The Pilgrim girls’ soccer team came into the season with high expectations, and immediately suffered a tough 2-1 loss to North Smithfield.
But, as it turns out, a loss may have been just what the Pats needed to get rolling.
Since the opening defeat, Pilgrim has won four consecutive games, including a 4-2 victory over Scituate on Tuesday afternoon.
The Pats have been dominant since the North Smithfield game, outscoring their opponents 22-4. Their 4-1 record currently has them in fifth place in the tightly packed Division II, only one point out of second place.
“The first game we were a little snake-bit,” Pilgrim head coach Mike Weber said. “We actually played pretty well that game, just got a little snake-bit. We could have won, I thought, but it just didn’t happen. A loss there isn’t the worst thing. They were feeling pretty confident about themselves, so it grounds you a little bit.”
Against Scituate, Pilgrim got two goals apiece from forwards Talia D’Ambruoso and Katie Viera, overcoming a fierce wind to earn the win.
The Spartans dropped to 1-3-1 on the season, but have had a brutal schedule in the early going. They lost to two-time defending D-II champion Exeter/West Greenwich – which is currently 6-0, lost to 4-1 Tiverton and tied a strong Mount St. Charles squad.
That’s why, despite Scituate’s sub-.500 record, Weber knew his team had to play well to keep its winning streak going.
The Pats did just that.
“I’m happy,” Weber said. “[Scituate hasn’t] given up a lot of goals so far this year, so it was a nice test for us today.”
Playing directly into the wind in the first half, the Pats were at a disadvantage right off the bat and simply wanted to hang tough before getting the wind in the second half.
Instead, they dominated the early portion, getting a goal from D’Ambruoso in the third minute when Viera sent a perfect through ball from the middle to the left that D’Ambruoso beat the defense to, then deposited in the right side of the net past lunging keeper Rachel Fortier.
With the Pats dictating the pace, Scituate found a way to strike back 13 minutes later to tie the score at one. Near midfield, Renee Bourgault sent a perfect through ball that rode the wind all the way into the 18-yard box. Julia Bourgault chased it down, controlled it, then ripped a shot with her left foot past Pilgrim keeper Hannah Page into the right side.
The Pats recovered, though, getting a second goal from D’Ambruoso in the 28th minute to take a one-goal lead. The senior received another pass from Viera on the left side of the box and fired a shot from point-blank range into the goal.
Ahead 2-1, Pilgrim set out to preserve its lead while still going against the wind, but Scituate tied it up again in the 35th minute. With the ball just to the left of the Pilgrim goal, the Spartans fired two shots that Page made terrific saves on. But a third shot off a rebound found its way into the top-left of the goal, knotting the score at two.
“She’s a solid keeper,” Weber said. “She almost had that one that kind of batted around a little bit. She was a little unlucky. She’s an asset.”
Two minutes later, the Pats appeared to get a go-ahead goal when D’Ambruoso scored again off a free kick, but a controversial offsides call kept the score tied.
Still, the Pats liked where they were at halftime – 2-2 – knowing that they had the wind for the final 40 minutes.
“We were fine,” Weber said. “We would have liked to come out with the lead, but coming out with a tie I figured we were in pretty good shape. All you have to do is win the next 40 minutes.”
Pilgrim didn’t wait very long.
Two minutes into the second half, Chantavy Crespin quickly took a corner from the left as Scituate scrambled to get in position. The ball ended up at the feet of Viera in the middle, and she made one move to the right and buried a shot, putting Pilgrim back up 3-2.
“Chantavy Crespin made a nice little play,” Weber said. “She did a quick corner there, and that helped a lot.”
Page kept Pilgrim in front with a diving save in the 51st minute and another sprawling save in the 55th, before the Pats’ offense struck again.
In the 60th minute, D’Ambruoso sent a corner kick into the box and Viera leapt at the ball in front of the keeper. The ball deflected off Viera’s hip and in, giving the Pats some much-needed breathing room at 4-2.
“We have three scorers up at the top,” Weber said. “Between Talia, Megan and Katie, they can just put the ball in the net.”
Pilgrim kept coming, and generated more chances over the final 20 minutes than Scituate did. Neither team was able to score, but that was just fine with the Pats, as they walked away with another win.
The Pats’ next game is today at 0-5 Cranston East at 4 p.m., where they will be looking to pick up their fifth consecutive victory.
After that, it gets a little tougher, as Pilgrim will play Lincoln, Exeter/West Greenwich and Ponaganset in three of the next four games. All three of those teams are expected contenders.
“We’ll get tested a little bit in there,” Weber said. “But I’m happy with the way things are going.”