Bishop Hendricken and North Kingstown met in the soccer playoffs for the third time in the last four years on Friday night. The first two meetings ended in upsets, with the Skippers knocking off the Hawks in 2010 and Hendricken returning the favor last season.
Form finally held this year, and that was bad news for the Hawks.
Evan Gaudreau scored two goals and Hendricken was shut-out for the first time all season as the third-seeded Skippers moved into the Division I semifinals with a 3-0 victory.
“We knew we would have an uphill battle today,” said Hendricken head coach Mickey Rooney. “I think 3-0 was not indicative of the kind of game it was but we had to push forward. They countered and they got the goal. When they made it 2-0, then the wall was up. They’re a good team.”
North Kingstown will play Shea in the semifinals on Wednesday. Hendricken was hoping for its first trip to the semifinals since 2009, but the Skippers proved to be too much. On the same field that was home to last year’s upset, North Kingstown didn’t let it happen again.
“I had to remind our guys who were returning about last year, because Hendricken is dangerous,” said North Kingstown coach Kyle Froberg. “Even though they were sixth, they played us hard at their place. Last year, we did really well against them in the regular season and then they beat us in the playoffs. I just reminded them and moved on. A little extra motivation.”
The Skippers wasted little time taking control. In the 11th minute, sophomore Austin Lind settled a bouncing ball amid traffic in the box, turned and ripped a left-footed shot into the corner of the net for the 1-0 lead.
The Hawks had chances to answer but came up empty. Christian Kirby hit the cross-bar on a shot from 20 yards out in the 23rd minute. Just before halftime, Brennan Martin’s header in the box hit the post.
The missed opportunities loomed large early in the second half, when the Skippers made it 2-0. Gaudreau volleyed in a crossing pass for a pretty goal in the 47th minute.
“There are tiny little things you have to do,” Rooney said. “If you don’t do them, it could result in a goal. The first two goals, there was a little mistake. Sometimes you get away with those. Tonight we didn’t.”
The Hawks still had 33 minutes to work with and seemed poised to create scoring chances with every throw-in. Senior Anthony Graziano can put the ball into the box from the sideline, and he did so nearly a dozen times, placing it for headers by Martin and Brady Chant. But nothing found its way past the Skippers defense and goalie Joe Dushi.
“Laws of average, you would think you would get one,” Rooney said. “It just didn’t happen tonight. A bounce here or there.”
The Skippers didn’t like giving up so many throw-ins, but they managed to deal with every single one.
“We did really well,” Froberg said. “Joe did a phenomenal job in net. Jake Mansfield did a great job clearing balls. It was organization. We worked on it the last few days defending that because it’s such a weapon. The ball can bounce anywhere.”
With the Hawks pushing forward, the Skippers put the game on ice in the 78th minute when Gaudreau scored on a blast from the right side. At the final whistle, the Skippers celebrated their first trip to the semifinals since 2010, when they upset Hendricken to get there.
For the Hawks, the season was a success despite the playoff exit. They finished with the sixth-best record in the league despite having a lot of question marks at the beginning of the season.
“I’m extremely happy with the team,” Rooney said. “Every game, we seemed to get better and better. No one said we were going to be in the playoffs, certainly no one said we were going to be in the quarterfinals. From that point of view and where we came from, I’m extremely happy. I’m proud of them.”