Falcons hit stride, shut out Scarlet Knights

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All the Cranston West girls’ soccer team has strived for this season is consistency.

After graduating nine seniors, including All-Division selections Jenna Palmer and Gabby Caruso, the Falcons have been trying to find a rhythm. They had a lead over reigning champion La Salle earlier in the season, but the Rams notched a late goal to salvage a 1-1 tie.

“I underestimated the power of the leadership we lost in our nine graduating seniors, but I think we’re just starting to find form,” West head coach Jeremy Sherer said. “There’s a lot of good kids coming up.”

Following that effort, though, West was outscored 12-2 in back-to-back losses to Mt. Hope and Toll Gate.

Weeks later, last Tuesday, the Falcons edged out Coventry for a 1-0 win. Then, on Thursday, it battled to a 0-0 tie with Cumberland, which sports one of the state’s most prolific scorers, Julianne Ross.

“When we go to La Salle, when we go to Cumberland, we get really psyched, really focused,” Sherer said. “We have a lot of energy, we were disciplined. We played a phenomenal game against Cumberland, same thing with La Salle. Then we come back here against Mt. Hope and we forgot how to play.”

That represented West’s first point streak of the year, and it continued with a 5-0 triumph over Exeter/West Greenwich on Tuesday. It was a balanced effort for the Falcons, as they received goals from four different players. Melanie Dugas led the way with a first-half brace.

West snagged momentum in the opening minutes and carried it throughout the first half. Freshman Elizabeth Marses opened the scoring when she took a cross from Abby Souza and buried it.

Dugas added to the lead minutes later when she charged into the Scarlet Knights’ box and flicked a shot attempt over the goalkeeper. The ball rolled slowly, but had just enough on it to pass the goal line before an EWG defender could reach it.

The senior forward tacked on another in the 33rd minute, taking a cross from sophomore defender Melissa Murphy and putting a shot under the outstretched arms of the keeper.

Junior Cosette Lee one-upped that impressive goal with one of her own. With a defender draped on her just inside the box, she pivoted to her right and fired a shot high into twine. West had a comfortable 4-0 lead heading into the half, and the defense took over from there.

The Scarlet Knights had a few more chances after the intermission, but West’s stingy defense was there to neutralize all of them. Souza would add a score of her own in the late stages to ice the win.

The Falcons find themselves one point out of a playoff spot with just two league games left to play. They travel to Lincoln (8-3-2) tonight at 6:30 p.m. before welcoming Smithfield (8-4-0) on Senior Day next Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at Cranston Stadium.

Those last two league games will be played on turf, which Sherer said benefits his side.

“We definitely play better on turf, we’re more used to that from the style we want to play,” Sherer said. “Hopefully we can take points from one or both of them and make playoffs, and that’s it.”

The postseason is the goal for West, but the young squad is one to watch for the next couple of years. The Falcons will lose fewer seniors this year, but their top two scorers (Souza and Dugas) and goalkeeper Olivia Idowu are included in that group.

“Were losing a smaller group of seniors, I don’t want to minimize their value, but losing nine was a hard transition,” Sherer said. “I think we’ve got a lot of good players in.”

Going forward, the youthful Falcons will look to cultivate leadership and grow to be a force in Division I.

“We spend a lot of time working on developing leadership,” Sherer said. “So I think we’ve got good leadership, and it continues to get better every year.”

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