WOOD RIVER JCT. — Chariho High girls’ soccer coach Brittney Godbout sensed her team was getting pleased with its early-season success during practice Friday — an ominous sign heading into the Chargers’ non-league game against neighboring rival Westerly Saturday.
“We were walking around with big heads with our 4-0 record,” Godbout said. “We were walking through drills in practice instead of running.”
On Saturday, Westerly took the wind out of Chariho’s sails by parlaying its half of offense with the wind at its back. That came in the second half when the Bulldogs scored twice on wind-aided, long direct kicks en route to their 4-0 victory in a game much more competitive than the score indicated.
The Division II Bulldogs improved to 4-1-1. Division III Chariho lost its first in five games.
In many aspects of the game, one could say Chariho enjoyed the superior play. Charger fullback Katie Cuddy created numerous offensive rushes, winning 50-50 balls and sending the ball into the offensive end. The Chargers held a 15-8 shots edge and dominated nearly the entire first half with the 15 mile-an-hour wind at their back.
Westerly actually turned the game around, scoring its first goal against the wind. After a Chariho corner kick with just over a minute left until halftime, Westerly cleared and caught the Charger backfield too far into the offensive end.
Brittany DeGrooth took a Mackenzie Donnelly pass at midfield, dribbled the ball for 30 yards and placed a right-footed kick past a charging Chariho goalkeeper Silvanna Terranova for a 1-0 lead with 50 seconds until halftime.
“We had the ball for most of the first half and Megan Kirby had two nice shots, one which hit the cross bar and another just missed,” Godbout said. “We could have been up 2-0, but instead we’re down a goal. You could see the letdown in the girls’ eyes when they scored.”
Playing with the wind in the second half, Westerly’s strategy was to shoot from long range and high to test the leaping ability of Terranova, who stands a tad less than five feet. Four minutes into the half, Westerly’s Jess Lawrence drilled a free kick from 35 yards out. The ball picked up momentum with the wind and carried over Terranova’s outstretched hands and into the net for Lawrence’s first varsity goal.
Westerly made it 3-0 with 8:04 left to play when DeGrooth took a Danielle Burdick pass on the left side and sent a left-footed kick inside the right post from 12 yards out. It was Burdick’s eighth goal of the season. The Bulldogs added another long goal when Amy Luther’s direct kick from nearly 40 yards out carried over the Chariho wall and over a leaping Terranova for a 4-0 lead.
“[Terranova] is a great athlete but not tall,” Westerly coach Clyde Britt said. “It was a plan to shoot high and hard and we were fortunate to get two wind-aided goals. The other two goals were Brittany’s talent. We’re faster than them. We discussed that if Brittany got past them, kick it ahead three or four yards and make it a foot race.”
Chariho still produced quality scoring chances, two by Sydney Allen in the last four minutes. Westerly’s defense, paced by fullback Anne Reisch and goalkeeper Emily Sullivan, kept the Chargers off the board. Sullivan dove to snare Allen’s left-footed shot just inside the right post with 3:30 left. Allen followed shortly later when a well-struck ball that hit the crossbar from 15 yards out.
Sullivan, a sophomore three-sport athlete who did not play soccer last year, used her size and athletic ability to deflect a number of shots over the crossbar or out of harm’s way. She made 14 saves. “We have to thank Haley Nix, who is Emily’s cousin, for helping convince Emily come out for the team,” Reisch said. “She’s never played goalkeeper before but she dives all over to make saves.”
Reisch added perhaps the biggest thrill in this victory was the fact two defensive-minded players scored on the distant direct kicks.
“It’s awesome when the defense scores,” Reisch said.
Though the Chariho-Westerly game does not count toward divisional standings for either team, both take pride in taking part of the regularly-played Saturday boys’ and girls’ doubleheader.
“Whenever we take the bus to play Chariho, it’s quiet,” Britt said. “The girls know each other from playing out-of-season soccer. I’ve been on both sides of it since I also coach Chariho Middle School softball. It’s a game both sides want to win.”
The Bulldogs return to action to play at Cranston East 4 p.m. Tuesday. Chariho returns with its unblemished division record to play host to North Providence 6:30 p.m. Monday.
“The girls have a goal to bring the program back to Division II very soon,” Godbout said. “Westerly has gotten the best of us in the last three years since I’ve been coach. Now we know what it takes to beat a Division II team. Actually, if we have to lose this is the perfect game. It doesn’t count in our standings but it is still a wake-up call.”