CRANSTON — A season that brought a lot of happiness ended one step short of the happiest ending for the South Kingstown High School field hockey team.
The Rebels lost 1-0 to Lincoln in a double-overtime thriller in Saturday’s Division II championship game at Cranston Stadium. Grace Miguel scored the game-winning goal in the second sudden-death period.
“The whole season, they’ve given it everything they have,” South Kingstown head coach Margaret McGregor said. “When you get to that situation, double-overtime, it can go either way.”
That it went Lincoln’s way made for heartbreak on the South Kingstown side. A senior-laden group had made the most of its opportunity in the pandemic-shortened campaign. Unsure through the summer if they would even have a season, the Rebels delivered exactly the kind of season they dreamt of.
“Especially in a year that we’re having, it was such a positive in their lives,” McGregor said. “The possibility of not having a season was crushing to them, and they kept that perspective the whole time. To get this far was very special.”
The Rebels were the top seed, while Lincoln was No. 2. They both carried 5-1 league records, but South Kingstown’s 4-1 win over the Lions on Oct. 21 vaulted it ahead.
Offense was much harder to come by in the rematch. There were few good scoring chances for either side in the first half, with the first shot of the game not coming until the second quarter. South Kingstown had three penalty corners in the second quarter but couldn’t convert.
Lincoln gained control in the second half, dictating possession and generating chances. After going the entire first half without a penalty corner, the Lions had 10 of them in the second half. South Kingstown goalie May Kimber made eight saves and the defense played well in front of her, keeping Lincoln off the board despite the bump in opportunities.
“Facing that many corners in a row makes you nervous,” McGregor said. “The defense really kept their composure. We had some tough calls, some bad bounces, but they settled themselves down and did the job. That’s a compliment to them as a defensive unit.”
Overtime features 7-on-7 action instead of the usual 11-on-11, which creates a more wide open game. South Kingstown had the first chance in that landscape, getting a corner 15 seconds into the first overtime and a goal-line shot by Katherine Laliberte that was turned aside. Lincoln had a corner with five minutes to go and Miguel put a powerful shot on net that Kimber stopped.
A South Kingstown corner with 2:35 left turned into an even greater opportunity than usual when two Lincoln defenders were whistled for stepping over the goal-line before the ball was played in. That left one defender, Drew Swanson, and goalie Mary Kelley in the cage. Swanson disrupted the Rebels enough to stave off the chance.
“That was a nerve-wracking moment,” Lincoln coach Lea Miguel said. “That’s something that Drew is mentally tough and prepared for, no matter the situation she’s in. She did a great job.”
The Rebels had one more corner in the first overtime but didn’t get a clear shot. That had been a problem all day.
“We couldn’t get a lot of pressure on the goal,” McGregor said. “Their defense did a great job packing it in and holding us out. I give them a lot of credit because we didn’t get a lot of top quality shots. And that makes a big difference.”
Lincoln got one in the second overtime period. With 4:54 left, Grace Miguel stole the ball on the right wing, took one step into the circle and sent a back-handed shot into the cage for the game-winning goal.
The title is Lincoln’s first since 2001, when it won the Division I championship. South Kingstown was looking for its first crown since 2003.
The Rebels’ deep senior class will be remembered for putting everything they had into that quest.
“They are a great group,” McGregor said. “They worked so hard and they wanted it so badly.”