Scoring hasn’t been easy so far this season for the Toll Gate girls’ soccer team, and it was shut out for the third time in five games on Thursday night against Mt. Hope.
The Huskies won the game 1-0 on the strength of a goal in the fifth minute by Olivia Cairrao. But while the Titans were disappointed with the loss, they were happy with the way they played, as they consistently dictated play and narrowly missed out on goal after goal.
It was another loss, and the Titans are now 1-4, yet it didn’t seem like a loss after the game ended. In fact, it may have been the best game Toll Gate played thus far this season, and there was plenty of solace in that.
“We couldn’t find the back of the net, but we fought hard,” Toll Gate head coach Lonna Razza said. “I couldn’t be any happier than I am right now.”
The Titans have scored only twice this year, as they tallied one in a loss to Cumberland and one more in a 1-0 victory over Prout. Since those two games, it’s been tough, as Division I contenders East Greenwich and North Kingstown beat the Titans by a combined score of 10-0.
Facing Mt. Hope, a team that was winless coming in, Toll Gate found itself with a good opportunity to get a few goals and get another win. Instead, it just couldn’t navigate a ball into the net.
Freshman Hannah McNulty created the majority of the chances, including one in the 36th minute in which she received a long pass from Laura McGuire and then turned a fired a hard shot directly off the crossbar. The ball dropped down and was cleared, with an opportunity gone by the wayside.
“We’ve got her up top and she’ll get it,” Razza said of McNulty. “She does that lean back thing, so we’re working on getting her over the ball, but those shots next time will go in.”
After an early miscommunication that led to Cairrao’s goal, the Titans did all they could defensively to keep it a 1-0 game. McGuire led the way from her sweeper spot, while goalie Amber Francois, and players like Kyleigh Maletesta, Grace McGrath, Kathleen Morlock and Heather Allstrom held strong as well. Talented Mt. Hope freshman Michaela Goglia generated a few chances, but they were always turned aside.
“I really cannot be any prouder of these girls than I am right now,” Razza said. “My defense is fast. Senior Laura McGuire back there, anchoring the whole defense, you can’t go wrong. That kid has come so far from her freshman year that it’s unbelievable.”
Still, Toll Gate couldn’t find the equalizer. McNulty fired a shot right at the keeper in the 50th minute, and she sent a cross through the box in the 53rd minute that Courtney Crowley couldn’t quite corral.
In the 64th minute, McGuire took a corner kick that Mt. Hope was able to clear, and in the 69th minute McNulty lofted a shot over the net from just outside the 18-yard box.
“This was the best game we’ve played all season so far,” Razza said. “We completely outplayed them. One unlucky miscue back there, and they capitalized on it. They’re a good team.”
As time dwindled down, Mt. Hope began to relegate more of its players back on defense, and the scoring avenues started to close. The Titans never seriously threatened over the final 10 minutes and were forced to leave with the one-goal loss.
“I try to be strong in front of the girls, but deep down inside it hurts my feelings that it couldn’t have been the other way, considering how hard they played,” Razza said.
The general feeling, though, is that if Toll Gate plays the same way it did on Thursday, goals – and wins – will start to come.
Its next game is today at 3:45 p.m. at home against Bay View. The Bengals are 3-0. On Thursday, Toll Gate will travel to 3-2 Coventry at 3:30 p.m.
In both games, the Titans will be looking for an effort like they put forth against Mt. Hope.
“They’re on a high right now,” Razza said. “They know they played the best game they did all season. They got unlucky a couple times, but they know that. They’ll work on it tomorrow, go back to work next week.”