Just as Cody Sullivan gave Warwick Vets a 2-1 lead on Toll Gate in the first half of Thursday’s boys’ soccer game, a heavy rain started falling.
It wasn’t the only deluge.
Two minutes after Sullivan’s goal, Josh Sandin scored for Toll Gate and touched off a run of three Titan goals in less than two minutes. When the dust settled, Toll Gate was up 4-2 and well on its way to a 7-3 victory.
“We have the ability to do that,” Toll Gate coach Tim Hayes said of the burst. “We have some talented players and we can put things together. The first 20 minutes wasn’t how we want to play. We kind of lost our focus. It was a little too individual. After 20 minutes, when we fell behind 2-1, we realized we had to switch things up.”
It was a quick switch.
Toll Gate had taken a 1-0 lead on a goal by Nate Sandin just four minutes into the game. But Vets answered in the 13th minute when Nikone Soupharath scored after a scramble in the box. Vets then took the lead in the 27th minute when Soupharath slipped a pass from the end line to the 6-yard box, where Sullivan punched it in.
But as the rain picked up, so did the Titans.
Josh Sandin got loose on a run down the left side and a perfect bounce set him up for a quick shot past Vets keeper Mike Riccitelli.
After the ensuing restart, Toll Gate regained possession immediately and Nate Sandin carried the ball through the middle. With defenders on his hip, Sandin just kept going and eventually pushed a shot into the net for the 3-2 lead.
“Our team thought we should be doing better,” Nate Sandin said. “We just turned it on.”
A minute later, Josh Sandin got loose again and chipped the ball over Riccitelli for the 4-2 cushion.
“We were on the ropes there,” Hayes said. “It was 2-1, but it could have been four. They had some chances. We were in some trouble. We got a lucky bounce – tie game. And then we were able to settle the ball down.”
On the other side, the ’Canes were shell-shocked.
“We had a two-minute span when we went back on our heels,” said Vets head coach Mike Kenney. “They got some momentum and they hit. We had some chances early and we missed. They didn’t miss.”
And unfortunately for Vets, the Titans kept shooting. Nate Sandin scored another goal with five minutes remaining before halftime, and Corey Favino scored in the final seconds when Riccitelli mishandled the ball. That made it 6-2.
The ’Canes finally cut into the lead midway through the second half on a goal by Dylan Robert, but that was as close as they would get. Jose Beltran scored with seven minutes left to put the game on ice.
The Sandin brothers led the way for Toll Gate. Nate, a senior captain, had three goals and two assists. Josh, a freshman, had two goals and one assist.
“We’ve struggled the last couple of games, but we’re finally starting to get our lineup together,” Hayes said. “Now we just have to learn how we’re going to deploy them. With the guys we have out there, we can score.”
The win moved Toll Gate to 4-4-1 and represented a strong beginning for the second half of the season.
“Starting the second half of the season we want to try to get .500 or above,” Hayes said. “Tonight was the night to start it. This is a division where if you play well you can win, from top to bottom. We’ve seen everybody now. If we’re one game better, we can do something here at the end of the season.”
The ’Canes dropped to 0-7-1. The three goals were a positive step, but at this point, Kenney knows the team has to get further.
“They’re frustrated and I’m frustrated,” he said. “We’re better than our record, but we have to start getting results. We’ve been in a slump for a couple of years. We have the players now, and they have to learn how to win. We’ve got to break through. We’ve just got to do it.”
Vets will return to action tonight with a 6 p.m. game against Middletown. Toll Gate hosts Narragansett today at 3:30 p.m. at City Park.