Dream come true: Mount wins D-II title
PK victory over previously unbeaten Pilgrim caps girls’ soccer team’s magical run through playoffs
By Eric Benevides - Valley Breeze
JOHNSTON – Phil Pincince had a dream. And the first-year head coach shared it with his Mount Saint Charles Academy girls’ soccer team on his first day of workouts back at the end of August in the school’s lower field.
“I remember the first practice,” said goalkeeper Abby Dalpe. “He said that he had a dream that he could see us at Rhode Island College, and he went over and shook the other coach’s hand and said, ‘Great game.’
“In that dream, we had won, and the dream came true.”
And did it ever. For the first time in the program’s history, the Mounties captured the Division II championship by taking an edge-of-your-seat thriller with Pilgrim before a large crowd at Johnston High’s Polisena Stadium.
Tied at 2-2 after two 40-minute halves and two five-minute overtime periods, the game and the title were decided on penalty kicks. After the Mounties, who were making their first appearance in the finals in 20 years, struck gold on their first four shots and the Patriots missed their third, Dalpe smothered Pilgrim’s fourth PK and the championship and was instantly mobbed by her teammates just outside the penalty box.
“I’ve enjoyed working with these young ladies,” said Pincince, who had spent 39 seasons as the women’s soccer coach at Brown University before stepping out of retirement to lead the Mounties. “They’ve been great. They’ve worked hard for me, and they believed. What a great season. I’m so happy for them. Remember, they played; I didn’t.”
The high-powered Patriots, who entered the match with an 18-0 record that included 13 victories by four or more goals, appeared to be on the verge of another lopsided victory when they rolled out to a 2-0 lead 29 minutes into the match on goals by Alanna Coffie and Alexis Vieira, but the Mounties, who went 9-5-2 during the regular season and were the sixth seed in the tourney, had other ideas.
With 57 seconds left in the first half, they grabbed a bit of momentum when one of their youngest players, freshman Anna Giacobbe got her foot on a loose ball, and with Pilgrim goalkeeper Janelle Mixner out of position, fired it into the back of the net.
Nine minutes into the second half, the Mounties knotted the score on a goal by Katie Lynch that was assisted by Kaitlyn D’Abrosca, and after both teams failed to capitalize on some quality chances over the final 15 minutes of regulation, the contest headed into overtime, but Pincince’s focus was elsewhere.
“I told them at practice on Saturday that if we took this game to PKs, we would win it, and it came to fruition,” the former Brown University women’s coach admitted. “They understood that with the overtime (periods) only being five minutes (each), we just wanted to go to PKs at that time. We changed our system and we knew that we could hold on, and then we felt very confident going into the PKs.”
The first round of penalty kicks saw Lynch and Pilgrim’s McKenna Leahy each score goals with ease by depositing their shots into the bottom left corner of the net, and the second round saw D’Abrosca blast a shot into the top left corner of the goal and Vieira even things up with a low shot into the bottom right corner of the net.
Eileen Whalen then made good on Mount’s third PK by rifling a shot into the top right corner of the net, but Lily Brown couldn’t do likewise for Pilgrim. Her shot sailed over the crossbar, hit the crossbar of the football goalposts behind the net, and caromed away.
The Mounties’ fans erupted after Brown’s miss, and their cheers grew louder when Nicole Lemos gave Mount a two-shot advantage by tucking a goal into the bottom left corner of the net.
Needing a save or another Pilgrim miss to seal the shootout and the title, Dalpe cradled Amelia Murphy’s kick in front of the net, and the Mounties stormed the field in jubilation.
“Personally, I really like PKs, and not too many goalies can say that,” Dalpe admitted. “Usually, when I’m on that line, all I can think about is the way (the shooter’s) hips are going, because that’s where the ball is going and I just kind of focus on that.”
“Give credit to Pilgrim,” added Pincince. “They had an 18-0 season. Their goalkeeper came up big, and so did Abby. This was a great state final. Anybody in those stands had to be entertained today.”
While Sunday’s match was indeed an entertaining one, so was the Mounties’ march through the postseason. The Mounties, who went 7-1-1 in their final nine matches (with the regular-season loss coming to Pilgrim, 2-1, on Oct. 24), netted a 1-0 triumph over 11th-seeded West Warwick in an opening-round game that was also decided by penalty kicks. In the quarterfinals, they nipped 3rd-seeded Exeter/West Greenwich, 1-0, and in the semis, they downed 10th-seeded Moses Brown, 2-0.
“We’ve been practicing PKs almost every single day,” said Dalpe. “We all think he’s kind of psychic because he said that we were going to PKs in the West Warwick game and we did.”
WORTH THE WAIT: Mount wins Division II title
By Branden Mello - Woonsocket Call
JOHNSTON — Undefeated Pilgrim didn’t realize it at the time, but when Monday afternoon’s Division II girls soccer title game went to extra time, No. 6 Mount St. Charles was the favorite for the first time in the back-and-forth contest.
The Mounties, who received goals from freshman Anna Giacobbe and senior Katie Lynch to erase an early two-goal deficit, believed that the Patriots, who cruised through an unblemished regular season, couldn’t handle the intense pressure of executing in a penalty-kick shootout with a title on the line.
After Giacobbe nearly won the game herself in the 86th minute, the Mounties went to penalty kicks for the second time this postseason – and for the second time this postseason they were perfect. Lynch and fellow seniors Kaitlyn D’Abrosca, Eileen Whalen and Nicole Lemos all brilliantly converted their kicks, while senior goalie Abbie Dalpe dove to her left to deny Pilgrim’s Amelia Murphy to secure the Mounties a 2-2 (4-2 in penalty kicks) victory over the Patriots to win the program’s first title of any kind in just its second finals appearance.
“I told them at practice on Saturday, ‘If you take Pilgrim to PKs, you’re going to win the [D-II] championship,’” first-year coach Phil Pincince said. “When we got to OT, which is only five minutes in each half, we changed everything to a more defensive approach. I believed in these girls and they got a big reward. They won it.”
“We knew going in that they were going to be a hard team. We didn’t expect to be losing, but there was a strong possibility that we were the underdog because they were 18-0,” D’Abrosca said. “We knew going in that we had to persevere no matter what the scoreboard said. We’ve been working on penalty kicks for months because we wanted to be here today.”
“We knew if that we put our hearts to it and worked hard, we would win,” Lynch said after playing all 90 minutes. “We practiced a lot and we believed in ourselves. To do this is amazing. We actually pulled it off.”
Mount St. Charles (13-5-2 Division II) had already been in a penalty shootout once this postseason. In the opening round, the Mounties made all five of their kicks – junior Delaney Green delivered the winning kick that day – in a 5-4 victory over West Warwick. Monday’s shootout was a little less stressful.
McKenna Leahy canceled out Lynch’s opening kick and Alexis Vieria, who scored in the 29th minute to put the Patriots up 2-0, matched D’Abrosca from the spot. The Mounties took the lead for good in the third round when Whalen ripped a shot to the left of freshman goalie Janelle Mixner.
Pilgrim sophomore striker Lily Brown followed with a kick over Dalpe’s goal, and the Mounties were on the precipice of the title when Lemos deposited her shot into the net. Dalpe followed with a save of Murphy’s effort to secure the Mounties the school’s first title of any kind since the 2015 Division II boys soccer title.
“Between every single kick I was saying a Hail Mary because I knew that we could do this,” Dalpe said. “Once [Murphy] stepped up my mind just shut down. All I could think of was that ball and I touched it. It feels so great, I’m so glad we had Phil this year. Oh my God.”
Pilgrim (18-1 Division II) looked every bit the favorite to win its second D-II title in five seasons. After surviving the first 15 minutes where the Mounties had chances through the talented Green and the speedy Giacobbe, the Patriots started dominating the midfield and dictating the tempo of the contest.
The Patriots opened the scoring in the 24th minute when senior Jordan Petrucci played a long ball over the top of the Mount defense right into the path of freshman Alanna Coffie, who slid a shot past Dalpe. It was the first time the senior had given up a goal in 274 minutes of playoff action.
It took the Patriots just five more minutes to increase its lead to two when Vieira brilliantly turned her defender 40 yards from the goal before blasting a 25-yard right-footed shot into the top corner of the net. Mount, however, scored a crucial goal just before halftime. Giacobbe beat three Pilgrim defenders to a loose ball and put a shot past Mixner, who was out of position after the mix up by her defenders.
“We had nothing to lose,” senior midfielder Renee Jacques said. “They’ve been dominating this whole season and we just wanted to show them that we could dominate, too. Some of us put our heads down after the second goal and said ‘Wow, that just happened.’ We realized we had so much time left and we just got it done.”
Pincince made a radical change to his formation in the second half, going from two forwards to four forwards and daring Pilgrim to beat them on the counterattack. With Jacques and D’Abrosca playing more advanced roles, the Mounties scored the game-tying goal just nine minutes into the second half.
After the Patriots failed to properly clear a corner kick, D’Abrosca played a ball on the ground to the feet of Lynch, who had her back to the Pilgrim goal. The senior spun and ripped a left-footed shot to the right of Mixner.
“She turned and I called ‘Back,’ and she played it over,” Lynch said. “That was it.”
Both teams had chance their chances to score over an action-packed final 30 minutes of regulation. The best chances came in the final eight minutes, as Leahy blasted a shot off the underside of Dalpe’s crossbar and the Patriots failed to convert on a rebound in the goal mouth.
And then, with four minutes left in regulation, Lemos headed a corner kick that was cleared off the goal line by a Patriot defender to send the game to extra time.
That simply set the stage for the Mounties to do what they do best – convert penalty kicks. “Coach said ‘If you want to dream that we can do it, you can actually do it,’” Lynch said. “It’s amazing that he believed in us because we actually pulled it off.”
D-II girls soccer championship: Mount St. Charles completes Cinderella run
By Bill Koch - Providence Journal
JOHNSTON --- Phil Pincince was playing a retiree’s stereotypical round of golf when his next coaching opportunity arrived.
His 39-year tenure with the Brown University women’s soccer program included more than 300 victories and six NCAA Tournament appearances. Pincince’s new team was a bit younger but, as Mount St. Charles proved late Monday afternoon at Polisena Stadium, no less prepared for success.
The Mounties came from behind in regulation and completed a Cinderella run through the playoffs by knocking off previously unbeaten Pilgrim in a shootout, 2-2 (4-2).
Abbie Dalpe’s final save in the fourth round of penalty kicks closed it out for the Mounties, who scored on all four of their chances. Katie Lynch, Kaitlyn D’Abrosca, Eileen Whalen and Nicole Lemos were cool under fire as Mount celebrated its first finals appearance since 1998 with a championship.
“We believe in each other,” Lynch said. “Even if we weren’t the top seed or in first place, we never stopped going. We played with our hearts today.”
Pincince was grouped in a charity tournament with Mounties’ co-athletic director Ray Leveille when the subject of the school’s vacant girls soccer job came up. Pincince demurred at first but was approached again by Leveille two months later, and the Woonsocket native couldn’t say no a second time. Mount (13-5-2) improved steadily throughout the season, going 7-1-1 in its last nine matches and rising above the No. 6 seed it carried into the playoffs.
“I’ve enjoyed working with these young ladies,” Pincince said. “They’ve been great. They’ve worked hard for me and they believed.”
Pilgrim (18-1-0) looked to have matters in hand late in the first half. Jordan Petrucci’s clearance sent Alana Coffie in for a breakaway goal in the 24th minute, making it 1-0. The Patriots doubled their lead five minutes later on a fantastic strike by Alexis Vieira, who turned smoothly from all of 25 yards and rifled a right-footed shot into the top right corner.
But it was a vastly different halftime team talk delivered by Pincince after the events of the final minute. Mount St. Charles played a ball over the top and Pilgrim keeper Janelle Mixner came well off her line to stop the initial shot. The rebound fell to Anna Giacobbe, and she calmly slotted home into the empty cage to make it 2-1 into the break.
“It was like, ‘We’re still in the game,’” Lynch said. “We could regroup for the next 40 minutes and actually pull it off.”
The Mounties continued to press after the break and drew even again just nine minutes after halftime. D’Abrosca made a pinpoint pass off the right wing that found Lynch inside the penalty area, and she made no mistake with a cool finish. The two sides battled through an exhilarating next 41 minutes, both hitting the crossbar at one point and forcing Dalpe and Mixner to make a series of fine saves.
“If we played with our hearts we could actually pull this off,” Lynch said. “It was a dream that actually came true.”
MOUNT ST. CHARLES (2): Anna Giacobbe, Katie Lynch; assist – Kaitlyn D’Abrosca. Shootout – Lynch, D’Abrosca, Eileen Whalen, Nicole Lemos.
PILGRIM (2): Alana Coffie, Alexis Vieira; assist – Jordan Petrucci. Shootout – McKenna Leahy, Vieira.
Halftime – P, 2-1. End of regulation – 2-2. End of first OT – 2-2. End of second OT – 2-2. Saves – Abbie Dalpe, MSC, 13; Janelle Mixner, P, 7.
Mount prepared for Moses Brown
-Mounties haven't allowed a goal in playoffs
By Branden Mello - Woonsocket Call
WOONSOCKET — The girls soccer playoffs have gone according to seed in the Division I and Division III tournaments. And then there’s Division II. While top-seeded Pilgrim breezed into the semifinals to earn a date with No. 4 Westerly in the semifinals, the bottom half of the bracket is pure carnage after three road teams pulled off upsets in the first two rounds.
No. 10 Moses Brown upset No. 7 Chariho and then elimi- nated No. 2 Wheeler in a penalty shootout to earn a trip to Cumberland’s Tucker Field tomorrow night at 7:30 against No. 6 Mount St. Charles following the Mounties’ 1-0 victory over No. 3 Exeter-West Greenwich Sunday afternoon.
“We were confident and we played our game,” Mount St. Charles coach Phil Pincince said. “[EWG] is a good team and they have a couple of dangerous players in the midfield. They had a chance to tie the game in the final minute on a free kick from 25 yards out, but their kid put it over the crossbar. Playoff games can go either way, so it was a good win for us. We did a nice job.” The biggest reason the Mounties are headed back to Tucker Field to play in a semifinal for the second time in three seasons is defense. Senior goalie Abbie Dalpe hasn’t allowed a goal in 170 minutes of playoff action. The defense, which is led by Eileen Whalen, Lena Nguyen. Kylie Perron and Meghan Whalen, played superb against No. 11 West Warwick and the Scarlet Knights. “The big thing for us back there is they’re all on the same page,” Pincince said. “It goes back to this thing we talk about ‘we’ instead of ‘me.’ We talked about covering for each other on Sunday. They didn’t play a football game the day before, but the field was slick and muddy. We knew someone was going to slip or fall and the ball would come loose, so we needed to anticipate covering for each other.” Pincince felt his team played really well in the first half, and the Mounties generated three scoring chances, but the teams went into halftime scoreless. Mount freshman Anna Gicobbe scored the game-winning goal early in the second half and the Mounties held on for the victory. Moses Brown didn’t even qualify for the playoffs until the final game of the regular season, a 4-3 home victory over Ponaganset. Along with that win, the Quakers have beaten three of the top seven teams in the division to reach the semifinals for the second straight season. In the teams’ first meeting this season in Providence, the Quakers scored three times in the first half to secure a 3-0 victory. Just like that meeting, tomorrow night’s game is on FieldTurf. The Quakers have played 13 games on Field Turf this season, while the Mounties have played only two. Mount didn’t score in either contest. “Their goalie [Kelly Graziano] is really good, so you have to beat her. She’s not going to make mistakes,” Pincince said. “We’ve ingrained that in them. We need to make sure we win the first ball and the second ball. We need to do the same things we did the other day. This should be a great match. “We lost to them on turf at their place and they deserved to win that game. We get a chance to redeem ourselves.” The Quakers are led by Burrillville resident MaryBeth Fitzsimmons, Morgan Plouffe and Cate Greene in attack, while the Mounties have received solid offensive contributions from Gicobbe, Delaney Green, Katie Lynch, Kaitlyn D’Abrosca and Renee Jacques. “I think we’re a better team than we were earlier in the season,” Pincince said. “We tweak the starting lineup all the time. We did in Sunday’s game and we’ll do it again on Wednesday. My players adjust quickly, so we’ll see what happens. Like I told them, this is a bonus. We’ve had six bonus practices and it’s up to them if we have a seventh and an eighth.”
Marathon Mounties: MSC beats West Warwick in penalty kicks
By Branden Mello - Woonsocket Call
WOONSOCKET — Most soccer coaches start preparing for a potential penalty-kick shootout when the regular season concludes, but Mount first-year coach Phil Pincince has been around the sport long enough to know it takes more time than that to prepare players physically and mentally for the pressure-packed cauldron of one-on-one competition.
That’s why the former Brown University coach has been working on penalty-kick situations since he started practice in August.
The nearly three months of preparation paid off in a Division II preliminary contest against No. 11 West Warwick Wednesday afternoon. After the teams failed to score in 90 minutes of regulation and overtime, the squads each scored on their first four penalty kicks before Delaney Green put her shot just over Zolia Enriquez for the game-winning goal in a 0-0 (5-4) shootout victory over the talented Wizards.
“I was very nervous making the walk, but I don’t know if coach was physic or what, but we’ve been training for PKs and going through the five girls every week and preparing,” Green said. “I tried to act like it wasn’t 4-4 in the game. I know coach likes me to shoot low, but for my club team I like to go high to the corner. I didn’t mean to hit where I did, but it worked out.”
Green’s kick only set the stage for West Warwick sophomore Gabrielle Gonzalez to try and send the game to a sudden-death shootout. The Wizard blast her shot to the same spot as Green’s, but Mount goalie Abbie Dalpe managed to get a finger tip to it before the ball cannoned off the crossbar to send the Mounties to their fourth straight Division II quarterfinal.
Dalpe has now won penalty-kick shootouts in the last three seasons. As a sophomore, she was in net when Mount defeated Burrillville for the JV state title. She was also in net last season when Mount upset Ponaganset in the D-II preliminary round.
“Honestly, I feel real good about PKs,” Dalpe said. “Most goalies don’t feel that way. My nervousness in the overtimes was through the roof, but then in PKs, I was just like ‘We got this.’ I’m just used to practicing them. I have a good feeling in these.”
“Abby wants to be in there, you can tell,” Pincince said. “Some goalies have heavy legs in there, but she’s moving around and getting her hands on the ball.”
West Warwick (5-8-4 Division II) was the only side to put the ball in the net during the first 90 minutes, but the Wizards had what would’ve been the game-winning goal in the first overtime expunged because of an offside call. Even though his squad dealt with numerous injuries, West Warwick coach Dan Lima was proud of the way the Wizards played during the season and in Wednesday’s game.
“Unfortunately, we had to go to a shootout, so it’s tough to lose in a shootout,” Lima said. “We played really well and we defended really well. I think we scored, but they took it away from us – I didn’t think it was offside. Nobody wants to take a penalty shot because it’s difficult and a lot of pressure. I’m proud of them. We fought until the end.”
No. 6 Mount St. Charles (10-5-2 Division II) advanced to the quarterfinals Saturday morning at 9 o’clock against No. 3 Exeter-West Greenwich. The Scarlet Knights only lost one home game this season – to Mount St. Charles, 2-1, on Sept. 26. The Mounties received a first-half goal from Katie Lynch and the game winner from Anna Gicobbe.
“We definitely need to play even better on Saturday,” Pincince said. “As you move forward in the playoffs, you have to bring your A-game plus. I talked to them about bringing their A-game today, we need to bring our A-game plus in the next round. We just need to make faster decisions and move the ball.”
Wednesday, each team had one good scoring opportunity in an otherwise nondescript first half. Green beat two defenders, but fired a left-footed shot over the West Warwick goal in the ninth minute. Senior Deana Maynard had a free kick saved by Dalpe in the 37th minute. Dalpe made five saves in the win.
The Wizards dominated the opening 10 minutes of the second half, creating numerous chances. The Wizards nearly scored in the 47th minute, but Mount sophomore Kylie Perron blocked a close-range shot.
After neither team scored in the second half and the two overtimes failed to produce a winner, the contest moved to penalty kicks. Mount received goals from Lynch, senior Kaitlyn D’Abrosca, Eileen Whalen and Nicole Lemos to set the stage for Green. The junior, who is dealing with an ankle injury, just put her shot under the crossbar.
West Warwick also received scores from Sam Strain, Jazlyn Estrella and Maynard to send Gonzalez to the line. Dalpe saved the ball on to the crossbar to eliminate the Wizards.
“I got a little touch on it. It was going to hit bar, but I touched it,” Dalpe said. “I know how to read their bodies – it’s a secret technique. You can’t look at their face because they can fake you out. You have to look at their hips because they can’t move their hips in a different direction than they’re shooting.”
WOONSOCKET — Mount St. Charles first-year girls soccer coach – and former longtime Brown University women’s soccer coach – Phil Pincince doesn’t look at the game as 22 players running around a 7,000 square-yard field trying to score goals.
Pincince views the game as a series of puzzles that his team must troubleshoot to try and break down an opponent to score. That was the case Wednesday against Johnston, where the Mounties failed to score in the first 35 minutes.
“We’ve talked about people accepting different responsibilities so we can be better at problem solving against different teams. They’ve accepted that challenge,” Pincince said. “If you saw our lineup from the first game of the season until now, we’re moving pieces of the puzzle around and solving problems. I’m very happy, but we still have to make a few more tweaks. I’m happy because they are working hard.”
The Mounties eventually solved the Panthers’ puzzle and punished the visitors with five goals in a 26-minute span. Senior forward Renee Jacques scored a pair of goals, including the game-winning effort in the 36th minute, while senior midfielder Katie Lynch, sophomore Sophie Staelen and senior Kaitlyn D’Abrosca each produced two points in the 5-0 Division II victory.
Mount St. Charles (6-3 Division II) has outscored its last four opponents 15-2 during a four-game winning streak to move into position to host a quarterfinal contest. While undefeated Pilgrim is running away with the regular-season title, the Mounties are battling Chariho, Westerly and Exeter-West Greenwich for second place.
“We talked at halftime about how we needed to win more of the second 50-50 balls in midfield,” Pincince said. “Johnston is very good and they have some very good players in [senior forward Bianca Robbins] and [midfielder Grace Muller] and we were aware of that. We needed to stop them, but I thought we did a good job of moving the ball faster in the second half, so we got them a little more disconnected in the midfield.”
“Coach is awesome,” Lynch said. “His big thing is for us to play as a team and not play as me. He also wants us to do a better job combining with passes and use the flanks.”
Johnston (3-3-1 Division II) moved up after winning last season’s Division III title. The Panthers forced senior goalie Abbie Dalpe to make a number of point-blank saves, but Dalpe, Meghan Whalen and Eileen Whalen did a superb job slowing down Robbins, who led the state in goals last season.
After coming close to scoring on two occasions late in the first half, the Mounties finally opened the scoring in the 36th minute when the Panthers failed to deal with a cross from the right touchline. Staelen kept the ball alive for Jacques to smash into the net from six yards.
It took the hosts just three minutes of the second half to double their lead and it all came from Lynch, who played a superb through ball behind the Panther defense. Gicobbe won the race to the ball and slotted a shot into the net.
“It was a two-on-two, so I attacked the space and made one of the defenders come up,” Lynch said. “Once she stepped up, I made the pass and split them, and Anna was there. I just had to curl it a little bit so she could run on to it.”
Johnston goalie Hailey Gaunt was under siege for most of the second half. The third Mount goal came in the 59th minute when D’Abrosca found Jacques for her second goal. D’Abrosca scored a goal of her own two minutes later when she headed a Lynch ball into the net. Mount finished the scoring a minute later when Jacques fed Staelen.
The Mounties step out of league play Friday evening to take on Division III Central Falls as part of a doubleheader with the boys squad. The next league contest is Wednesday afternoon, when Middletown makes the long trek from Aquidneck Island.
“I was talking to the kids last week and I said to them, ‘We have four weeks left. Have you learned enough? Do you want me to coast or do you want to keep getting better so you’re playing the best soccer at the end of the year?’” Pincince said. “They said they want to keep going. I love to teach and I love to coach.”
Mount St. Charles 1 4 - 5
First half – MSC, Renee Jacques (Sophie Staelen), 36:00.
Second half – MSC, Anna Gicobbe (Katie Lynch), 43:00; MSC, Jacques (Kaitlyn D’Abrosca), 59:00; MSC, D’Abrosca (Lynch) 61:00; MSC, Staelen (Jacques), 62:00.
Saves – J, Hailey Gaunt (10 saves); MSC, Abbie Dalpe (7 saves).