It’s a feeling Exeter-West Greenwich senior Kara Shaw had only experienced once in the previous four years prior to last Thursday’s 1-0 defeat at the hands of the East Greenwich girls soccer team.
It’s something Jack Livsey – a senior captain for the Knights’ boys team – hadn’t seen since his freshman season, when EWG lost four games and finished as runner-up in Division III.
Now, both knew that an ‘L’ was all but unavoidable this season with the girls team moving up from Division II to Division I and the boys team reeling from graduating 14 seniors.
That doesn’t mean that either likes the feeling though.
“It’s definitely not a good [feeling] but I think that we just had a really off game today,” Shaw said. “We didn’t play to our potential, I definitely know that. …This is definitely fuel [for the fire].”
The boys team was the first to drop a decision, falling 1-0 in the opener at Cranston East on Sept. 10 but rebounded nicely Friday by defeating Burrillville by the same score.
“Wins are good,” EWG boys coach Matt Savoie said. “Hey, you’ve got to start new streaks.
“…They’re working incredibly hard. We lost the first game to Cranston East and they knew exactly what we had to work on the last few days. They picked it to perfection [against Burrillville] and they worked their tails off.”
“We were a little shaky to start but these guys are improving every day. We’re getting better,” Livsey said. “Obviously this was a much better performance than our last game and I’m really proud of what these guys have done so far.”
A strong defensive effort and a pretty goal by Livsey proved to be the difference as the senior split a pair of Broncos on the back end before beating Burrillville’s keeper in the 45th minute.
“It was all a blur to me,” Livsey said. “I just tried to get through the defense and poke it by the goalie and it went right in the corner.”
The Knights’ goal came off a booming punt from goalkeeper Austin Larson that quickly turned into a three-on-three rush. After an initial touch, the ball found its way to the foot of sophomore Brennan Ratteni, who advanced it to Livsey and the senior captain took care of the rest.
“That’s what we’re working for,” Savoie said. “We’re working for quick counters and lock down defense. We’re not going to be the highest scoring team but if we can keep them off the scoreboard we’ll have a chance to win anything.”
For the EWG girls, however, the first defeat was a little more difficult to accept.
The Knights knew they would be challenged by the state’s best but through the first two games had yet to suffer a loss, beating Coventry 2-0 and last year’s runner up in D-I South Kingstown 2-1.
From the moment the Knights took the field last Thursday EWG coach Kevin Fraser knew his girls didn’t have it that day though, and the Avengers took full advantage.
“We were terribly off,” Fraser said. “Even our warm up and everything my assistant coach [Steve Marmas] and I were talking saying that they’re just flat today. They’re not excited. You take [the game against] South Kingstown they were up for that game, they were excited, you could see it in the warm up. I could just sense and see that it wasn’t going to come today.”
A miscue in the 15th minute allowed the Avengers just the opening they needed as the Knights failed to clear a loose ball out of their zone, which allowed EG’s Jen Sarazen to break the ball out wide.
Sarazen sent a cross into the box from right to left that perfectly found the foot of junior Giovanna Mandarini at point blank range, giving EWG keeper Makayla Brady no shot at making a save.
“It was one of the best goals you’ll see,” EG coach Scott Douglas said. “She got down, served it, came in [and] volleyed it. Just a beautiful goal by Giovanna. Jen worked hard, she put the pressure on, won the ball, gets the cross [and it was] beautiful.”
The score remained the same through halftime and into the 57th minutes when the Knights appeared to finally break even.
EWG sent a corner kick into the box amongst a mess of players that went just over the outstretched arms of EG keeper Caroline Preston before caroming off the back post and out.
The ball appeared to have barely crossed the line on the far post before the English on the ball brought it into the field of play but officials deemed it had not done so.
That would prove to be the best chance the Knights got as Avenger defenders Alex Freeman and Marissa Light did a tremendous job to keep Shaw – an All-State striker who played through quadriceps injuries – in check.
“We knew obviously coming up from Division II they won like three years in a row so we knew she was very good,” Light said. “She scored the two goals the other day against SK so we knew she was someone to watch out for so we just made sure she was always covered.”
“I’m kind of injured right now so that definitely took a toll and we really weren’t connecting our passes that well,” Shaw said. “The wind was taking a lot of [our passes] and we weren’t talking as well as we did during SK.”
Though both teams have had their first tastes of frustration in some time, each has dealt with it well so far.
“A loss is never a good thing but sometimes it can be a wakeup call and it is September,” Fraser said. “We have the whole season to go. We know what our goal to reach is this year. One loss isn’t going to prevent us from reaching our goal.”
The EWG girls responded with a 3-1 victory over Prout Tuesday afternoon, while the boys squad finished in a 1-1 tie with Ponaganset thanks to a goal by Livsey.
The Exeter-West Greenwich girls will certainly be in for a test today at 4 p.m. when it hosts perennial powerhouse La Salle, while the boys will welcome North Smithfield to town Friday at 3:30 p.m.