In the past, girls’ soccer teams in the same sub-divisions would play each other twice in a season. With a new alignment this year, teams in the whole of Division I are playing each other just once. For Toll Gate and Warwick Vets, that meant just one cross-town rivalry game.
The Titans made the most of it.
Courtney Crowley and Abby Ellis scored first-half goals, and after Vets made it a 2-1 game, the Titans got goals from Emily Fox and Karina Santos to pull away for a 4-1 victory.
“It’s a cross-town rival,” said Toll Gate head coach Lonna Razza. “We’re all kind of struggling this year, but Vets comes out and they’re fired up, yelling and screaming. It’s always like that. It’s fun. We gave up that one goal, but the girls came out strong in the first half. In the second half, they came out even stronger. They played very well today.”
While Vets dropped to 1-10, Toll Gate improved to 4-6. The Titans had lost two in a row on the heels of a three-game winning streak. They were happy to get back on track.
“We had a three-game winning streak and a couple of tough ones, but we got back into the win column today,” Razza said. “It was nice to see.”
The Titans were actually on their heels in the first few minutes. Vets came out fast, getting a corner kick just 30 seconds into the game and two quality chances soon after. Casey Bennett hit the far post on a shot from the left and Lauren Almonte made a big run that forced a sliding stop from Toll Gate goalie Meg McNulty.
But from there, Toll Gate steadily took control. In the 11th minute, Fox lofted a corner kick to the middle of the box, where Crowley headed it perfectly into the net for the 1-0 lead.
Just four minutes later, Shannon Garvey played a ball into the box and Crowley touched it to the left side as goalie Katelen Pick charged. That left Ellis with an open shot and she buried it to make it 2-0.
“Toll Gate played real well,” said Vets head coach Tom Flanders. “They finished their opportunities. We did the best we could out there, and that’s all I’ve asked of them this year.”
Even with the 2-0 deficit, the ’Canes didn’t go away. They had several looks over the next 20 minutes and capitalized on a chance just before halftime. Kara McCrudden and Elizabeth Gemmell got loose on a two-on-one, and McCrudden slipped a pass to Gemmell at the top of the box. She chipped the ball over McNulty and into the net to make it 2-1.
The ’Canes carried that momentum into the second half and were awarded three consecutive corner kicks in the 42nd minute, after a good shot by Emily Almonte. But the chances didn’t yield anything, and soon enough, the Titans were pulling away.
In the 49th minute, Fox took a shot from the right corner and bent it into the net to make it 3-1.
After that, Toll Gate carried the play and made it 4-1 with seven minutes left when Santos put a perfect shot over Pick’s head from 30 yards out.
“If we can work on our give-and-go’s, keep it to the outside, we have playmakers all over the field,” Razza said. “It starts from the back and works all the way up to the offense. We’ll score goals all day long if they’re in the right spots. We’re getting better at that.”
That improvement has helped keep the Titans in the playoff race. They currently rank 12th in Division I, where the top 12 teams make the playoffs. The Titans are two games ahead of Cranston West and would hold a tiebreaker over the Falcons.
“The top 12 make the playoffs,” Razza said. “We’ll see. The rest of the way, we still have Portsmouth, La Salle, Barrington and Cumberland. We’ll see what happens. I think we’ll be able to handle ourselves, especially if we play like we did in the second half today.”
Vets is likely out of the playoff picture, and injuries aren’t helping the cause as the team tries to finish strong. Bennett and Lauren Almonte both went down in Thursday’s game.
“We’re a little banged up – the injuries we have and the injuries we continue to get,” Flanders said. “You lose a starter off our lineup, and it’s a big hole to fill. Losing Lauren and Casey Bennett – them getting hurt is a tough thing to recover from. But the girls worked real hard and tried as hard as they could.”
The ’Canes have three league games remaining, as well as a non-league match-up against Scituate.
“It’s all about finishing what we started,” Flanders said. “We’re going to try our best every single day and whatever the result is, we’ll move on to the next day.”
Vets is slated to play at North Kingstown tonight at 7 p.m. Toll Gate will host La Salle today at 4 p.m. at Bend Street.