Broncos reign in thrilling fashion after holding off Spartans in shootout
The Burrillville High girls’ soccer team took home the Division II title with a dramatic, shootout victory over Scituate Sunday afternoon.
PROVIDENCE — Picture this: It’s 2008 or ‘09, and school’s ended for the day, so Mom tells her two daughters to go out and play in the backyard before supper. They oblige, as one has plans on being a famous goaltender, the other a formidable scorer.
They decide to make up a game where each is on the USA National Women’s team, and they’re involved in a shootout for the right to attain Olympic gold. The first, call her Nicole, makes at least two stops to save the day. The second, Liz, takes one shot but fails to score.
That’s the game the Ethier sisters played years ago, back in the dreamy past, but it became reality on Sunday afternoon, when Burrillville High and rival Scituate took to the Rhode Island College Stadium turf for the right to call itself the 2017 R.I. Division II Tournament state champion.
It wasn’t the Olympics, but – to them – it didn’t have to be.
After two scoreless halves, not to mention two even five-minute overtime sessions, officials declared a shootout, and it took the approximate 500 fans in the stands perhaps two minutes to realize this would be no ordinary penalty-kick segment.
In the end, BHS junior Jamie Loynds – the seventh shot-taker -broke a 0-0 deadlock, drilling a rising liner past SHS sophomore Maddie Medbury and inside the upper right corner of the cage. The Spartans had a chance to knot it on their fourth try (out of five), but Nicole dove to her left and squelched it.
Senior defender Emily Yankee’s turn came, and she
timidly walked to the line to await the order to shoot. When it came, she smoked a low screamer inside the right post, causing her entire team and coaching staff to rush the field.
With those two goals, the Broncos not only claimed a beyond-thrilling 1-0 tripleovertime victory over the Spartans, but also earned their second state crown since 2013 and third in school history (or since 1993).
“I personally have always loved PKs; it’s been a favorite of mine since I was a little kid,” stated Nicole Ethier, who courtesy of 13 saves on this day collected the Tournament Most Valuable Player laurel. “We’d play it, and my sister would be the one taking the shots and I’d be the one trying to stop them,” she added. “That competition is what drove us, and whoever won, we’d be outof-our-minds excited. If I won, I loved the feeling at the end. Obviously, this is much better.”
The astonishing thing about the ending: Nobody admitted to really seeing anything like the PK phase.
Here’s why: BHS won the coin toss to determine who went first, and decided to do just that. Senior tri-captain Sheridan Tupper ripped the first at Medbury, though she slid to the left post to make the stop.
SHS senior Cassandra Clancy followed and drilled a high liner over the crossbar. The MVP’s sister Liz was next, and she delivered a high rope, yet Medbury leaped and deflected it off the crossbar. Scituate frosh Rachel Oster rapped an attempt at Nicole, who made an easy save, and Medbury used her hands to squelch a phenomenal stop of junior Aliza Richard’s low shot.
Sophomore Serena Forte booted a grounder outside the right post and immediately placed her hands on her head and disbelief, and Loynds followed with the first. After Nicole’s sprawling stop of senior Delaney Langton’s attempt, Yankee stepped up and sealed it.
As soon as it penetrated the netting, the Broncos raced to climb all over Yankee, who seemed a bit flummoxed when she turned around.
“I was a little taken aback; I didn’t know that if I scored, we’d win it all,” she said shyly. “I was just happy I did … I will say I knew I could put it in because we practice PKs all the time. Almost every day, Coach (Jeff Lavigne) will tell us to line up at midfield and walk slowly to the mark for the kick. He simulates not only the action but the feeling in practice; that way you know it.
“My team also knew I could do it, and I fed off that confidence they have in me,” she added.
Noted Lavigne, a Burrillville High graduate who ironically played on this same turf at RIC before graduating in 2000: “In my 20 years of coaching, I have never seen a shootout like that. I’ve never seen the first three shooters on each side miss like that. I was shocked.
“Nicole just came up huge,” he continued. “You know, that can be tough when your teammates are missing, you can get deflated, but she’s so mentally strong, it’s ridiculous – tough as nails.
“I can also say I knew when they missed their fourth shot that Emily would win a state championship for her school. She’s as cool as the other side of the pillow. She’s cool, calm and collected, nothing seems to faze her.
“You know, I knew from Day One that we had the team to do something like this. It was just a matter of if we would put it all together at the right time. I also knew we’d have to go through Scituate because it’s always so good. That team could be the state champ in any of the divisions.”
Over the initial 40 minutes, the Spartans controlled most of it, but still lost the shots-on-goal tally, 5-4.
As for the second 40, that’s where the tension and quality of play took a giant leap forward. Just 47 ticks into it, Burrillville senior Jocelyn Valliere gathered a feed in the box, juked a defender, spun around her and fired a shot from the right at Medbury, who made a splendid save.
With 26:11 left in regulation, Clancy walloped a 37yard direct kick from the middle of the field, though Ethier sprinted out of the net and scooped it. And so it went.
As the horn sounded for intermission, however, Lavigne became quite upset. Apparently, an official claimed to have seen alleged punches thrown between competitors and immediately issued red cards to Burrillville senior Cameron Eaton and Scituate 12th grader Sam Oster.
Lavigne responded to the cards – and automatic bans for the rest of the contest – like this: “That’s unacceptable, especially at the end of the game (regulation).”
The decision nevertheless stood, and each squad played a girl down for the two fiveminute extra sessions.
“That was very unfortunate for both teams,” Lavigne said. “I will say that my player has to be smarter and walk away; you can’t put yourself in that kind of situation, but we dealt with it and got through it.”
As soon as Yankee clinched it, and the Broncos became tired from all the hugs and jumping around, Tupper ran toward the team bench sobbing.
“I’m so happy we won!” she stated. “I can believe we did this because we’re the best, and – from Day One – we’ve worked our (butts) off.”
For the record, Nicole finished with 13 saves and Medbury 16, including three in the shootout.
Before his team accepted their state title-winning plaque and individual gold medals, Lavigne climbed into the stands to hug his wife, Erin. That was after she had handed son Mason, 8, and daughter Mya, 3, into safe arms for transport to their dad.
“I’m gone all day, from early in the morning until 88:30 at night, sometimes after my kids have gone to bed,” he explained. “It’s hard on my wife and kids, and it’s a long three months, so I wanted to let my wife know I couldn’t have done it without her. She’ll come to practice with the kids sometimes just so I can see them.
“I ran up there to give her a kiss and thank her,” he continued. “She just told me, ‘I’m so proud of you and the girls. I love you!’ When we win a state championship, I want my family to know they were a part of it. They’re my biggest supporters.”
LEFT, Burrillville senior goalie Nicole Ethier comes up with one of the 13 saves she was called upon to make during Sunday’s Division II title game against Scituate at Rhode Island College. The Broncos prevailed in a penalty kick shootout after the two teams played two 40-minute halves and two five-minute overtime periods without scoring. RIGHT, Burrillville senior Sheridan Tupper (22) calmly heads the ball away as several Scituate defenders close in on Ehtier, left.
Members of the Burrillville High girls’ soccer team flock to senior Emily Yankee (19) moments after clinching the Division II title against Scituate at Rhode Island College. Yankee scored in the penalty kick shootout format that was needed to decide the championship.
Members of the Burrillville High School girls’ soccer team gather around head coach Jeff Lavigne after capturing the Division II girls’ soccer championship at Rhode Island College on Sunday.
Burrillville’s Sydney Keegan (5) makes a play on the ball during Sunday’s Division II title game against Scituate.