The first time it beat a cross-town rival this season, the Warwick Vets field hockey team hoped it would be a springboard. That didn’t happen. The ’Canes beat Toll Gate on Sept. 24 – and then lost five straight games.
On the heels of another rivalry win, the ’Canes might finally be getting around to using that springboard.
Vets beat Division I Pilgrim 1-0 on Monday afternoon and carried the momentum into Tuesday, when it beat Cranston East 3-1 for a key D-II victory. That win kept the ’Canes in the playoff hunt.
On the other side, Pilgrim had a much rougher two-day stretch. The Pats, who are winless in D-I, were hoping to take advantage of opportunities against the ’Canes and Woonsocket, who was also winless in D-I. Instead, after the loss to Vets, the Pats fell in another 1-0 game to the Novans on Tuesday.
Monday’s game set the stage for those different fortunes.
The Pats figured they’d have the edge. They’ve faced the state’s best all season and they were taking on a Vets team that came in with a 1-10 record.
But the ’Canes have consistently kept games close this season, whether they’re playing the top teams in the division or teams from the middle of the pack. Heading into Monday, eight of their games had been decided by a single goal.
This one was, too, except it was the ’Canes who got the goal. Jenna O’Connell scored midway through the first half, and Vets made the lead stand up.
The result was the end of a long drought.
“I think it’s four years since we’ve beaten Pilgrim,” said head coach Jim Areson. “We played really well today.”
Pilgrim took possession off the start and had a penalty corner in the first minute. Ellen McDonnell ended up with a shot, but Naomi Franzen saved it.
That trend would continue. The Pats had their chances but the defense and Franzen were up to the task.
“Defensively, we’ve been awesome,” Areson said. “Naomi has been playing really well. Every game, she seems to get better.”
The issue has been offense. Vets came into Monday with only four goals to its name.
But this time, the ’Canes got what they needed.
After steadily turning the tide, Vets had two consecutive penalty corners. On the second one, 19 minutes into the game, O’Connell received a pass on the left and rifled a shot on net. It slammed into the back corner of the cage and the ’Canes had a lead.
“I’m glad Jenna scored,” Areson said. “She deserved it. She’s been playing really well. She definitely deserves to score and kind of enjoy the moment. She scores dramatic goals. She had a goal a couple of years ago that tied the game with a few seconds left.”
This goal wasn’t quite as dramatic. There was still a long way to go. But every step of the way, the ’Canes made sure that goal stood up.
Pilgrim made its best push of the day soon after O’Connell’s goal. With seven minutes left before halftime, Franzen charged and kicked the ball out of the circle before a sprinting Molly Beagan could get a shot off. Haley Donahay followed with a big run from midfield and ended up with a shot after a deflection. Franzen was there for that save, as well.
The Pats got a penalty corner soon after but came up empty. Franzen then saved another shot from Donahay and kicked the ball away from Beagan as she was making another run.
It was more of the same in the second half as the Pats continued to come up empty. Then for a long stretch, Vets held possession, making the comeback trail even tougher.
When the ’Canes cleared one final penalty corner with two minutes left, they were well on their way to the victory.
“I’m just glad we could pull it out,” Areson said.
After Monday’s win, Vets exacted some revenge on Cranston East with a 3-0 victory. The ’Bolts had beaten Vets in overtime earlier in the season. Jen Scotti, Lexi Santos-Smith and Megan Lemay had the goals this time, and Franzen made five saves.
The ’Canes have four games remaining, beginning with tonight’s 6 p.m. match-up at Cumberland, who’s 7-3-3. After that, the Titans will play winless Toll Gate and will finish with two straight games against 2-8-1 Rocky Hill.
“There’s no team in this division that they can’t beat,” Areson said. “They just have to play well.”
Pilgrim put 12 shots on net in Tuesday’s game against Woonsocket, but Novans goalie Taylor Kerrigan stopped all of them. Woonsocket got a goal from Kara Renaud and made the lead stand up.
The Pats were scheduled to play East Greenwich on Wednesday and will visit North Kingstown on Friday at 6:30 p.m.