Bron­cos reign in thrilling fash­ion af­ter hold­ing off Spar­tans in shootout

Woonsocket Call - - Front Page - By JON BAKER jbaker@paw­tuck­et­

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.”

Pho­tos by Jerry Sil­ber­man | risport­

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...

Photo by Jerry Sil­ber­man | risport­

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...

Photo by Jerry Sil­ber­man | risport­

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.

Photo by Jerry Sil­ber­man | risport­

Bur­ril­lville’s Syd­ney Kee­gan (5) makes a play on the ball dur­ing Sun­day’s Divi­sion II ti­tle game against Sc­i­t­u­ate.

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