It goes in the books as a negative but, compared with the last time the Pilgrim girls’ soccer team played a top-notch opponent, Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to Lincoln offered some positive signs.
The Pats, who dropped to 7-3 with the loss, had a good showing against the 11-1 Lions, a better showing than their 6-1 loss to unbeaten Exeter/West Greenwich three weeks ago. They would have liked to turn it all the way around and get a signature victory against the Lions – last year’s D-II runner-up – but the performance was still something to build on.
“We have highs and we have lows so it’s just trying to get to a consistent level,” said Pilgrim head coach Mike Weber. “I thought overall today, I was pretty pleased with the way things went. Not the loss, but with the way they played. They fought till the very end. That’s the state runner-up team so it’s a positive.”
Pilgrim had won four or five since the loss to EWG on Sept. 22. Included in that stretch was a 3-0 victory over Chariho on Monday, a win powered by a Kassandra Lussier hat trick.
Taking on a talented Lincoln squad less than 24 hours later shaped up as a tough task, and Weber thought fatigue might have had an impact.
“We played last night and I think there was a little bit of fatigue,” Weber said. “They were a little quicker to balls in the middle of the field than we were. They kind of possessed the ball and we were chasing from behind pretty consistently.”
Still, the Pats held tough, generating some chances in the first half and keeping Lincoln off the board. The teams went to halftime locked in a 0-0 tie.
But it took the Lions only five minutes to break the tie. On a ball played through the middle, Lincoln’s Jillian DeSimone got a step on the Pilgrim defense, carried the ball to the right side and rocketed a shot from 25 yards out. Pilgrim goalie Shianne Silvia didn’t stand a chance and the ball sailed into the net for the 1-0 Lincoln lead.
From there, the action went back and forth, but the Pats couldn’t ever find the net. In the 51st minute, Lussier took a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box and watched it pass just over the crossbar. Pilgrim had a corner 10 minutes later but couldn’t get a shot off.
In the final 15 minutes, the Pats ramped up the pressure but still couldn’t capitalize. Two corner kicks yielded nothing, Nicole Starkey missed wide on a chance and Heather Wolfenden had a close-range shot saved.
In the final seconds, Pilgrim was awarded a free kick from the left side, just off the top corner of the box. Lussier took it and launched the ball toward the middle. Two Pilgrim players, a Lincoln defender and goalie Aiden Cullen all went up for the ball, but Cullen managed to knock it away. The rebound was kicked out of bounds by the Pats, and they didn’t get another chance before time expired.
“We had a chance to tie it towards the end there,” Weber said. “That’s all you could ask for. If we could have come away with a tie, I would have been happy. This is a team we could see in the playoffs so it’s good to get a little taste of it. They’re a good team. I’m a little disappointed but not overly.”
The game marked the beginning of the second half of the season, and Pilgrim is where it wants to be in the playoff race. The Pats have the sixth-best record in Division II and still have eight games remaining to improve their standing.
From here on out, consistency will be the key.
“We haven’t had real steady, consistent play yet,” Weber said. “You can start to see it coming a little bit. We’ll be alright.”
Pilgrim will be back in action tonight at 7 p.m. with a game against North Providence at Bend Street.