SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Six minutes away from pulling off their biggest win of the year, head coach Chris Daigneault could only watch with bated breath from the sidelines as his Oakers appeared on the verge of securing a spot for themselves in the Division I semifinals. Facing off against South Kingstown on Sunday night, Coventry had the Rebels on the ropes for much of the contest, only to watch a 2-1 lead slip away from them late, resulting in an eventual 3-2 overtime loss.
A late PK goal off the foot of Sarah Sorlien followed by a game-winning score in overtime by Carley Fewlass sent the Rebels onto the next round where they will go up against La Salle, while the Oakers saw a more than promising victory slip away from them.
“I always say, leave it all on the field. They left it all on the field,” Daigneault said of his team’s effort, though his praise did not make the defeat any easier to accept.
For 74 minutes, the Oakers (10-5-2) looked like the stronger of the two teams, one that was poised to take down a 13-3-0 Rebels squad full of veteran experience and high expectations.
Madison Resendes got the visitors on the board first in the opening half before Sorlien countered in the 25th minute with what would prove to be the first of two goals scored on the night by the senior forward.
Senior co-captain Anna Kalooski put the Oakers back in front on a header early in the second half, but Rebel goalkeeper Faith Hutchins kept Coventry off the scoreboard from that point forward as part of a 12-save performance.
“I actually thought if we got two goals that we were probably going to win. We got two goals and we didn’t win,” Daigneault said of his team’s offensive showing.
As time continued to tick off the clock following Kalooski’s goal, an upset appeared ever more likely.
Then came a pair of penalty kicks for the home team.
“I thought we had ‘em too. Two PKs in the last ten minutes, not good,” Daigneault said of the final stages of play.
The first PK was stopped by Oaker goalie Lexi White, as the freshman keeper denied Rebel midfielder Anna Kelly the chance to tie the game, but two minutes later, SK was back in the same position. This time, they delivered with Sorlein notching her second goal of the night in the 75th minute on a shot that White nearly stopped.
Lexi’s heroics in net nearly sent her team onto the semifinals, but came up just short in the end.
“Lexi played awesome,” said Daigneault, with the freshman recording 18 saves for the visitors in the losing effort. “You figure that when she made that PK save, we’re good there,” he said of her denying Kelly the game-tying score.
The second PK was anything but automatic for the home team.
“I thought she almost had the second one too. It jut squeaked under her a little bit,” said Daigneault.
After switching ends following a scoreless first five minutes of the extra session, SK junior Carley Fewlass netted what proved to be the game-winner, with the final three whistles coming just moments later, as Coventry was left to wonder what could have been.
“I mean, we had the lead with six minutes to go. Those fouls make a big difference. I thought they were fouls too, but still,” Daigneault said of the final stages of play.
He did not want those 10-15 minutes to erase all his players had accomplished up to that point.
“I’m proud of these girls. They played awesome, it’s unbelievable,” he said.
For the Rebels, notching the victory was largely a matter of recognizing their own talent according to head coach Scott Rollins.
“I think that what helped us it that we have a lot of seniors,” he said. “We’ve got kids that have played in the State Final, played in the Semifinal, so they weren’t really rattled which was nice, but I was certainly nervous.”
SK and Coventry went toe-to-toe with one another in their lone regular season meeting as well, with the Rebels escaping by a 1-0 count in that affair.
Sunday’s playoff showdown was just as competitive. White’s denial of Kelly’s PK only added to the pressure.
“The goalie just made a great save,” Rollins said of White’s diving stop.
With the second PK, he wanted someone else to take it.
“I wasn’t convinced that she (Kelly) wasn’t still thinking about that first one. That’s why I went with a different player. The goods news is, I have about four different kids that can take PKs.
Sorlien delivered at the most crucial moment of the match, helping send her team to overtime where they would eventually win in on Fewless’ shot.
“I knew it was going to be some type of ugly type goal. That’s the way this game was going,” Rollins said of the game-winner which came about half way through the second five-minute stretch of overtime play.
As thrilling as Sunday’s win was, there are still two more victories to be secured on SK’s end, beginning with a meeting against La Salle in the semifinals.
“We just played them last week, so it’s not like we haven’t seen them recently. It’s always a tough game when you play The Academy, but I think we’ll be ready,” Rollins said, with his team looking to redeem themselves after a 2-0 loss to the Rams on October 25.
The semifinal showdown will take place tomorrow at the neutral site of East Greenwich High School with a start time of 5:30 p.m.
Follow Nick Cantor on Twitter @cantornick