Saints stop Spartans again in playoffs

Saints stop Spartans again in playoffs

Scituate High’s Cameron Barry tries to go after a loose ball without slipping on the wet turf during last Thursday night’s Division III semifinal-round game against St. Raphael Academy at Cumberland High’s Tucker Field. The Saints defeated the Spartans, 4-1, and went on to claim the D-III title three nights later by notching a 1-0 victory over Toll Gate. (Breeze photos by Kayla Panu)
Boys’ soccer team falls to eventual Div. III champs in semifinals

CUMBERLAND – The Scituate High boys’ soccer team’s bid to reach its first championship match since 1995 came up short in the Spartans’ Division III semifinal-round game against St. Raphael Academy last Thursday, as the Saints earned their third straight trip to the D-III finals by posting a 4-1 victory on a raw, wet night at Cumberland’s Tucker Field.

After enduring their struggles during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, the Spartans have improved in each of the last two years to reach the playoffs. It just so happens that in both seasons, the Saints were the ones to eliminate them. Last year, SRA topped Scituate in the quarterfinals, and last week, the top-seeded Saints overmatched the Spartans in their ‘Final Four’ affair before winning their program’s first title on Sunday night at Cranston Stadium by defeating 3rd-seeded Toll Gate, 1-0.

“We’ve taken little steps,” Scituate head coach Tim Brown said. “We made the playoffs last year, after a couple years of not getting in, and we won a playoff game. This year, we were able to get right into the quarterfinals and beat Pilgrim to make it to the semis. We hope to carry this momentum forward and continue to be a dangerous team.”

The Spartans were a dangerous team during the regular season, as they recorded their second straight nine-win season by going 9-2-4 to earn the fifth seed in the playoffs. Included in their victories was a 3-2 win at home over the Saints (16-1-1) on Oct. 3 that knocked SRA from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Last Thursday, both teams battled each other on a turf field again, but the weather conditions were completely different. The rain had held off until the middle of the day and tapered on and off during the first semifinal game of the night between Toll Gate and 2nd-seeded Exeter/West Greenwich, but it was all-out rain by the time Scituate and SRA took the field.

The Saints, who owned a 1-0 lead at halftime, took control right away, keeping the ball in the Spartans’ territory. After making a few saves for Scituate, keeper Joe Angelino was unable to stop Devan Kipyego’s shot with 10:06 to go in the first half.

“We tried to kind of stick with what worked there in the first half,” Brown reported. “We knew that (SRA) would try to mix and change things up a little bit. We might have changed the formation that we had, but we pretty much tried to play the same way. They really didn’t threaten us too much, but when we got down by a goal, we had to come out of that shell, and that obviously exposed us to the back a little bit. But they’re a good team. They did what they do.”

As both teams tried to get the upper hand early in the second half and emotions amped up, yellow cards were handed out to players from both sides. And 10 minutes into that half, the Saints got on a roll and received three more goals – all within two minutes of each other – from Edgardo Cardona, Dylan Polion, and Jeffrey Codman.

The Spartans played hard the last 26 minutes, not allowing their season to end without a fight, and finally, their hard work paid off in the form of a goal by Nathan Vernava. Before that goal, Evan Pendergast had passed the ball to Shane Langton, who took a shot that just sailed wide, and with seconds left in the game, Jack Campbell took a free kick that was blocked by SRA keeper Emiliano Munguia.

“These guys have never quit all year,” Brown added. “I’m so proud of them. Their effort and energy in practice everyday – it didn’t surprise me that they would keep battling and keep fighting like that. It’s one thing that we teach, we play until the end of the game, whatever the score. I’m just really proud of them. And these seniors have come a long way in four years and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

The Spartans were coming off a thrilling 4-3 victory over 4th-seeded Pilgrim in the quarterfinals on Saturday, Nov. 2, in Warwick. The game was decided in the fourth round of penalty kicks, as Angelino stopped Pilgrim’s fourth shot and Pendergast followed with the game-winning goal. Ryan Elias, Vernava, and Campbell scored the Spartans’ goal in regulation, which saw Scituate hold a 2-1 lead at halftime.

Scituate High’s Jack Campbell, left, and Shane Langton, right, spin around St. Raphael Academy’s Daniel Flynn, as they pass each other the ball during the opening half of last Thursday night’s Division III semifinal-round game. The Spartans came up short in their bid to reach their first title game since 1995.