WOONSOCKET – A fitting game to be played at a field that did not have a scoreboard.
Unaware of what had already transpired, fans who arrived late to Barry Field on Wednesday as the South Kingstown High School boys soccer team travelled north to play Woonsocket, could have easily assumed a rout was on as the Rebels dominated possession. Those in the know, however, saw a stymied Rebels attack that, despite their stranglehold on their opponent, escaped the Novans with a slim 2-0 victory.
“We kind of knew going into the year we were going to have to find someone to finish because we lost a lot of our goal scorers from last year,” said South coach Scott Rollins. “They just have to take all that good build-up play that we do and someone has to take the bull by the horns and put the ball in the net.”
Right from the opening kick, the field was slanted in favor of the Rebels. South played such a strong possession game, Woonsocket rarely got the ball across midfield and could never hold the ball for long enough to muster a shot until 30 minutes into the contest.
The Rebel offense was in complete control, buzzing with shot after shot sent in the direction of Woonsocket goalie Piotr Linek. The towering keeper, however, thwarted attempt after attempt to keep South off the board. As in control of the game as it was, South could not get the job done.
“They have to shoot it on the frame,” commented Rollins of his team’s offensive woes. “That goalie was about 6’7”. To shoot high on the kid is silly. All the ones that went over the net should be on the ground and when we scored our goals, they were waste high or on the ground.
“These kids are young. We play with a very, very young team. They’re going to have to learn that in these games they have to put the ball where that goalie isn’t.”
Despite their decisive possession advantage, South only put one behind Linek in the first half, a shot from the left flank by Joe Toomey in the 13th minute that went far side for the 1-0 advantage.
Woonsocket gained possession off the second half kick and showed a brief spark, equaling their offensive output from the first half in the opening minute of the second.
It did not take long, however, for the game to return to the course of action set in the first 40 minutes. South quickly regained possession and went back to controlling the play in the offensive end, but the problem of solving the riddle of the 6’7” Linek persisted.
As the game wore on, it became more evident that as good as South had looked, they were one bad break from being even with a team that was still in search of its first win since moving to Division I following the 2011 season.
A collective sigh of relief went out deep in the second half with about 15:00 to play when Steve Pepe got a foot on a ball from Ryan Foley, just redirecting it into the low corner of the net to give South some much needed breathing room at 2-0.
“It was extremely important,” Rollins said of the tally. “I would have liked it in the first five minutes of the second half because then it really would have broke the game wide open. We’ve all been part of soccer games that went all one way for the entire game, but then it ends up with a tie or a 1-0 loss, so these kids have all done it.
“I stress it everyday in practice that 1-0 should become 3-0, so that type of stuff doesn’t happen to us.”
The game ended 2-0 in favor of the Rebels and though there was some disappointment as the margin of victory was not as large as it could have been based on South’s control of the ball, there was plenty for Rollins’ young squad to take away from such a win early in the season.
“These kids are young, but they’re learning,” said the coach. “They’re learning the style of play that we want to have here.
“We had probably 90 percent of the possession, which is what we want to have every game. You have to hope that even if you don’t score, if the other team doesn’t have the ball, they can’t score either. That’s kind of what we’re stressing this year.”
With the win, South moved to a perfect 2-0 on the young season. While the winless Novans may not have posed much of a threat to that mark on Wednesday, the Rebels will certainly be tested their next time out.
South will open their week next week with their second straight road match when it faces 2012 runner up LaSalle in a 7 p.m. match Monday evening. The Rebels will then close next week with a rivalry game against North Kingstown at home on Thursday at 6 p.m.