SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Two weeks ago the South Kingstown girls soccer team likely would’ve lost Tuesday night’s Division I game with Coventry by a goal.
Had Tuesday’s game been played early last week, the Oakers likely would’ve suffered defeat against the tough Rebels.
Instead, the two teams have started to develop an identity as tough-to-break-down squads which will continue to battle for 80 minutes. Both teams had chances to score – South had the most golden of the opportunities late in the first half – but the teams walked away with a point following a 0-0 draw.
“We’re really different from a couple of weeks ago. We’ve played really well in the last two games,” Coventry coach Chris Daigneault said. “Yes, they probably should’ve scored a goal, but we had a chance to win it in the last minute.”
“We’re just trying to battle through some injuries and we were a little flat today,” South Kingstown coach Toby Gibbons said.
“For a while we kept talking about how we wanted to get back to where we were last year and two weeks ago they decided they decided to forget about last year. Since we’ve done that we’ve started to play better.”
South Kingstown (4-4-3 Division I) allowed Coventry more possession of the ball over the 80 minute, but the Rebels probably should’ve walked away with all three points. In the final minute of the opening half Coventry junior goalie Alyssa Derrick allowed a long range shot to slip through her hands.
The ball bounced off the bottom of the post and right into the path of one of South’s top players, Isabelle Pesante. With only a few yards of grass separating her from the vacated Coventry net, the sophomore forward half-volleyed the ball over the Oaker net.
“Isabelle got herself in the right position,” Gibbons said. “Anybody who’s a goal scorer’s had one of those. I know the next time that happens she’s putting it into the net. I would take her 10 times out of 10 on that ball.”
Coventry (4-6-1 Division I) came into the game riding a three-game losing streak, but the team’s last loss heartened Daigneault. Following ugly losses to teams who aren’t going to make the playoffs (Cranston West and Prout) the Oakers took a second-half lead against Bay View before capitulating two late goals in a 2-1 loss.
Following the Prout loss Daigneault made a change to his midfield. Junior Amanda Egan, who is one of the team’s top scorers, was asked to join senior captain Sarah Nardella in the center of midfield. The change has made Coventry more athletic in the middle of the field and provides more help to a talented, yet overworked, backline.
“The change makes us a better a little offensively and defensively,” Daigneault said. “Amanda comes back and she creates passes on offense and she does things to help the team. She’s a magnificent player and I think she would be perfect to play center midfield all the time, except I need a striker who can put the ball in the back of the net.”
The Oakers, with Nardella and Egan controlling the game, dominated possession for the first 15 minutes. The only problem for Daigneault was his time didn’t turn possession into any shots on net. Sophomore forward Katie Beaudoin was isolated up front, as the midfield focused on defense.
South Kingstown absorbed the early pressure and had the first good chance in the 31st minute when junior forward Rachel Murphy spun off her defender at the top of the box and delivered a low shot which Derrick bobbled before eventually saving.
Both teams had a chance in the final minute of the half. Beaudoin nearly connected with a cross from Elena Coutu before the Rebels counterattacked, which created Pesante’s opportunity in front of net.
“I think they’re starting to become a team,” Gibbons said. “What I mean by that is they’re caring for each other as a family. They’re talking, they’re arguing, they’re picking each other up and they’re working hard for each other.”
The second half followed a similar pattern with neither team creating too many good chances. Murphy nearly latched on to a cross in the 54th minute, while Beaudoin and Nardella had chances stopped by SK goalie Bridget Montle.
Coutu had the final chance of the contest, but her right-footed volley from the left side of the box failed to test Montle.
“I thought Sam (Dwyer) and Ashlee (Guilmette) played phenomenal in the back for us,” Daigneault said. “I thought the defense played really well and Amanda makes a difference because she played really, really well.”