By ERIC RUEB
WEST GREENWICH – Even as the No. 1 seed in the Division III girls soccer playoffs, Exeter-West Greenwich coach Kevin Fraser was worried.
Thanks to Monday’s storm that postponed the first round to Tuesday, Knights hadn’t played in 10 days and even in those final two games – a tie with Pilgrim on Oct. 28 and a win over Westerly on Oct. 29 – the team didn’t have its best showing.
Tuesday against Mount Hope, the Knights didn’t play their best, but they played well enough and never gave the No. 8-seeded Huskies a chance to think they could win in a 3-1 win, advancing EWG to Thursday’s semifinal against Ponaganset.
“I was really quite concerned about today because we hadn’t played for (10) days. We were off a week, we played two games back to back,” Fraser said. “We didn’t play the best we had been playing and then to have another (10) days off, I was concerned about coming in flat, but we played well.”
“That’s embarrassing if the No. 8 team beats us,” EWG’s Allisa Georgio said. “We wanted to come out hard and win.”
The matchup wasn’t the best for the high-flying Knights.
While Exeter plays a fast game of soccer, moving the ball up and down the field and keeping things at a frantic but controlled pace, Mount Hope plays a much slower game, using its size and strength to keep goals off the board and hoping to find the net once and letting the defense do the rest.
The mantra of defense winning championships usually holds true, but Exeter had too much firepower to be slowed down by the defensive-minded Huskies.
“We have Lexi (Clements), Kara Shaw, Alyssa Clements, Tori (Randall), Caroline (Humphrey) and a lot of scorers,” Georgio said. “We all have opportunities to score.”
EWG offense went on the attack early on its home field and while it couldn’t find the goal nearly as soon as it would have liked, Georgio’s goal in the 15th minute wasn’t a bad start.
“We don’t play the best when we play physical teams, but we play pretty good,” Georgio said. “We’re undefeated on the field and that’s really good because we don’t let anyone win on this field.”
“We wanted to get on the board sooner and we had some opportunities to get on the board sooner,” Fraser said. “We had a couple that hit the post and we had some opportunities to get on the board. That was one of the things we were working on in training sessions, getting that quick shot off and getting on the board fast.”
Up 2-0 after Shaw’s goal in the 32nd minute, Exeter’s offensive attack stuttered a bit. Whether it was the Knights playing on their heels feeling comfortable with a two-goal lead or Mount Hope playing better, Exeter quickly woke up when Mount Hope scored three minutes into the second half.
The goal was a wakeup call, because for the rest of the first half, the Knights dominated play and continued to attack the Huskies’ side of the field, finally earning a penalty kick after a takedown in the box. Lexi Clements converted the PK and for the rest of the game, Exeter was in control.
“They didn’t let up and they kept going forward,” Fraser said. “A little bit toward the very end we started to get back on our heels some and I told them you have to keep attacking and they started coming forward again.”