PORTSMOUTH- Late-game heroics from Cade McHugh was just enough for the Portsmouth High School soccer team to beat visiting Tolman, 1-0, in the Division-I quarterfinals on Saturday evening.
In the first half, despite plenty of chances for both teams, the scoreboard was ridden with zeros. Halfway through the second half, it looked like the game could potentially be heading to overtime before the Patriots scored on a header off of a corner kick.
“These playoffs games are going to be close. And credit to Tolman who played a really good game,” said Portsmouth head coach Mike Stinton.
To start the game, both teams struggled to gain offensive momentum as the first shot on goals wasn’t made until the eighth minute.
Portsmouth had their first quality scoring opportunity come in the ninth minute by John Stack who shot a ball towards the open side of the net, but was kicked away by a Tolman defender.
The next several minutes were filled with opportunities for Portsmouth that they couldn't finish on, including a perfect pass from Kenneth Armijo to the front of the net that was stopped by goalkeeper Kevin Ward.
In the 21st minute, the Patriots experienced their first scare as Tolman earned a corner kick. The well placed ball looked to give the Tigers a perfect scoring chance before Patriots keeper William Swart came soaring through the air to grab the ball. This was just one of eleven saves by Swart on the day.
“Our keeper came up big,” Coach Stinton said. “We expect that from William and he is the backbone on defense.”
As the first half came to a close, a Tolman forward had a shooting chance from 15 yards out, but was kicked just to the right of the net. Despite the Patriots controlling most of the first half, the Tigers took the momentum towards the end of the game as they earned three shots on goal in stoppage time alone.
“We knew that we just had to stick to our game plan and we would wear them out physically and that is what we did,” Coach Stinton said.
To begin the second half, Tolman earned two more corner kicks, but failed to capitalize on either of them as the tension in the crowd grew. One of Portsmouth best chances of the night came in the 45th minute when Matthew Sousa passed to a driving McHugh as an excellent save was made by Tigers goalkeeper Kevin Ward.
In the 50th minute, Portsmouth had another opening to get on the board as a kick right in front of the net by Sousa was stopped by Ward who was laying on his back from a previous save.
Then, in the 63rd minute, McHugh headed in a perfectly placed corner kick and the Portsmouth bench and crowd erupted with raised arms. The goal gave the Patriots a 1-0 lead.
Portsmouth proceeded to send more Patriots into the defensive zone as Tiverton struggled to produce shots within 15 yards.
One last routine save from Swart and just seconds later the whistle blew. As Portsmouth celebrated heading to the semis, Tolman players laid on the turf as their cinderella run came to an end.
The win advances Portsmouth (the third seed) to the semifinals where they will meet second seeded Bishop Hendricken on Wednesday. The game will be played at East Greenwich High School at 7:30 which gives Coach Stinton’s team a chance to prepare for the difficult matchup.
“They are a tough matchup with us speed wise. They are one of the quicker teams in the state,” Coach Stinton said, adding, “We only lost 2-1 to them early in the season and we know what typed of team they are.”