NORTH KINGSTOWN – It was with authority the North Kingstown boys soccer team started their playoff run last Friday night when they welcomed in Bishop Hendricken in the RIIL Division I quarterfinals. And with the new season, the Skippers turned over a new leaf as it was their offense, by no means the team’s forte during the regular season, that stole the show against the Hawks en route to a 3-0 victory.
“It’s a different season,” said Skippers coach Kyle Froberg. “We go preseason, regular season, now it’s the postseason. I like the way we played today in terms of getting on the board early.
“We had a strong wind in our face second half and we played much better. I told the guys at halftime we play better when we put the ball on the ground better. We had two great goals in the second half.”
Not to say the Skippers’ fourth-ranked defense was not without their highlights in posting their sixth clean sheet of the season, getting strong play from midfielder Jake Mansfield and goalkeeper Joe Dushi. North, however, was a team whose success centered around the back end while their offense was closer to the middle of the pack throughout the regular season. Yet, from the start on Friday they were swarming all over the Hawks, playing like a team possessed.
Austin Lind got the ball rolling when he broke the seal in the 11th minute. As North peppered the Hendricken net, the ball found its way to Lind, who broke a shot off in traffic that got through and gave NK a 1-0 lead.
It was the Skippers only goal of the first 40 minutes, but they outshot the Hawks 5-1 during that time while limiting them to just three choice opportunities, all off headers that went over the net.
The lethal assault continued into the second. Once again North did not wait long to get things going as Evan Gaudreau doubled their lead in the 48th minute off a feed from Casey Iannelli.
“That’s huge because they’re so dangerous,” Froberg said of adding the insurance goal. “[Hendricken is] a typical high school team where they have long throw-ins. Long throw-ins are so dangerous because you don’t know what’s going to happen on those and we prepared for that all week, basically. Once we knew it was Hendricken, we prepared that in practice and we did an awesome job.”
Trailing by two, the Hawks brought a more physical presence in the later stages of the game, seemingly in hopes of derailing the Skippers flow. Though they did begin to see more offensive opportunities, it was an ill-fated plan as North persisted.
The Skippers drew two yellow cards, one by Tyler Chabot in the first half and then by Gaudreau in the 62nd minute, but for the most part managed to stay poised in the face of Hendricken’s coarse play and continued to attack. With Hendricken pressing, they iced the game in the 78th minute as Mansfield set up Gaudreau for his second of the game, bringing the score to its 3-0 final.
“The two guys that got yellow cards, they’re very emotional players,” Froberg said. “To go back in and have an impact on the game and be clean about it was great.
“I told [Gaudreau] to go back in after he got his card and score a goal and he did. Can’t ask more than that.”
The win advanced the third seeded Skippers to Wednesday’s semifinal match against Shea (results unavailable at time of press). North scored a 2-0 win when the two met earlier in the season, but the seventh seeded Raiders enter the semifinals having pulled off the upset of the tournament when they beat No. 2 seed Barrington in the quarterfinals on penalty kicks, 1-0.
Regardless of any earlier results, Froberg knows his team will have to bring the same fervor and energy they had against Hendricken if they hope to return to the state title match for the first time since winning the championship in 2007.
“I’m excited in terms of the next phase,” said the North coach. “Really we need to think of one game, that’s it. We can’t afford to look ahead at all. You have to worry about who’s in front of you because whoever it is I think they’re going to be ready to play for us.”