Through an 0-4 start that included three one-goal losses, the Toll Gate girls’ soccer team saw its potential but didn’t necessarily believe in it. After shutting out a solid Bay View team last Thursday, though, the Titans started buying in.
The next time they took the field, it showed.
Hosting Coventry on Tuesday at Bend Street, the Titans scored early and often en route to a 4-2 victory. The team is now 2-4 on the season and feeling pretty good.
“They’re starting to work well together, and I think they’re starting to see their potential,” said head coach Lonna Razza. “That’s been a huge confidence boost for them. They go out there and they just execute. It’s all them.”
Last week’s victory over Bay View came on the heels of Toll Gate’s most frustrating loss yet. The Titans played Mt. Hope in blustery conditions last Tuesday and gave up three goals in the second half in a 4-3 loss.
Two days later, though, the Titans out-lasted Bay View 1-0. The turnaround was underway.
“Our first game against Prout, we had opportunity after opportunity and we couldn’t score,” Razza said. “Against Mt. Hope, we came out on fire, but we just couldn’t get the ball out of our end with the wind. We gave up three goals in the second half. So those games were frustrating. I think the win boosted their confidence up. They seemed a little more relaxed today.”
And the results spoke for themselves.
After a back-and-forth first few minutes, the Titans started to assert themselves and create chances. Soon enough, they cashed in.
In the 11th minute, Courtney Crowley played a through ball to the corner for Emily Fox. She settled it and lofted a ball to the middle of the box. When it slipped through to the left, Nicole Patricio got her foot on it and tipped it into the net for the 1-0 lead.
Coventry answered seven minutes later on a goal by Elena Coutu, but Toll Gate responded. In the 23rd minute, Shannon Garvey sent Crowley to the right corner, and Crowley put a perfect ball into the box. It deflected off goalie Victoria Voccio’s hands and skipped to the far post, where Jaime Given ran onto it and touched it into the net.
On the sidelines, Razza was thrilled. The Titans have been working on getting the ball to the corners, playing to the middle and finishing. Now they’d succeeded twice.
“We worked a lot on teaching them to use the opposite leg,” Razza said. “Stick it out, hit it and it’ll go in. Two of the goals were just like that. Nicole stuck her leg out, Jaime stuck her leg out. We know we have the players who can put the ball up and into the middle so we just have to finish.”
The Titans added to their lead just before halftime. Fox took a corner kick and lofted a great ball directly into the middle. Off a scramble, Garvey muscled a shot into the net to make it 3-1.
Toll Gate continued to generate chances in the second half but came up empty. And Coventry tightened things up when Amanda Egan scored just nine minutes in to make it 3-2.
But the Titans hung tough. Led by Laura McGuire, Victoria Bucci, Jordan Inkley and Heather Allstrom, the defense limited Coventry’s chances. When the Oakers did get looks, goalie Meg McNulty was there. She saved Coventry’s best chance when she dove to stop a close-range shot by Elsa Almeida with just five minutes left.
After that, the Titans got some breathing room. With three minutes left, Patricio played a ball up from the midfield to Crowley, who pushed it ahead. With a defender battling her and the goalie charging, Crowley managed to get a shot off, and she chipped it over everybody and into the net.
The Oakers didn’t have time for another charge, and the Titans prevailed.
“They came into this game looking for the W,” Razza said. “No matter how they were going to get it, they were going to get it. I think because their confidence is up, they’re playing a lot better. And they’re playing together, which is nice to see.”
The Titans will try to keep the good times rolling when they visit winless Cranston West today at 3:30 p.m.
“With the talent that we have, if they can continue to put it all together and fix the small mistakes that we do make, I think we’ve got a chance just as much as anybody else,” Razza said.