COVENTRY — Sometimes the difference between a win and a loss is the width of a crossbar.
That was the case last Thursday afternoon for the Coventry and Narragansett boys soccer teams. Just a minute before halftime Mariner junior Jonathan Tartaro slammed a shot off Domenic Aguiar’s crossbar.
With the game still scoreless just minutes into the second half, Coventry junior midfielder Sam Burton ripped a shot from the top of the box. The ball looped over goalie Austin McKanna, ricocheted off the bottom of the crossbar and bounced into the net to lead the Oakers to a 1-0 Division II win.
“I think we controlled the possession for most of the first half, but not quite as much in the second half,” Coventry coach Jamie Cotnoir said. “I think we played well today, but obviously I would like the score to be a little different.”
“We’re not a bad program and I have to remind these guys of that because we only have two wins,” Narragansett coach Ryan Kanaczet said. “It’s coming. We’re losing games by a goal and we have a lot of injuries; we’re averaging about 2.5 kids injured per game. It’s tough to get a rhythm going when you have different guys coming in and out.”
Narragansett (2-8-1 Division II) nearly stole a point in the final five minutes, as the road side earned seven corner kicks. The best chance to score came when Aguiar deflected a ball in his six-yard box, but junior defender Evan Simpanen was on the goal line to clear the ball before Ethan Wright could put it into the net.
Even though the Mariners only have two wins, they still have a chance to go to the playoffs one season after losing to Classical in the Division II final. Kanaczet believes the Division II playoffs will be wide open this season with no team separating itself from the pack.
“The way I’m looking at it everybody is beatable in Division II,” Kanaczet said. “It really doesn’t matter what your seed is. I think everyone in the playoffs has the potential to go far and I believe there’s going to be more upsets this year.”
Coventry (7-2-2 Division II) has now gone five straight games without a defeat and the Oakers are in position to earn one of the four byes into the D-II quarterfinals.
Aguiar and the defense, led by Nate Anderson, Simpanen, Ryan Buglio and Andrew LeCampion have been superb lately, but outside of a five-goal explosion against Pilgrim earlier in the week the Oakers have struggled to score goals lately.
Cotnoir started the game with freshmen Matt Buglio and Lou Matthews, who scored two goals against the Patriots, up front. Ryan Francis also saw time up front, but none of the three forwards created a great scoring opportunity against McKanna.
“We have to hitting the training ground more and we have to keep working harder,” Burton said of the scoring problems. “We’re still messing around with lineups and we’re still trying to get the chemistry up front.”
The Oakers dominated the first half and forced McKanna to make the only two saves of the opening 40 minutes, but the Oakers nearly found themselves down a goal on Tartaro’s audacious half volley from the right side of the box.
Cotnoir spoke to his team at halftime about the importance of scoring a goal early in the second half and not giving the spunky Mariners belief that they could leave with a win.
“We’ve been working on trying to get out to a faster start, unfortunately we seem to give up that first goal often in the first half,” Cotnoir said. “We dominated that first half, but if you let a team sit around for a while their confidence grows and now you have a long afternoon.”
Less than two minutes into the second half the Oakers scored the only goal of the game when Burton’s dipping effort just snuck over the outstretched reach of McKanna.
The Mariners played much better after the Coventry goal and nearly scored on one of their seven corner kicks. Kanaczet said he was pleased with the way senior Danny Keane, junior Tom Lindley and tri-captains Wright, Alex Cotroneo and Robert Pratt played.
“We’re creating chances, we’re just not putting them away,” Kanaczet said. “I’m not going to deny that. We make some mistakes, but there are mistakes in every game and you have to capitalize on them. We had scoring opportunities in this game, we just hit the post.”