The Hendricken soccer team was badly in need of a win this past Thursday, as three games into the season the Hawks were sitting at 0-3 and looking up at just about everybody in Division I.
To get a win, though, Hendricken needed to put a ball in the net, something it had failed to do during its losing streak. In all three losses, it had been held scoreless.
The Hawks were starting to doubt themselves.
But after coming up empty on chances throughout the first half, Hendricken finally pushed a goal across on a lunging header from junior Brandon Silvestri on Dan Levesque’s corner kick midway through the second and the team hung on from there, defeating Chariho 1-0.
It was a relief, especially for a team not necessarily used to dwelling at the bottom of the standings. With one win under their belt now, the Hawks can turn the page and try to make up some ground.
Chariho is now 1-3, just like Hendricken.
“No matter what sport and what happens, if you’re not winning you start to doubt it a little bit,” Hendricken head coach Mickey Rooney said. “I think they were starting to doubt a little bit. We’ve played three games, and we’ve been in all three games, but didn’t come away with anything. This was good, we needed it.”
For the majority of the first half, it was a familiar story for Hendricken – control the flow of the game, but have nothing to show for it.
Chariho rarely controlled the ball for the first 30 minutes, as Hendricken got look after look. Christian Leonard missed just wide of the net with a header in the early going, and he missed just over the goal in the 22nd minute.
The Hawks took three corner kicks, but never got a shot on net. In the 35th minute, Silvestri ripped a shot from 25 yards out that smashed in to the crossbar, but bounced away harmlessly.
Chariho had one big chance, when Ryan Banker got loose on a counter-attack breakaway, but his shot sailed wide of the goal as charging goalie Matt Creamer cut down the angle.
“The first half we were playing very well, and then they had a breakaway and fortunately they didn’t score, and it kind of gave them the momentum,” Rooney said.
At halftime, the Hawks focused on keeping up the intensity. They were winning 50-50 balls and getting the better looks. Eventually something had to give.
“We just kind of stuck to our game,” Levesque said. “We do exactly what coach tells us to. In the end it pays off. He’s been here so long, he knows what he’s doing.”
Immediately after the break, Hendricken pressured the goal. Christian Kirby had a shot saved in the 44th minute, and the Hawks came up empty on a corner just minutes later.
But in the 50th minute, they were awarded another corner from the left, and Levesque placed a perfect, bending ball into the center of the box. Silvestri dove headfirst at it and connected, sending it in to the top of the net before Chariho goalie Joseph DiPalma could even react.
“We have a couple corner kick plays, where to put the ball,” Levesque said. “We have a couple guys on the team who are really good headers. Many of us are not very good headers; I’m one of them, that’s why I take the corners. I saw Brandon in there and I saw Brady Chant in there. Both of them were sitting at the top of the box, and I figured I would put it right there for them. Brandon made a great header.”
Hendricken continued to attack the net, and nearly doubled its lead a few times, but Chariho held strong. Then, the Chargers made a run of their own.
In the 62nd minute, Corey Zegarzewski fired a long-range shot that Creamer leaped and caught. With time winding down, in the 80th minute, Banker took a free kick for Chariho from just outside the 18, but the ball was deflected before the Chargers were whistled for an offside penalty. When the ball was put back in play, the final whistle blew and the Hawks had their first win of the year.
“Once we got the goal, that took a lot of pressure off,” Rooney said. “Then the last five, 10 minutes of the game, they threw everything at us but the kitchen sink. That was good, because we were able to hang on. It was good learning experience for us.”
Hendricken will have two more difficult games this week, as it takes on 2-3 Hope on Tuesday at home at 6 p.m, then travels to 3-1-1 East Providence on Friday night for a 7 p.m. game.
“The first three games of the season were real tough,” Levesque said. “I’m not so sure we should have lost a couple of them. We should have played better, but we played what we did, and that’s the past. This game, we played better, and we got the win.”