The Pilgrim field hockey team dominated play in the second half against Wheeler on Thursday, but couldn’t get the ball into the net.
Those missed opportunities, mixed in with a shaky first half, added up to a 2-0 loss to the Warriors, one that was tough to take but still offered plenty of positives.
“They were beating us to a lot of balls in the middle in particular in the first half,” Pilgrim head coach Nisa San Giovanni said. “I thought my kids came out in the second half and played well. We had a lot of scoring opportunities and I feel bad. The kids get frustrated because they get the chances and they can’t capitalize. That’s a pretty evenly matched team.”
The Pats are now 1-9 in Division I, while Wheeler is 2-5-3. The Warriors had defeated second-place North Kingstown and tied first-place East Greenwich earlier in the season, however, making them far from an easy opponent.
Pilgrim knew that coming in, but was still confident that it could stay in the game.
“I was thinking this could be competitive,” San Giovanni said. “There are some that I think we have a shot, but this team tied East Greenwich and knocked off North Kingstown. We weren’t thinking this was going to be an easy win for us. I thought it could be competitive if we could play well.”
In the first half, however, the Pats struggled to get going.
Wheeler kept the ball in Pilgrim’s half of the field for much of the time and scored for the first time at the 10:29 mark. After a scramble for the ball in front of the goal, Nora Stolzman tracked it down just left of the goal and knocked it home past a drawn out Courtney Cardoza.
Then, with the Pats reeling, Wheeler took a penalty corner one minute later and wound up with a hard shot from Elizabeth Percy from the top of the circle. Cardoza stepped in front to make a kick save, but Zoe Foulkes was there for the rebound, and she converted to make the score 2-0.
“We have been playing well in spurts,” San Giovanni said. “We haven’t put together a full good 60 minutes.”
Pilgrim trailed by that score at the half, but came out firing on all cylinders early in the second.
The only problem was actually picking up a goal.
Two minutes in, Julianna Mollo took a shot from the right, but Wheeler’s Laura DiBenedetto made a strong kick save. Five minutes in, Pilgrim’s Susie Cavanagh took a shot that just trickled wide.
It was Cavanagh who provided most of the Pats’ opportunities.
“Every game we play, the officials or the other coaches are just amazed,” San Giovanni said. “She’s one of the best players in the state. She really is.”
Nearly midway through the half, Cavanagh trapped the ball off a penalty corner and took a hard shot, but it again went wide of the net.
A minute later, she dribbled through a slew of defenders and crossed the ball in front of the net, but nobody could finish the play.
Twenty minutes in, she again was able to dribble through the defense, but another shot went wide.
“She works hard,” San Giovanni said. “She had no luck today, but she’ll keep plugging along. She’s one of the toughest kids I’ve ever coached.”
Meanwhile, some of Pilgrim’s other offensive options got involved as well. Amibeth Marks and Kelly Vatter also had clean looks in the second half, though DiBenedetto was able to clear everything that came her way.
Yet, even without a goal to its credit, the Pats played Wheeler to a 0-0 tie in the second half, and Cardoza turned away the few offensive chances the Warriors were able to put together.
It wasn’t a win, but it showed that Pilgrim can play with some of the better teams around.
“I have to say, I don’t have to do a lot of cheerleading for them,” San Giovanni said. “They get up by themselves. They really do. There’s a lot of pride for those kids. Some teams are beating us eight, nine to zero. There’s some pride there and they get themselves up. They play hard right until the end.”
The Pats have six games remaining on their regular season schedule, with the next one coming on Wednesday on the road at 5-3 Lincoln School at 4 p.m.
San Giovanni hopes that her team can keep alive some of the second-half positives.
“Hopefully we’ll build on that,” she said.