NARRAGANSETT — The Coventry girls’ soccer team is eternally grateful that soccer matches at the high-school level last 80 minutes, not 40.
It was a tale of two halves on Wednesday at The Prout School for the Oakers, where the first 40 minutes of play saw Prout – a past foe within the Division II ranks – take complete control of the match in terms of possession and physicality against the prominently-physical Coventry XI.
But, the second half saw the Oakers regroup and regain that physical form to take control of the match, which resulted in a pair of second-half tallies to earn a tough 3-2 win over the Crusaders for their third victory in as many matches on the young season.
“I wasn’t happy at all with the first-half performance by them,” Coventry head coach Chris Daigneault said. “We brought it in the second half, though, and I thought they played really well.”
Although the season is still in its genesis, the victory by Coventry was impressive in that the team earned the win when the conditions weren’t favorable, especially with most of those conditions self-inflicted.
In their previous two years at the Division I level, a match that the Oakers had on Wednesday, where the players weren’t marking up on forwards at the midfield and allowing them to freely run up the touch lines for solid scoring opportunities, would’ve resulted in a disastrous affair before the first half whistle was blown, let alone the final one.
Now, with Coventry already surpassing last year’s win total with Wednesday’s win, the confidence with the maturing Oakers is starting to grow at a rapid rate, which in turn is resulting in their play showing signs of the same dominance it had at the Division II ranks – especially in 2006 when the Oakers topped Prout for the Division II championship.
“A little confidence is being built and their character is being built,” Daigneault said. “They’re understanding how to win a little bit. When Prout made it 3-2 with eight minutes to go, and they knew that they had to hold on against a good team, they bared down and didn’t panic. They made some good passes. They’re young and they’re still learning. We have all juniors this year that were sophomores last year. They’re getting older and getting better.”
“We’re so proud of ourselves,” Coventry sweeper Kristina Almeida said. “We can’t believe that we’ve made it this far. We’ve been working hard. We’ve been playing all summer. We’ve been exercising and working out more. We deserve this and we’re so proud right now.”
In the first half, Prout had control on the Oakers’ side of the pitch for nearly the whole 40 minutes and Crusader midfielder Renee Altimari was at the forefront of bringing the play up field to give Prout a plethora of scoring chances. One of those chances came within the first 10 minutes when Altimari moved the ball around three Oaker defenders and got off a sliding shot with her left foot, a shot that was brilliantly saved by Coventry keeper Gianna Palermo.