Chieftains take season title
Chieftains take season title
Recording their seventh consecutive shutout, the defensive-minded Ponaganset Middle School boys soccer team secured the Northern Division championship with a pair of wins last week.
The Chieftains, who have allowed only three goals in 11 games this season, two of them in one game, a 2-2 tie against Mount St. Charles Academy early in the season, remained undefeated at 8-0-3 by beating Mount, 2-0, and Burrillville, 1-0.
Coach Sumiyo Lupini's team battled Mount through a scoreless first half last week. At the 12-minute mark in the second half, midfielder Ryan Watts took a pass from Scott Barber and rifled it into the Mount net for the game's first score.
The Chieftains got an insurance goal with four minutes remaining when Mount was called for a defender foul in the box and Evan Halberg was awarded a penalty shot and made sure he didn't miss.
It was a similar game when Ponaganset took on Burrillville later in the week, with first place on the line. The teams struggled to score and ended the half in a scoreless tie.
With 15 minutes remaining in the game, striker Kaan Ispir took a pass from Barber, maneuvered his way around a defender and found the back of the net, giving his team the 1-0 win.
Continuing what has become a remarkable season, keeper Devon Atkinson recorded nine saves to record his seventh consecutive shutout and ninth of the season.
It is the first regular season championship for Lupini, who has coached in town recreational leagues and coached the Ponaganset Middle School girls team before taking over the boys team last year and leading them to a playoff berth.
"Our goal last year was to make it to the playoffs and we did," she said. "This year, the goal was to win the division championship. We did not expect to go undefeated, but that's our goal now."
Ponaganset concludes it regular season this week by hosting Lincoln.
North Cumberland Middle School snapped a two-game losing streak and posted a big 4-2 win over Lincoln. NCMS can secure second place in the division if it beats Mount St. Charles Academy in its final game this week. At worse, the team will finish in third place and has secured a playoff slot.
Both Aiden Bagley and Jack Andrews were dominant for North Cumberland, each scoring a pair of goals.
"Those two boys are tough and physically bigger than any of our guys, and they have a good skill set to go along with their size," said Lincoln coach Vern Howard. "They were really tough on us."
The Lincoln goals came from Walter Albizures and Sam Howard.
Defensively, North Smithfield has played well all season. It's a lack of scoring that has been the albatross for coach Ed Cabana's team and that didn't change last week when it dropped a 3-0 decision to Burrillville, and then lost a 3-2 decision to Mount St. Charles.
"We show flashes and give ourselves some good scoring opportunities, but we just can't seem to finish," said Cabana.
It was particularly disappointing for North Smithfield in the Mount game because they played one of their best halves of the season, taking a 2-0 lead.
But Mount totally reversed things in the second half, scoring four goals and holding the Northmen without a score.
"We controlled play in the second half, and North Smithfield was only able to get across midfield a couple of times," said Mount coach Adam Wolny. "We had a great team effort in the second half with great passing and we showed a lot of determination."
Scoring for Mount were Jacob Lawrence, Dre Danneker and Patrick Kumar.
The North Smithfield goals were scored by Michael Fernandes and Riley Crozier. Turning in strong performances for the Northmen were defensemen Jake Labonte and Quintan Anderson, and midfielders Liam Zonin and Bryan Decelles.
Heading into the final week of the regular season, Ponaganset is in first place at 8-0-3, followed by Burrillville, 8-4; North Cumberland, 7-3; Lincoln, 4-5-2; McCourt, 3-6-1; Mount St. Charles, 1-6-3, and North Smithfield, 0-7-3.