COVENTRY — When discussing why his team struggled to reach the Division II playoffs last season, Coventry second-year boys soccer coach Jamie Cotnoir bemoaned the amount of one-goal defeats his team suffered.
Through the first two games of the new season it appears the Oakers’ luck in close games has improved.
Just like visiting East Greenwich, the Oakers earned a one-goal victory in its opening contest of the season. Tuesday, the Oakers did it again as junior midfielder Kyle Kirkland scored the game-winning goal off the post in the 68th minute and sophomore goalie Dominic Aguiar saved an EG shot on the goal line to preserve a 2-1 win.
“Last year we were on the other side of these one-goal games,” Cotnoir said. “It’s nice to see the boys show the heart to get that next goal and now we’re winning those games.”
“We’re just controlling the ball and passing it very well right now,” Kirkland said. “We’re keeping possession of the ball and we have a really good defense.”
East Greenwich (1-1 Division II) has never had any luck playing at Coventry as the Avengers have now lost all four of their games at the field. Of course, the Avengers could’ve easily walked away with a point or more if not for Aguiar and the post.
Twice in the 10 minutes prior to Kirkland’s game-winner the Avengers rattled Aguiar’s post. And then in the 75th minute Coventry failed to clear a corner kick and Aguiar had to make a point-blank save to preserve the victory.
EG coach Pat McGuirl knows the season is still in its infancy and the Avengers weren’t at full strength thanks to two injuries and a red card suffered in the season-opening 1-0 win over Cranston West.
“We just have to find some scoring combinations,” McGuirl said. “We have some talented kids on the field. We hit two posts, a crossbar and we missed an empty net early in the game. Their keeper made a couple of nice saves. We’re a young team, so we’re just trying to get combinations and score goals.”
Scoring goals from open play was a problem for the Avengers, but it had nothing to do with opportunities. EG could’ve taken the lead in the third minute when Greg Kehoe found himself open in front of the net, but Aguiar made a nice save.
Coventry, which scored its only goal against Classical thanks to a Ryan Buglio corner kick, scored Tuesday’s opener off another Buglio corner. In the 24th minute Buglio out swung a corner kick to the near post that was allowed to bounce for Tom Burton, who scored from close range.
“We’ve been doing alright on corners so far,” Cotnoir said. “We’ve put in new plays this year. Assistant coach (Jacques) Branchaud put in a nice little three-man play where they run to the two posts and the middle. The kids have stayed disciplined to it and it has created opportunities.”
Coventry’s grip on the game loosened late in the half and EG took advantage by earning a penalty kick after a foul in the right side of the box. Senior Pat Lavan calmly slipped a shot under Aguiar to even the score.
The Oakers nearly retook the lead in the 43rd minute, but EG goalie Nolan Cooney made a superb point-blank save on a shot by Ryan Francis.
And then the Avengers started hitting the post. In the 53rd minute senior Josh Perkins beat Aguiar with a shot from outside of the box, but the shot crashed off the crossbar and right to the thankful goalie. EG hit the post again minutes later and instead of going into the net, the ball rolled out of danger.
“We’re trying to play our regular style, it’s just that we don’t have any luck at this place,” McGuirl said. “It’s a small field and it doesn’t suit us. Our goal is still to get in the playoffs and 12 teams make it, so we want to be better in November than we are right now.”
While EG had no luck with shots going off the post, Coventry had all the luck. Kirkland scooped up a loose ball outside the EG penalty box, squared up to the goal and fired a perfect shot over Cooney’s head. The ball bounced off the far post and careened back across and into the goal.
“Our posts are circular so if you hit them in a certain way the ball can still bounce in. Sometimes it will bounce out,” Kirkland said. “That worked to my benefit.”
In the final 10 minutes EG removed a defender and added an extra attacking player and that nearly paid off, but Aguiar made a great save on his line to preserve the win.
“I saved it by an inch,” Aguiar said. “It went off my knee and just dropped. Somehow I got my hand on it. It was one inch.”