EAST PROVIDENCE — The reigning league champion East Providence High School girls' lacrosse squad made a successful return to the postseason Thursday night, May 25, when the fourth-seeded …
EAST PROVIDENCE — The reigning league champion East Providence High School girls' lacrosse squad made a successful return to the postseason Thursday night, May 25, when the fourth-seeded Townies dispatched visiting and fifth-seeded Cranston East by an 11-2 score in the quarterfinals of the 2023 Division III playoffs.
East Providence broke open a close game in the second half, holding the Thunderbolts scoreless over the final 25 minutes while the Townies netted eight goals to turn the contest into a rout.
EPHS senior Ryleigh Grant, recently announced as the D-III midfielder of the year, led all scorers with a night-best six goals, five in the second half as the Townies cruised after leading just 3-2 at intermission. She upped her season total to 78.
Kenna Wigginton added a hat-trick for the locals. Abigail Leddy and Makayla Rebelo chipped in with a goal apiece. Townies' goalie Ava Williams made six saves.
"I think the first half we came out a little bit nervous. It was a big game for a lot of them. We only have a handful who were with us last year in this situation, so there were a lot of new faces. But once we were able to dial in, revert to what we did last game and most of the season we were able to take off," EPHS head coach Haley McCusker said of the Townies, who won three games last spring on their way to the 2022 division title.
The locals started out the game relatively well, having the better of the play and creating the initial scoring chance barely a minute in. But Cranston East keeper Maura Kitterick, who kept the 'Bolts in the contest really with her nine saves total, stymied EP's Emma Nordquist following a foul to keep the game scoreless. Moments later Nordquist also hit the post to Kitterick's right to be foiled again.
East Providence would eventually break the ice just over five minutes in when Grant assisted to Wigginton off a set play to make 1-0 Townies.
Barely a minute later, though, Cranston East leveled the score on a Lily Tillinghast tally. Williams made the initial save on the Thunderbolts' advance, but the Townies couldn't gain possession leading to Tillinghast's chance.
Grant later netted her first of the night after she was crossed checked with 17:46 to go. About a minute later Wigginton had the helper on Leddy's goal and the locals were seemingly in control.
East Providence, however, couldn't solve Kitterick and the hosts were a bit sloppy at both ends, which allowed the 'Bolts to hang around the rest of the first half.
And the visitors finally made the Townies pay with a little over three minutes remaining the period when Kylie McCreavy scored following an EP turnover to make it 3-2.
Cranston East appeared to maintain the momentum at the start of the second half, though Williams stood tall on a couple of early Thunderbolt opportunities to maintain the Townies' slight edge.
"Ava made some great saves," McCusker said of her keeper. "She held them in the second to no goals, which was fantastic and the defense played fantastic the second half, too. That was super impressive, especially at this point in the season."
Rebelo then got East Providence going with her goal 7:56 into period. And from there, the locals were off.
The Townies scored four times over the next 2:59, beginning with Wigginton's second, again off a Grant feed, at 15:14. Wigginton scored next following a foul at 14:03 to make it 6-2.
Then Grant just grabbed the game by the throat, scoring twice in less than a minute. The first came off a penalty and the second when she rolled behind the Cranston East net.
Kitterick did make a handful of saves around Grant's next two tallies, but even she couldn't help but flinch in the face of East Providence's standout.
After an EP turnover, Kitterick took possession. She scanned the field for a bit, but threw it right to an uncovered Grant, who caught it, took a couple of strides then beat the now beleaguered 'Bolts' keeper for the 11th and last goal of the game with 2:27 left.
"We had a good mentality. We wanted it. We were picking up every groundball, picking up every turnover. We just locked down everywhere on the field," Grant said of the difference in the Townies' play during the second half.
The Townies, who closed out the regular season with a 17-12 win over Westerly last week, improved to 10-4 in league games and completed a three-game sweep of Cranston East. EPHS beat the Thunderbolts by 11-8 and 15-7 scores in their two previous meetings.
The locals now ready for a semifinal encounter with top-seeded Narragansett. The Mariners had their season-long unbeaten streak snapped by another city side, Bay View, in their finale last week after suffering a 10-8 loss to the Bengals.
Host 'Gansett beat EP 8-4 in their only regular season meeting played on May 8. The Townies will again take to the road to face the Mariners in the semis either Tuesday, May 30, or Wednesday, May 31.
"We need to have the right mentality. Like when we went into the Westerly game we wanted, and we have to have that same mentality when we play them," Grant said of the rematch with Narragansett. "We want to come out strong and keep the momentum the whole game."