South Kingstown didn’t have quite enough in a 1-0 semifinal loss to Tolman last year. While the Tigers went on to win the state title, the Rebels headed into the offseason with the feeling from that loss fresh in their minds and an idea of what to do about it. Even with some key graduation losses, the bar always remains high in South Kingstown, and now the Rebels would like to inch it up.
They’re looking for a little extra.
“We’ve kind of tried to elevate our training sessions and the mindset in the group to demand that little bit more from themselves individually and collectively as a team,” head coach Adam Howarth said. “That’s the environment we’re trying to create and thankfully, the boys have bought into it.”
The Rebels were state finalists in 2015 and 2017 before last year’s semifinal appearance. A handful of players with championship match experience are still in the fold and leading the way.
While last year’s senior class wasn’t big, it did include URI-bound Sam White and top scoring threat Papa Badiane. Senior Jack McCarty, a four-year starter and now a two-year captain, leads the way in the midfield. Owen Horiagon anchors the defense as another captain. Curtis Granville, who missed most of last year with an injury, is also a captain and has big goal-scoring potential.
Junior Jack Coley and sophomores Colin O’Grady and Brendan Reilly are competing for the goalie position. Several juniors and sophomores who got their feet wet last year will step into bigger roles this season, and there’s more talent coming up behind them.
“The players we’re missing, they were key players. But a bunch of the boys have stepped up and assumed those roles, so it’s been good,” Howarth said. “Within SK, you always have a good crop of players coming through. That’s why we place such a huge importance on the JV, because that’s where those players are coming from. It’s good to see and it’s good to use these [preseason] games to get them a little bit of experience.”
Howarth and his staff are entering their second year at the helm, and eager to keep the Rebels among the state’s best.
“That’s something we spoke about,” Howarth said. “I’m obviously new to the program also, but that was something, when we came in and our coaches Alex Armstrong and Rob Lavalee – we really wanted to establsih that culture and that mindset, set the expectations that we want to be part of the conversation at the end of the season.”
NK has good mix
A good core that’s been together for years is a sturdy building block.
A good core being pushed by hungry newcomers might be an even better setup, and that’s what North Kingstown has this season.
“I came in with this senior class. I’ve been with them for four years and they’ve stuck together for the most part,” head coach Paul Fanning said. “But at the same time, we probably have 10 new people on the team, with underclassmen and transfers. It’s a nice combo – people who really know what we’re doing and people who are hungry and excited to come in and show what they can do. I like that balance.”
The Skippers hope it leads to improvement. Last season, one year removed from logging the best record in Division I, North Kingstown slipped to a 6-6-3 mark. Though they made a bit of noise in the playoffs, winning a first-round matchup and giving eventual champ Tolman a scare in the quarters, the aim is for better soccer all around.
“It’s a lot of returning people, so it feels like we’re capable of being a little better than we were last year. But I think we need to not focus on the record and focus on trying to play the right way,” Fanning said. “I think our biggest problem is just making mistakes. Even the last game against Tolman, we made two mistakes and they scored on one of them. I think that’s the biggest thing – try to focus on taking out the mental mistakes. And then I think the numbers will take care of themselves.”
There’s plenty of experience in the senior class. Caleb Wagner was a second-team all-state defender last year, and Jake Froberg was an all-division selection in the midfield. They’re surrounded by seven classmates, most of whom have logged big varsity minutes.
The list of younger players pushing for time includes Ryan DeLessio and John Schultz, who played big roles as freshmen late last season, and several newcomers.
A busy preseason has afforded the Skippers an opportunity to see how everything mixes together.
“I think we’re making progress,” Fanning said. “We have a lot more friendlies this year, which is a good thing. It gives you the opportunity to play and work on some things. We started playing games on Monday and each one has gotten a little better, and there are also things you want to get better the next time. It’s a really nice end to the preseason. Everybody’s playing and you get to see what people are capable of. It feels like we’re going in the right direction.”
The Skippers will get a clear idea of where they stand right off the bat when they take on Tolman in the season opener.
“We play Tolman first so that’s a tall task,” Fanning said. “We’ve got to be ready to compete right away.”
Young group, new head coach lead Mariners
There are some connections to the past, but it’s definitely a new start for Narragansett this season.
Kevin Kennedy, an assistant coach the last few years, is taking over as head coach for Ryan Kanaczet, with new assistants Matt Moriarty and Tod Wright joining him. Their first team features just a handful of returning players, but a deep group of underclassmen who are eager to make a mark.
This year will be part of the groundwork.
“We’re trying to turn it into a winning program,” Kennedy said. “You play the kids who are playing the best and have the skill. If they do that, it should work itself out a year or two down the road. Rewarding kids who have the ability to play and also the want and the desire.”
Narragansett went 3-11-2 last year as it made a return to the Division II ranks. The Mariners had been a top-half team in Division III for two years before returning to D-II, where they had spent most of the previous decade.
This year’s youth movement should help with the foundation. The Mariners have seniors Matt Rocchio and Michael Ward as captains, plus seniors Parker DeLessio, Jaxon Turco and Miles Hunter in the fold. Sizeable junior and sophomore classes make up the bulk of the roster. Despite their youth, many of those players have logged varsity minutes.
“We’re young, we’re physical,” Kennedy said. “We had a lot of injuries last year so a lot of these kids got some good playing time.”
The learning process is continuing now. In Tuesday’s season opener, the Mariners fell behind early against Hope and struggled to bounce back in a 4-0 loss.
“We’re going to learn from this game,” Kennedy said. “They kind of got us early and stunned us a little bit.”
The Mariners will keep pushing, with the hope of breeding a competitive atmosphere.
“You’ve got to push the people that are starting and playing in front of you. You’ve got to have talent all the way through the bench. That’s what we’re trying to build here,” Kennedy said. “I’m going to push them. I’m going to want them to get better and better. It’s a great group of guys, and they get along really well. We’re trying to build a good family.”
Crusaders looking for more progress
Prout took some steps in the right direction last year, shaking off a 3-12 campaign in 2017 with a 7-7-2 season. It included a playoff berth, marking a return to the postseason for the program, which had made the Division II semifinals in 2016.
Another step seems possible this year. The Crusaders had a strong senior class last year that has moved on, but there was also a good junior class behind them. Those players are taking center stage now. Seniors Luke Slom and Colin Fonseca are serving as captains. They’re joined in the senior class by Mitchell Lindley, Yujie Han, Ryan Steele and Corey Gosciminski. Eight juniors and six sophomores round out the roster.
Prout is again in Division II, which was a tough circuit last year even with the departure of Moses Brown and Smithfield to Division I.
The Crusaders were set to open the season today against Mt. Hope.