PROVIDENCE — The East Providence High School girls’ soccer team came up just shy in its attempt to repeat as Division III champions as Johnston, which lost to the locals in the final a year ago, defeated the Townies, 2-1, in the league title game played Sunday, Nov. 12, at Rhode Island College.
The Panthers, who fell to E.P. 4-3 on penalty kicks last fall, ended the Townies’ bid of a perfect season and consecutive titles by scoring twice in the second half to capture the 2017 Division III crown.
The Panthers, as did the Townies, finished with a 14-1-0 record, but, like East Providence a year ago, more importantly with the title.
The defeat was also the first for the Townies in 17 games. E.P.'s last loss came to the Panthers late in the 2016 regular season. The Townies win in the championship game last year similarly prevented Johnston from an undefeated campaign.
“It was a well played contest by both teams. In the end, I guess they ultimately wanted it more than we did,” said East Providence head coach Angelo Pizzi after the game. “Our girls fought until the end. You could see that they never stopped playing.”
The first half was a back and forth contest with both teams trading scoring chances. The Townies’ Julia Palumbo had a golden opportunity to break open the scoring as she fired a shot that went just wide of the goal.
Just three minutes later, however, senior Hailey Placido got East Providence on the board when she put home a rebound past Johnston goalkeeper Haley Gaunt putting the Townies up 1-0.
Johnston had an opportunity to tie the game late in the half when midfielder Madison Plouffe put a shot on net that was stopped by Mia Jackson of East Providence sending the teams into the half with the Townies up 1-0.
The Panthers found their offensive game in the second half as they were able to put pressure on East Providence early. Johnston midfielder Gabriella Scarcella went in alone on a breakaway and fired a shot past Jackson tyng the game for the Panthers.
Eight minutes later, forward Bianca Robbins put away the go-ahead marker giving Johnston the 2-1 advantage midway through the second half.
“We made some tactical adjustments. They didn’t go as we thought they would but we held them as much as we could,” Pizzi explained. “They’re very talented two young ladies on that team.”
The Panthers nearly took a two goal lead late in the half but Aaliyah Pattie helped goalkeeper Mia Jackson with a save at goal line keeping it 2-1. Johnston’s sturdy defense stopped the East Providence late attack helping the Panthers take home the title and avenge last year’s loss.
Coach Pizzi compared the Townies’ loss in the championship game as being the only blemish on an otherwise perfect season to what happened to the 2007 New England Patriots squad.
“I think back to the New England Patriots and their Super Bowl loss to the Giants,” he said. “However, the girls are dedicated. They worked through all difficulties this year. I can’t be more proud of their commitment to the game, and more importantly how they are as young ladies on and off the field.”
The girls’ soccer program at East Providence High School has seen a lot of success recently highlighted by back to back championship game appearances. Pizzi spoke of how he hopes to keep the program on the same track going forward.
“I think the program is moving in the right direction,” he said. “We hope to keep the intensity going. We’ll see what the interscholastic league does with us next year whether they keep us in Division III or move us up. We’re committed to a program rather than a team.”
— Photos by Rich Dionne
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