St. Raphael downs Tiverton to return to final
JOHNSTON — One year later and not much has changed for the St. Raphael boys soccer team.
This time, however, Dylan Polion and his teammates have their sights set on finishing the job.
A second consecutive berth in the Division III final was confirmed Thursday night as top-seeded SRA clipped fifth-seed Tiverton, 5-0, in a semifinal-round clash at Johnston High School. The Saints will face Pilgrim for the championship in a game that’s tentatively scheduled for Sunday afternoon at Rhode Island College. Pilgrim defeated Johnston, 1-0, in the other semifinal that was held at Tucker Field.
Polion supplied the Saints (18-0-1) with a hat trick. Two of his goals came in the second half as St. Raphael broke the contest wide open with three goals in the final seven minutes. A junior, Polion is hoping for a similar effort with one game left in the season and St. Raphael seeking to author a much different title-game outcome. The Saints dropped the 2017 D-III title game to Cranston East, 1-0.
Polion’s second tally was a great individual effort that came with just about 10 minutes gone in the second half and helped give the Saints a two-goal cushion. Tiverton continued to hang tough, but SRA put the contest completely out of reach with a flurry of goals late.
The strong start to the finish line started when junior Julian Giraldo scored at 7:07. Exactly 21 seconds went by when St. Raphael extended its lead to 4-0 behind a tally from junior Max Cepparo.
Polion provided the capper when he pounced on a juicy rebound with 5:04 remaining.
“Dylan had a big game, but the other guys were also very much a part of it. If you look at our stats, we’re a pretty balanced team,” said St. Raphael head coach Frank Balcarcel.
A goalie’s best friend is the crossbar and that proved to be the case at the 13-minute mark of the first half. A strong bid by the upstart Tigers struck the middle bar before land- ing safely in the hands of SRA junior goalie Andrew Silva.
At 12:18, the Saints executed a perfect give-and-go with Giraldo leading Polion, who finished with a flourish. The first goal of the game appeared to spark the Saints, who dominated play for the remainder of the half. The Tigers succeeded in weathering a few SRA chances to trail by only goal at the break.
“I thought we had trouble connecting in the first half, but that wasn’t the case in the second half. We were unselfish and then it became a totally different game,” said Balcarcel.
St. Raphael will be looking to achieve its first boys’ soccer title in school history.