EAST GREENWICH — Second-seeded East Providence High School advanced to the Division III girls' soccer championship after the Townies dispatched third-seeded Tolman, 4-1, in the semifinals Thursday night, Nov. 10, at the East Greenwich High athletic complex.
East Providence improved to 11-1-0 for the fall and will get a chance to avenge its lone loss in the final Sunday afternoon, Nov. 13, at Rhode Island College at 4 o'clock when the locals face unbeaten Johnston for the title. The top-seeded Panthers improved to 12-0-0 to date following their 5-1 win over fourth-seeded Narragansett in Thursday's first semi at E.G. Johnston beat E.P., 5-2, on October 18 in their only regular season encounter.
It took the Townies about 10 minutes or so to find their legs in the semis. The locals hadn't played a competitive contest since their regular season finale 16 days prior, and even describing the game that way was a stretch as they routed Mt. Pleasant, 8-1. But once they did, the Townies remained on the front foot pretty much the rest of the way.
Possession was basically even during that opening span before E.P. initiated the first few scoring chances of the night, both off corners, though neither were on target. The Townies continued to mount an attack and scored the first goal of the contest about midway through the first half when senior co-captain Sydney Vilardi beat Tolman keeper Nicole Carman to a free ball at the top of the six-yard box and punched it home. The goal was Vilardi's 20th of the fall.
The Townies later had a few more good looks at net, but were rebuffed each time, including on a brilliant save by an on-rushing Carmen against Townies' Grace Abrams during a 1-v-1 breakaway situation. E.P. outshot the Tigers, whom the locals defeated 5-1 in their lone previous meeting this fall back in late September, 11-1 in the opening 40 minutes, though only five of those were on frame.
"I think it was a combination of the long layoff and maybe the excitement and anticipation of playing in the semifinal game as to why it took us a while to settle in," EPHS head coach Angelo Pizzi said. "But Tolman was a different team than the first time we played them. They came to play. They gave us everything that had, especially in the first half. Credit to the players, the coaches and their keeper. If she doesn't make that save on the breakaway it might have been a different game."
It didn't take E.P. long to add to its edge out of the intermission as the Townies went up 2-0 about four minutes in. Senior co-captain Julia Andrade grabbed possession at midfield, dribbled a bit then sent a cross to her left in the direction of junior sharp-shooter Abrams, who lofted a well-placed shot from about 20 yards out over the head of the helpless Tolman net minder into the upper corner of the net. The goal was Abrams' team-leading 23rd of the season.
"The first half certainly showed we hadn't played in so long. It showed, even though we scrimmaged the boys, we scrimmaged each other, but it showed," Coach Pizzi added. "But once we got into the second half we kind of found our groove. We made a few changes, changed our formation. Right around the time we scored our second goal, we started really playing what we call 'Townie' soccer after that."
The result in their favor almost assured, the Townies would later tack on two more goals before the final whistle. Freshman Ashley Cassino-Henriquez netted one of the goals with sophomore Lily Palumbo's to follow. Freshman keeper Mia Jackson was credited with four saves in the E.P. net, including a breakaway stop of her own while the game was still somewhat in doubt. Andrade had two assists total on the evening while Jessica Costa had one.
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