On Oct. 23, the Toll Gate girls’ soccer team played Barrington in the regular season and looked overmatched, falling 3-0.
This past Thursday, the Titans got another shot at the Eagles, this time in the preliminary round of the Division I playoffs. In that meeting, Toll Gate didn’t look overmatched at all.
But unfortunately for the Titans, the result was still the same.
The No. 11 seeded Titans went toe-to-toe with the No. 6 Eagles for the first half and a good portion of the second half before two late goals helped Barrington to another 3-0 victory.
“We definitely played them better than we did last time,” Toll Gate head coach Lonna Razza said. “They fought hard. What are you going to do? The ball just didn’t roll our way tonight.”
While the Titans didn’t put together a top-tier record in the regular season, they had a knack for staying close with some of the better teams in the division.
Playing in the postseason for the first time since 2009, Toll Gate looked to continue that trend against the Eagles. Early on, though, it didn’t take.
Barrington was on a mission in the first few minutes. It threatened immediately, getting a clean shot from Caitlyn Nolan in the second minute that Toll Gate keeper Meghan McNulty was able to stop.
In the fifth minute, on a fast counter-attack that caught the Titans out of position, Danielle Fontaine made a move on the left side of the goal to give her some space and she crossed a ball to Charlotte Jenkins, who easily kicked it in for a 1-0 lead.
Yet, even though they were already trailing, the Titans hung tough.
“This is a very confident group,” Razza said. “They keep their heads held high. They come out and they fight to the end.”
In the 11th minute, Toll Gate got a free kick from 20 yards out, and two minutes later Karina Santos worked hard up the left side to give the Titans a corner.
Both times, however, the Eagles were able to clear.
“We definitely generated chances,” Razza said. “We played them better than we did last time. We just couldn’t get the lucky roll.”
Barrington generated chances of its own as well, but McNulty always seemed to be there to turn shots away. She made a sliding save in the 14th minute, and then saved a header from Nolan in the 23rd minute. In the 27th, she made yet another sliding save off a long throw in by Caroline Coleman.
“Unbelievable,” Razza said. “She’s always been unbelievable back there. She’s not even a goalie – she hates it. But she does it and she just rolls with the punches. She did unbelievable back there tonight.”
Toll Gate had one more good opportunity in the half, as Santos crossed a ball in the 31st minute that Abby Ellis and Shannon Garvey both nearly knocked in, but Barrington keeper Emma Gurchiek pounced before they could get a foot on it.
In the second half, things remained the same early on, as both teams threatened. Charlotte Jenkins headed a ball wide for Barrington three minutes in, and 10 minutes in, Santos took a shot that sailed just over the net.
In the 57th, the Eagles finally got the job done. McNulty was forced to rush to a shot on the right side and she got there just in time to tip it out into the box.
Unfortunately for Toll Gate, the tip went right to Kimberly Hoyt, who floated a shot over the drawn out McNulty for a crucial goal, making the score 2-0.
Now comfortably ahead, Barrington held play, and it scored a third goal when Jenkins one-timed a ball past McNulty on a cross from Fontaine in the 72nd minute.
That put the game out of reach.
“I still felt we were in it,” Razza said. “Teams have scored three goals in seven minutes before. I still felt like we were in it. I really feel like it was the third one that really burst the bubble.”
The Eagles moved on to the quarterfinals, where they were scheduled to play No. 3 South Kingstown on Monday. The results of that game were unavailable at press time.
Toll Gate, meanwhile, saw its season come to a close. The Titans made a three-win jump from last year in four fewer games, and just qualifying for the playoffs was a big accomplishment in itself.
The program will say goodbye to five seniors – Fox, Garvey, Santos, McNulty and Allysa Dolan – as it looks toward next year.
“It was a great season,” Razza said. “This is a great group of girls here. I feel bad for the seniors. You’ve got five strong seniors. They come out and they play hard. When you have them from when they’re freshmen, and you watch them grow up, it’s painful a little bit.”