Allen. “They really gave it to us. The game in the regular season was 1-0, so I knew it was going to be a challenging game.”
The goal seemed to snap the Lions out of their funk and they generated several chances in the final 15 minutes of the half. Vets goalie Katelen Pick, though, managed to keep them off the board. She made three big saves, including a diving stop on a point-blank shot by Delaney Maxell in the 33rd minute.
“Warwick played a great game,” Allen said. “Great saves by their keeper, great defense.”
But the ’Canes would have to play a lot of defense from then on.
Six minutes into the second half, Emily Almonte put a cross toward the net that Iaciofano grabbed. Sloan Kinney tried a short cross in the 51st minute but couldn’t connect with a teammate.
After that, it was all Lincoln.
“Second half, I think we were able to compose ourselves a little more and kind of go back to the game we’re used to playing – passing it around and opening our game up,” Allen said. “That gave us more shots.”
And they capitalized. In the 66th minute, Jarry took space 30 yards out and fired a rocket on net. It sailed over the head of Pick and just under the cross-bar to tie the game.
From there, Pick made save after save to keep the game knotted at 1-1. She made a one-handed stop of a Maya LaFleur shot, tipped away a blast by Erin Gannon and made a diving save of another shot by LaFleur.
“She came up big,” Schweizer said.
But just when it looked like Vets would survive and get the game to overtime, Jarry broke through again. With under two minutes left, she made a carried the ball toward the box on the right wing. Despite having a defender on her hip, she managed to get off a hard, bouncing shot that found its way through the box, past Pick and into the left corner of the net.
“She fought through it – she didn’t get shoved off the ball and she didn’t let a physical presence deter her,” Allen said. “She was able to go through it and put it in.”
With time ticking, the ’Canes did get themselves one decent look at an answer when Casey Bennett passed the ball back to defender Amber Beech for a shot from 30 yards out on the left. She put it on net, but Iaciofano got under it and made the catch.
Vets didn’t have another chance, and the Lions celebrated their third trip to the finals in four years.
“It’s tough to see a senior captain, your goalie, get hurt,” Allen said. “All the credit to the girls for not letting it get in their heads. We played well as a team.”
The loss marked the end of a resurgent year for the ’Canes, who made the most of their chance in Division II after some lean years in D-I. The team’s big senior class was there for the bad times and the good times. Vets will say goodbye to Bennett, Beech, Pick, Lauren Almonte, Emily Almonte, Nicole Luiz, Jenna Fontaine, Ricki Beaufort, Jami Derderian, Kelsey Gray and Halie Cote.
“Outstanding season,” Schweizer said. “All along, they didn’t see moving to D-II as a letdown; they saw it as an opportunity. To have kids work so hard and come so far was great. I can’t express how proud I am of them. They did extremely well.”