The Johnston girls’ soccer team looked out of sorts early in Tuesday’s match-up with West Warwick and never seemed to get much better.
The Panthers fell behind 3-0 in the first 25 minutes of the game, and gave up three more goals in the second half before finally tallying one goal late. It was not nearly enough, though, as Johnston lost 6-1.
The loss dropped it to 3-5 overall in Division III.
“Something that we’ve been trying to get the team to do is possess the ball,” Johnston head coach Tim Sprouls said. “We don’t do that. I’m not sure what the solution is, because in practice we preach a certain style of play. When they get out on the field, they kind of abandon it.”
The Panthers struggled to even get the ball over midfield in the first half and when they did, it was often given away quickly, setting the stage for a West Warwick opportunity.
The Wizards, who improved to 6-4, didn’t waste many of those chances.
They scored for the first time in the 14th minute when Kendra Quimby stole the ball in Johnston territory, dribbled in on a breakaway and beat keeper Karissa Valentine for the 1-0 lead.
Four minutes later, Rebecca Pacheco took a corner for the Wizards, and the ball landed squarely at the feet of an unmarked Quimby on the back post. She easily knocked it into the net for her second goal.
Then, in the 25th minute, Brighton Landroche slipped a through ball towards the goal line on the right, and Quimby won a foot race there.
From a tough angle, Quimby wound up and ripped her third goal of the game past Valentine, giving the Wizards a 3-0 lead.
Johnston had one opportunity toward the end of the half when Alexandra Robbins crossed the ball from the right to Rachelle Boehm in the middle, but Boehm’s shot went over the crossbar and the score remained 3-0 West Warwick.
“Maybe they’re just panicking,” Sprouls said. “So many balls are just kicked away and we just give it to the other team. When you do that frequently, you tire yourself out and you give them another chance to score.”
The second half opened with a scary moment, when Valentine went down on the right side of the goal after a collision. She remained on the ground for some time before walking off on her own power.
“It’s not too serious,” Sprouls said. “But I didn’t want to take any chances of putting her back in.”
It was a spot start for Valentine, who was playing in place of the usual keeper, Karina Mattera.
With the Panthers battling injuries to many of their starters, Sprouls thought Mattera would be more important in the field.
When Valentine went down, though, she went back into goal, leaving Johnston even more short-handed.
“Four starters were out and I was trying to see if I thought our usual keeper would do a good job in the field,” Sprouls said. “Karina Mattera is a good all-around soccer player. She has a lot of speed, too, and I was trying to get some speed on the defensive line.”
Once play resumed after the injury, West Warwick picked up right where it had left off.
It got a goal from Landroche, sandwiched between two goals from Kimberly Denice to up the lead to 6-0.
Johnston did finally get on the board in the 75th minute when it was awarded a penalty kick that Boehm easily converted for a goal.
However, other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot to be excited about.
“I don’t know about getting to the playoffs, I’m not even thinking that far,” Sprouls said. “Just taking it one game at a time and learn how to play as a team.”
The Panthers still have time to right the ship. They’re in eighth place out of 17 teams in D-III, and they have eight more division games remaining in the regular season.
Next on the slate is a road game at Central on Friday at 4 p.m. The Knights, who are currently 1-7-1, offer Johnston a good chance to get back on track.
“We just have to keep working at it,” Sprouls said.