WOOD RIVER JCT. — Chariho High’s girls’ lacrosse team came back three times in the second half to beat Mount St. Charles 10-7 in a Division III semifinal game on Tuesday.
The top-seeded Chargers (13-1) advance to the Division III finals to be played Saturday at Brown University at 1 p.m. Chariho will play third-seeded Pilgrim (10-4). Pilgrim beat second-seeded Smithfield (10-3-1) by the score of 10-9 in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
“I’m so excited,” Chariho coach Michelle Tebbets said. “I am so proud of the girls. As a coach I was all stressed out. But I could not be happier.”
The Chargers had beaten the fourth-seeded Mounties 11-7 on May 15, also at home. MSC (9-5) beat the fifth-seeded N. Smitfield/Burrillville co-op team 16-10 in the quarterfinals.
“We knew Chariho was undefeated (in league play) and had beaten us two weeks ago,” MSC coach Allie Macamaux said. “We came back here looking for a win but things didn’t work out that way. They were the ones who came back today. It was a very tough game.”
The Charger comebacks really started in the waning minutes of the first half. The Mounties had taken their second three-goal lead with 3 minutes, 25 seconds left in the first half. But Jenna Brierly scored twice in the last two minutes to cut the Mountie lead to 5-4 at halftime. She scored all four of the Chargers’ first-half goals.
Brierly wasted no time tying the score for the first time with another goal just 50 seconds into the 25-minute second half. The Mounties edged ahead on a goal eight minutes later, but Paige Pajarillo tied it again at six with 14:21 left.
MSC scored what proved to be its final goal to take a 7-6 lead with just over 11 minutes left in the game. Tebbets called a timeout to regroup and focus her players on what they needed to do for yet another comeback.
“The girls looked down,” Tebbets said. “I told them I could name four of our players who were playing their hearts out — Emily Manning, Paige Pajarillo, Megan Kirby and Amanda Picozzi — and that I wanted the rest to do the same. They all took more responsibility. And it paid off.”
Come back they did.
Brierly scored her sixth goal of the game 40 seconds later to tie the score at seven. From a free position after a penalty, she she hit a line drive to the left corner of the net for the tying goal.
“Everybody’s head was kind of down,” Brierly said. “At the beginning of the game, our heads were not in it. We played like we were scared. I wanted us to get up. I just wanted to get us back into the game.”
After a Mountie shot was blocked by a Chariho defender, Katie Cuddy retrieved the ball and made a breakaway run down the field. She deftly passed the ball to Pajarillo at the left of the net and she promptly rammed the ball home through the goalkeeper’s legs with 8:42 left for what proved to be the game-winning goal.
“When I got the pass, I noticed the goalkeeper’s legs were wide,” Pajarillo said. “She was standing straight up and left herself wide open. I shot it right through her legs.
“It was our first lead of the game. We immediately got very excited, very emotional. We found the intensity we needed to win. It was a big reassurance for us.”
The Mounties made a valiant effort to come back themselves. But were thwarted by Charger goalkeeper Maddie Newman, who made a timely save on a shot by Jordan McComb, Mount’s leading scorer.
The Chargers worked their way down the field to try to score an insurance goal and did. Brierly came from behind the Mountie net and lobbed the ball to Samantha Orciari, who drilled it into the net for a 9-7 Chariho lead with 6:29 left.
The Chargers upped the pressure on the defensive end and played keep-away on offense as the clock ticked the final minutes away. Maise Jones scored after a Pajarillo pass with 39 seconds left to put an exclamation point on the team’s first-ever playoff semifinal win.
The Mounties outshot the Chargers 20-18. Newman had 13 saves in goal for Chariho.
Chariho and MSC began their girls’ varsity program in 2008. The Chargers have now beaten the Mounties four of the six times they have played. Each had losing programs for four years, before the Mounties broke into the winning column in 2012. Each team had winning seasons the last two years, with the Chargers going undefeated and winning the Divisiion III-South title this season.
Now only Pilgrim stands in the way of Chariho winning the Division III championship. The Chargers beat the Patriots 12-11 on April 11 and 17-7 on May 2.