Fresh off a disappointing loss to Tiverton on Thursday, the Warwick Vets girls’ soccer team wasn’t concerned with style points during Tuesday’s home game against Johnston.
The Hurricanes just wanted to get back into the win column.
Behind two goals in the game’s first four minutes, Vets controlled play and was never in any real danger on its way to a 3-1 victory. The ’Canes improved to 7-2 and, more importantly, didn’t have another letdown against a team below them in the standings.
“If it’s 3-1, 7-1, 7-0, I don’t care,” Vets head coach Fred Schweizer said. “A win is a win, so I’m proud of the way we played today.”
Johnston remained winless, but Vets knew better than to take the Panthers lightly. Tiverton had only two wins on the year when it beat Vets.
Right away on Tuesday, any concerns disappeared when Sloan Kinney crossed the ball into the middle of the box in the second minute and Casey Bennett trapped it and fired it past Johnston keeper Amber Dion for the first of her two goals on the day.
Two minutes later, Bennett sent a through ball down the middle of the field, and Elizabeth Gemmell beat her defender to the ball. She got her toe on it and tipped it past Dion for a quick 2-0 lead.
“This team is a good team,” Johnston head coach Tim Sprouls said. “They have a good record, they were in Division I last year. There’s no excuse for how we started though. We had trouble just getting a late start from school, taking the bus down from school. We were here at 3:10. I don’t even think we warmed up adequately.”
For the ’Canes it was the perfect start to ease any lingering feelings about last week’s loss.
“We’ve had some issues finishing over the last couple weeks,” Schweizer said. “So to come out and score two goals right away, I’m very happy with that, because that’s what we’ve been working on.”
Johnston never seriously threatened in the first half, and Vets padded its lead in the 15th minute when Dion pushed a bouncing ball away from the goal right to the foot of Bennett, who volleyed it out of the air and into the net.
The ’Canes went into the break with a comfortable 3-0 lead, with Bennett playing a part in all three goals.
“Casey is a leader,” Schweizer said. “She controls the middle of the field really well. She distributes really well. She came out and scored a couple goals today, which is good for her. It had been a while since she scored. She stepped up today and did exactly what we need her to do as a leader, as a captain and as a central middie.”
In the second half, Vets continued to dominate but couldn’t capitalize on its chances. Bennett shot just wide left in the 50th minute and then over the net in the 52nd. In the 61st, Madison Bastan headed a ball that Dion saved, and Dion made another save on a shot by Katherine Raposo two minutes later.
Though it was partially just missed opportunities for Vets, the lack of second-half goals was also due to a tightening of the defense by Johnston.
“I actually pointed out to some of the players, those crosses that went into the box in the first half and someone put them into the net, I think we fixed that,” Sprouls said. “We addressed that directly at the halftime talk, and those crosses were not getting in in the second half.”
Vets began to empty its bench late in the second half, and Johnston started to find its footing offensively. In the 70th minute, Leah Gravel crossed the ball from the right to Zenobia Griffin, who was wide open. Vets keeper Katelen Pick charged, however, and made the save to keep Johnston scoreless.
Ten minutes later, in the last minute of play, Johnston did get on the board as Natalie DeAngelis crossed to Gravel, and she was able to beat Pick for the Panthers’ only goal.
Still, even giving up the late goal, Vets was plenty happy to leave with a solid win.
“Hey, we won,” Schweizer said. “That’s what I told them. We came out really well in the first half, we possessed the ball a lot in the second half. We’re generating opportunities. I’d like to see us finish more, but that’s something we’ll continue to work on as we progress.”
With the season winding down, Vets will soon find out where it stands with some of the division’s best teams. It plays playoff-bound Narragansett on the road on Friday at 4 p.m., and then has a huge game on Tuesday at one-loss Pilgrim, where former Vets head coach Tom Flanders is at the helm. That game is at 3:30 p.m.
As of now, Vets is in fourth place with 20 points, trailing only Lincoln, Pilgrim and Burrillville. The ’Canes still have Lincoln on their schedule.
They’ll take it one game at a time.
“I can’t control what goes through their head,” Schweizer said. “But we do our best as the coaching staff to do it one thing at a time, one half at a time and focus on Friday. That’s an important game. I told them that every game at this point is leading us towards the playoffs.”