It was time.
After two winless campaigns and five straight losses to open this season – four by a one-goal margin – the Warwick Vets field hockey team was determined to break into the win column when it visited Toll Gate on Monday afternoon.
And the ’Canes seized the opportunity in a big way.
Julie Ye scored just three minutes into the game and the ’Canes added three more goals before halftime as they cruised to a 6-0 victory over the Titans.
It was the program’s first victory since 2009, when many of the players weren’t even in high school yet.
“It means the world, really,” said senior captain Lauren Enos. “It’s been three years. It’s been a struggle. It’s awesome to win. It feels so great, like we’re on top of the world.”
The ’Canes returned to Division II this year after two winless seasons in Division I. They expected to be competitive right off the bat, and they were – but victory proved elusive. They lost their first game 2-0 before three consecutive 2-1 losses, including a heartbreaking overtime loss to Cranston East in which they lost a 1-0 lead with 14 seconds left. The trend continued last Friday when Vets lost 1-0 to Cumberland.
Facing a rebuilding Toll Gate team on Monday, the ’Canes saw their chance and grabbed it. Three minutes in, Vets crashed the net. Toll Gate goalie Alyson Perry made a save on the first shot, but Enos pushed the rebound to the left post, where Ye swept it in for the 1-0 lead.
“We just wanted to be intense and try harder,” said captain Jenna O’Connell. “We went in wanting it more.”
In the loss to Cranston East, Vets scored and then went back on its heels to try and protect the lead.
This time, Vets just kept pushing.
Three minutes after Ye’s goal, O’Connell took a rebound and slipped a pass to Jen Scotti on the left. Scotti smashed the ball into the cage to make it 2-0.
Just two minutes later, Vets struck again. Savannah Hersey dribbled into the circle and pushed a pass to Lexy Santos-Smith, who corralled the ball and buried a shot for the 3-0 lead. Scotti made it 4-0 with her second goal of the day later in the first half.
“They seem to have learned from the East game,” head coach Jim Areson said. “They didn’t stop playing. That’s what I was happiest with. We scored so early, and I was afraid we’d take it easy. But they banged four in in the half and kept it going.”
Toll Gate had some chances along the way, but the Vets defense led by Sam Supsky, Katie Steere, Shannon Law and Samantha Harris held strong. Goalie Naomi Franzen made her best save when she knocked a Molly Turner shot away with her arm pad.
“This game broke the surface for everything we’ve been trying to do,” Enos said. “We were pumped up today. We went out there and we just went for it.”
And Vets didn’t take its foot off the gas in the second half. Nine minutes in, the ’Canes scored off a scramble to make it 5-0. Megan Lemay scored with 13 minutes left for the final margin.
For the first time in three years, Vets could celebrate.
“We played really well,” Areson said. “I’m happy for them.”
For Toll Gate, the loss was another frustrating one. The team had lost its previous game 1-0 and was hoping to take some strides against Vets. Instead, with starting goalie Shanelle Lawson out sick and the lineup shuffled around, it was another tough day.
“We’ve said since the beginning it’s a rebuilding year and it’s working out like we expected,” said Toll Gate head coach Sherri Boisvert. “Hopefully we can put a couple of wins in the winning slot along the way. Today was tough, but we’ve definitely gotten better from the first game, individually and as a team.”
Toll Gate will continue its quest for a victory when it visits Smithfield today at 3:45 p.m.
Vets will be back in action Monday with a 3:45 home game, also against Smithfield. The ’Canes hope the win over Toll Gate can be a springboard.
“I just hope they understand they need to build on this now and go from here,” Areson said. “They kind of remind me of the ’04 team. We started slow. The first nine games, we were something like 2-7. Then we won five or six in a row, finished on a run and actually made it all the way to the state semis. This team kind of has that feeling. We’re young and we’ve got a lot of room to grow. Hopefully, that’s what’ll happen for the rest of the year. It’s up to them – how much they want it and how much they want to work at it.”