On Monday afternoon, twenty-seven minutes stood between the Warwick Vets field hockey team and its first win since 2009. The countdown trickled all the way to 14 seconds, but unfortunately for the ’Canes, that’s where it stopped.
Cranston East’s Michelle Nunez scored the game-tying goal with 14 seconds left in the second half, and the ’Bolts then won in overtime to hand the ’Canes a heartbreaking 2-1 loss. Vets, which is back in Division II after two rough years in D-I, dropped to 0-4.
Success is surely coming soon. It just didn’t happen Monday.
“They gave it their all, but we haven’t won in two years, and when that’s the situation, you’ve really got to learn how to win,” said Vets head coach Jim Areson. “We scored early in the second half, and then we literally tightened up. They said to themselves, ‘We’re not going to lose this game,’ instead of going out and winning the game. It’s all part of the process right now.”
That’s another in a line of lessons the ’Canes have learned this season. They lost their first game 2-0 and have since lost the last three by 2-1 margins.
It’s about getting over the hump.
“They have to realize they can win games now,” Areson said. “That has to be their mentality.”
The ’Canes were in prime position to win Monday’s game. After a scoreless first half, they broke through with three minutes gone in the second. Lauren Enos passed to Savannah Hersey on a penalty corner and she moved the ball along to Jenna O’Connell in the middle. O’Connell slipped it to Julie Ye on the far post, and Ye punched a shot into the cage for the 1-0 lead.
Instead of seizing the momentum, though, the ’Canes went backwards.
The ’Bolts controlled a large part of the action after the goal. For a while, it looked like they would come up empty, but they got a chance when they were awarded consecutive penalty corners in the final minute. On the second, Beatrix Kanno dodged one defender but had the ball poked away by Samantha Harris. A scramble ensued and the ball eventually found its way to the stick of Nunez, who muscled it past goalie Naomi Franzen to tie the game.
“I have a ton of scrappy players on my team,” said East coach Sarah Knowlton said. “They have an amazing ability to put the ball where it needs to be.”
The goal from Nunez set up a 10-minute overtime period featuring seven-on-seven play, instead of the usual 11-on-11.
Neither team could get control in the early part of the overtime period, but the ’Bolts established possession in their end and went to work. A deflected shot led to a penalty corner. East didn’t get a shot off, but another violation gave East another corner. This time, Molly Maguire pushed the ball to Kanno, who then slipped a pass back to the left, where Taylor Burns was camped out on the post. She settled the ball, took the shot and beat Franzen for the game-winner.
“We set up the corner where Molly passes it all the way to the other side and I set up on post,” Burns said. “Beatrix did what she was supposed to do, she passed it right to the post. Luckily I got it right in there.”
While the goals completed the comeback, it was East’s response to falling behind that set the stage. Instead of packing it in after Vets went up 1-0, East dominated the action in the second half. Vets didn’t have another quality chance, and most of the action happened in East’s offensive end.
“Give all the credit to Cranston East,” said Vets head coach Jim Areson. “They decided they were going to battle, and they didn’t stop. Some teams would sulk after giving up a goal there, but they didn’t.”
And Vets didn’t do enough to turn the tide.
“It’s easier said than done, but they’ve got to literally relax and just play the game,” Areson said. “They can’t worry about making mistakes and things like that. If we had kept the ball down their end, it would have been a different story. We just sat back. That’s something they’ve got to work on.”
It’s all part of the process as the ’Canes try to understand the bottom line. In Division I, it often didn’t matter what they did – the league’s powerhouses just had too much. Now, the ’Canes are capable.
“I keep telling them, ‘Everybody in this league is just like us. They all picked up the stick at the same time,’” Areson said. “So it comes down to effort and desire. In this division, that’s the difference. If you physically want it more than the other team, you’re going to win nine times out of 10.”
The ’Canes will continue their quest when they host Cumberland on Friday at 4 p.m. They’ll visit Toll Gate on Monday at 3:45 p.m.
“We’re there,” Areson said. “It’s just little things now. They need to play with more intensity and more desire. I really feel we’re going to be a lot better in the second half of the season. Hopefully, it’ll work out that way.”