WESTERLY — If the Coventry boys soccer team is going to earn a bye into the Division II quarterfinals, the Oakers are going to have to work for it.
Coventry entered last week’s road game against Providence Country Day in prime position to earn a bye with three road games left to finish the season.
Of course, the Oakers faced a difficult finish to the campaign with the Knights, Westerly and Toll Gate on the schedule. The Oakers couldn’t earn a point in East Providence Thursday and after scoring the opening goal Monday night’s game with the Bulldogs, the Oakers were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.
“It sure is a tough way to end the season,” Coventry coach Jamie Cotnoir said. “We’re playing on the road and we really haven’t played that well on the road this season. We caught Westerly on their senior night and we’re going to catch Westerly on their senior night. It’s a tough way to finish the season.”
Coventry (8-3-3 Division II) knows a win against the talented Titans Thursday night will clinch a bye. The Oakers currently have two more points than PCD, but because the Knights own the tiebreaker by virtue of last week’s head-to-head win, only a win can clinch a bye.
PCD, which defeated Cranston West Monday afternoon, hosts East Greenwich Thursday. The Oakers know a win over the Titans won’t be easy as Coventry has won just two road games this season to go along with three losses and two draws.
“That last win appears to be elusive right now,” Cotnoir said. “Toll Gate’s been playing really strong and they’re going to make it tough on us to finish the year. We’ll have to see tomorrow where we’re going to end up.”
Westerly (4-6-4 Division II) employs an offside trap to keep opposing offenses at bay, but the tactic nearly bit the Bulldogs in the final minute when a Coventry shot from the top of the box deflected off of a Bulldog. The ball fell to an Oaker who put it into the net, but he was ruled offside.
The Bulldogs spent most of the first 10 minutes camped in Coventry’s half of the field and the home side even hit Domenic Aguiar’s crossbar in the sixth minute.
Andrew LeCampion, Evan Simpanen and the Oaker defense absorbed the pressure and Coventry finally had an offensive chance in the 14th minute when winger Kyle Kirkland played a perfect ball over the top of the Westerly defense.
Forward Jason Miech was offside, but he didn’t play the ball and that allowed speedy forward Colin Samuell to swoop in past goalie William McCormick and slot the ball into the empty net.
“We’re playing well, but we’re having the same problem we’ve had all season; we’re struggling to put the ball in the net,” Cotnoir said. “When you’re only putting one ball in the net it’s kind of tough to win games.”
The two teams battled to a stalemate for the rest of the half before the Bulldogs finally took one of their chances in the 54th minute. Junior defender Terrell Norris played a ball into the Oaker penalty box.
Aguiar saved the first shot from close range, but while he the goalie was on the ground, senior forward Michael Johns swooped in and poked the ball into the empty net.
With both teams searching for a win to improve their playoff position, both coaches took chances to earn the win. Cotnoir moved junior Ryan Buglio out of defense and further forward in an attempt to score.
Coventry did put the ball in the net in the last minute, but the referee ruled it was offside to end a frustrating evening for the Oakers.