WOOD RIVER JUNCTION – It was a dark and stormy night…
A clichéd prelude to many tales of terror, but not one many foresaw using last week when the Chariho girls soccer team faced Middletown in the Division III quarterfinals on Halloween night.
Though the weather was cold and rainy, the top seeded Chargers had beaten the Islanders in both regular season contests – 4-1 in the season opener and 3-1 at the beginning of October – and after a near perfect regular season were primed for a deep playoff run. The night, however, belong to Middletown, who advanced to the semifinals following a 1-0 overtime win.
“They went into this game, they wanted to be state champs,” said Chargers coach Brittney Godbout of her team following the loss. “That was their goal and they went for it from the first whistle to the last. Unfortunately, we just didn’t get our wish.
“…Middletown’s always been strong. Even though we beat them 4-1 and 3-1, it wasn’t easy. The only difference is we finished our chances during those two games and we didn’t finish our opportunities tonight.”
It was a sluggish start to the night for the Chargers, some lingering nerves at the onset of their first playoff contest. Middletown controlled much of the opening 20 minutes of the first half as Chariho’s offense, second best in Division III-A, struggled to get balls through and maintain possession.
Once Meghan Rousseau broke through, however, for the Chargers first legitimate opportunity in the 21st minute, they started to roll with a handful of quality looks to end the half, eventually snuffing out any Middletown attack.
The game went to the intermission still scoreless, but the field was beginning to tilt visibly in favor of the Chargers and there was no slow start to the game’s second half. Less than two minutes in Samantha Orciari had a look on net, but Middletown goalkeeper Kaitlyn Griffith was right there to thwart the opportunity.
In the opening 10 minutes of the half alone, Orciari had three chances, while Rousseau and Sydney Allen also got in on the action. It seemed as though all it would take was one before the goals started raining in for the Chargers.
“To be honest, that second half the way we were playing and the opportunities that we had, I though it was going to be a matter of time,” Godbout said. “The last half of our season we’ve had trouble finishing. We’ve had plenty and plenty of opportunities, but we always end up finishing, so I wasn’t worried at that point. I was very worried going into the overtime.”
Chariho continued to press throughout the second, but could not get anything past Griffith and the game remained scoreless through 80 minutes. With their season on the brink, the Chargers dominance continued into the first overtime period, but as is so often the case, no matter how superior a team can be, a strange bounce of the ball can change the complexion of a game.
Middletown had nary an opportunity early in the extra session, but in the 87th minute Carla Peter played a ball through that got tipped on its way to the net. Charger goalkeeper Silvana Terranova got a piece, but the ball popped up over her head and into the net for a 1-0 Islanders lead.
“That’s exactly what we talked about when we talked with the girls,” Godbout said. “We possessed the last half of the first half, we possessed the second half, but we knew from other teams we’ve played, all they need is one little break and it can end in a goal.
“That was the difference. Even through we possessed most of the game, we didn’t finish. They had a few breaks and they finished on one.”
With the lead, a physical Middletown defense clamped down on the Chargers, stunned by the unlucky break.
It took time for the Chargers to recover from the shock, but with about four minutes to play in the second overtime, they had regained their form, assaulting the Islanders’ net. Gabby Harris had a golden opportunity in the final minute, riffling a shot that hit the crossbar — the Chargers’ second such opportunity of the game — but it was not to be as the eighth seeded Islanders held on for the 1-0 upset.
It was a disappointing end to an otherwise brilliant season for the Chargers, who had captured a division title and saw the kind of progression throughout the fall that leads to nothing but positive foreshadowing for coming seasons.
“This is the best group of girls that I’ve had here at Chariho as a whole,” Godbout said. “The practices we have are unbelievable, the girls’ work ethic is just incredible.
“All of them bond together, it really is a family and the girls work so hard and they really do want it. I think having this experience this year with such a young team will help us next year.”