On Sept. 19, the Warwick Vets girls’ soccer team lost at home 3-2 to Scituate. Yet, when Fred Schweizer saw that the Spartans were his team’s first playoff opponent, he didn’t even blink.
“I felt confident,” Schweizer, Vets’ head coach, said. “I liked our draw.”
He had good reason to be confident. The ’Canes proved that on Thursday. On the strength of two first-half goals, Vets ran by Scituate 2-0 in the quarterfinal round of the Division II playoffs, earning a spot in the semifinals.
Sloan Kinney and Emily Almonte each put the ball in the net in the game’s first 17 minutes, and the ’Canes didn’t let the lead slip away from there. They’ll play top-seeded Lincoln on Thursday at Cranston Stadium at 5 p.m., for a chance to play in the championship game.
“We were pretty excited to play this game,” Kinney said. “We were hoping we’d win it, but the first time (we played them) it was a little rough. We were happy when we got the goals in the beginning.”
The victory was Vets’ first playoff win since 2008, when it was in Division I and beat Portsmouth 3-0. The ’Canes hadn’t even been back to the postseason since then, and they didn’t miss their opportunity when they finally did make it back.
Seeded fourth, Vets got a first-round bye, while Scituate – the No. 5 seed – defeated Ponaganset 7-3 in the preliminary round. That brought the two teams together for the first time since the Spartans won in September, and Vets just had a feeling it would be different.
“I think we should have won that first game,” Kinney said. “They had a couple of lucky shots.”
In the eighth minute of the rematch, Kinney had a shot of her own that – lucky or not – gave Vets the upper hand. After dribbling all the way up the right sideline, the senior launched a shot over Scituate keeper Rebecca Sprague’s head, and it soared perfectly into the left corner of the net.
Whether or not it was an intended shot or a cross is up for debate, but it was 1-0 Vets either way.
“They all call it ‘the accident’ because it’s happened more than once, but I’m going to say that it was a shot,” Kinney said.
Nine minutes later, Kinney nearly struck again, but when she didn’t, Almonte was there to finish the job. Kinney again came up the right side and took a shot closer to the net that ricocheted off the left post. It bounced straight out to the foot of Almonte, who followed it in to give the ’Canes a commanding two-goal lead.
“So proud of them,” Schweizer said. “I’m so proud of the way they’ve worked hard this season. Coming in I think they had the confidence to believe that they could do it.”
The Spartans nearly cut their deficit in half two minutes later. Mackenzie Clancy sent a pass up to Talia Pino on the right, and she tipped the ball past the arms of charging Vets keeper Katelen Pick. The shot was barely mis-judged, though, and it slid past the goal on the left.
The ’Canes went into the half with the 2-0 lead and couldn’t have been more pleased.
“They came out right from the first whistle and just battled,” Schweizer said. “We told them at half, we didn’t have any adjustments to make, because they played exactly the way they wanted to.”
In the second half, going into a fairly strong wind, Vets fell back on its heels some, but still managed to control play for the most part. Scituate nearly got on the board once again in the 43rd minute when Kayte Sousa took a direct kick from 20 yards away that hit the cross bar, but other than that, it was all ’Canes.
Sousa attempted a few more free kicks, but Pick – who finished the game with 10 saves – was always there to make the catch. Players like Abbie Paul, Ricki Beaufort, Casey Bennett and Amber Beech kept the Spartans at bay for most of the half, while halfbacks like Kinney, Almonte, Lauren Almonte and Nicole Luiz provided much-needed defensive support.
Vets attacked as well, putting more than a few shots on Sprague.
“Even at 2-0 in this league, you’ve got to be careful, so we told them at half, ‘0-0, come out flying, come out firing and continue to work hard,’” Schweizer said.
Scituate had corner kicks in the 65th and 68th minutes, and then had another free kick from about 25 yards away in the 72nd, but none of them led to goals.
Instead, the game ended a few minutes later and Vets earned a spot in the next round. It will play Lincoln, a team that beat the ’Canes 1-0 in a very competitive game late in the regular season.
Pilgrim and Burrillville will play in the other semifinal.
“It’s going to be nice under the lights and stuff,” Kinney said. “Everyone is really pumped about it.”
The D-II finals are on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Rhode Island College.