CRANSTON – Cumberland High senior captain Sophia Ziniti delivered the biggest goal of her high school career – and in the history of the Clippers’ program – in Monday night’s Division II championship game against Burrillville High at Cranston Stadium.
Ziniti’s goal, which came 4:52 into the fourth quarter off a penalty corner by senior captain Jenna Hooper and a nice pass from freshman Lauren Collette, broke a scoreless tie and lifted the Clippers to a 1-0 victory that gave them their seventh win in a row and their first championship since 2015.
“It feels like every hour you put in over four years was just suddenly worth it,” said Ziniti. “Every time I got hit with the ball or injured, that made it worth it.”
Cumberland, which ends its season with a 13-2-1 record, had won the regular-season title and earned the top seed and a quarterfinal-round bye after defeating South Kingstown, 1-0, in the final game on the schedule. In the semifinals, the Clippers faced defending champion Lincoln, and both rivals battled into two overtimes before the Clippers grabbed a 1-0 win on a goal by junior Katie Galgay.
“Basically, we just said we did not want to go into overtime anymore,” Cumberland head coach Erin Gendreau said. “We didn’t want to do the running.”
Both D-II semifinal matches – Burrillville defeated S.K., 3-2, to reach the finals – went into double overtime, but this one only needed four quarters as the Clippers sealed the victory.
“It feels awesome,” Gendreau said about becoming D-II champions. “They’ve come a long way and worked really hard this season, so it was just icing on the cake to come here and win it today.”
The Broncos started the game with possession, but the Clippers soon took over, as Ziniti and senior Katelyn Blais tried to get something going. Junior Rachael Grieve got the ball to Galgay, but she could not get a shot off. Both teams had a penalty corner in the first quarter, but could not generate any scoring.
The Clippers continued to be aggressive in the second quarter, taking over possession and keeping Burrillville goalie Allie Stockwell on her toes. The Broncos got another penalty corner in the second, but the Clippers were there to defend it and clear the ball out.
In the second half, both teams tried to step up their play. At the end of the third quarter, Burrillville’s Morgan Rainville had a competitive shot that was kicked away by Cumberland junior goalie Hannah Free.
Ziniti said that she had a mantra in her head as the game went into the fourth quarter and was still scoreless.
“’Give it everything you got,’” she said. “I don’t know if I’m going on to play college next year, so this was very possibly my last game. For me, it was, ‘Give it everything you have, 110 percent.’”
Free made another save in the final quarter on a shot by Rainville before possession went back to the Clippers. Then Cumberland got its late penalty corner and the rest was history as Ziniti rattled the back of the cage.
“She’s a great player,” Gendreau said of Ziniti. “She’s been a captain now for two years and she works hard everyday. She really wanted to put that ball in the net today.”
The Clippers took that momentum and applied some more pressure on the Broncos. Grieve got the ball to Galgay, who took a shot, but it went wide of the net. They got another corner and Ziniti tried to replicate her first goal, but this time, Stockwell made the save.
“I would like to give a shoutout to Heather Bliss and Lauren Collette,” Gendreau said. “They played so hard today, and Katie Blais did as well. It was a total team effort from everyone on the sidelines to everyone that stepped on the field today.”
The Clippers got another penalty corner, but were unsuccessful in getting another goal. Trying to tie things up and force overtime, Rainville got the ball and brought it into Cumberland territory. But the Clippers stayed on their toes and Grieve got the ball and cleared it as the buzzer sounded, allowing the Clippers to storm the field and celebrate their championship.
“It’s a dream,” Ziniti said. “You dream of this your freshman year. You think, ‘Oh, how cool would this be,’ and now I’m here and it just feels so unreal.”
“It’s definitely been a big year,” Gendreau said. “Day in and day out, they have said that they wanted to make it to the playoffs and play in the championship, and they made sure of that this year. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”