North Kingstown has certainly been consistent in the girls soccer ranks. With eight regular-season wins in each of the last three years, the Skippers have been steady contenders.
Eight would be good again, but maybe not enough given this year’s expectations.
“I’m not hoping. I’m planning on being up there,” head coach Mark D’Arezzo said. “Anything can happen, but we have a good feeling. We’re shooting for top four at the end.”
A large senior class provides the foundation for the high hopes. The Skippers have 12 seniors, a talented group that will make an impact all over the field. With depth, skill and speed to go with the experience, North Kingstown is in a good place.
“It’s one of our stronger teams in our five years, because of the returning seniors,” assistant coach Rick Storti said. “There’s a lot more speed up top and defensively, we’re strong.”
First-team all-state selection Charlotte Simmons is serving as a captain, along with Olivia Zevzavadjian, Amanda Watson and Mia Watkinson. Simmons has played both midfield and defense in the past and is a standout in either spot. Zevzavadjian plays up front, Watson is in the midfield and Watkinson leads the defense.
Goalkeeper Maya Gamble is back for a second year as the starter. The senior class also includes Emma Chin, Amaya Dickenson, Molly Mackrell, Audrey Martone, Jasmine Ranieri, Jacquleine Osmanski and Lauren Ulisse.
For all its veterans, North Kingstown has young talent, too. There’s a solid junior class and a few sophomores ready to make an impact. Among them is Sadie Souls, who emerged as a scoring threat late in her freshman year.
In general, the team’s offensive potential is a major reason for optimism.
“We’ve got a lot of speed and power going forward, so we want to capitalize on that,” D’Arezzo said.
Lineups are still being sorted out, and a few players are taking on new roles. Once the picture comes into focus, the Skippers will be ready to roll.
“We’re trying new things, we’re moving people around,” D’Arezzo said. “We don’t want it to be same old, same old from last year. We like what we see so far. We’re hoping to be there at the end once we do get it together. I think we’ll have a pretty solid season.”
Rebels starting fast
South Kingstown didn’t play its best soccer in Saturday’s Injury Fund preseason event, settling for a tie with Chariho, but head coach Scott Rollins had a feeling it might be an outlier.
“We didn’t play with a lot of fire today, but they’ve had a lot of fire all preseason,” he said. “It’s good. I’m really happy so far.”
And the fire was back in Tuesday’s season opener as the Rebels blasted Mt. Hope 8-0. That was a more appropriate beginning for a team with its usual high hopes.
“We have a really strong 1-20, which is great,” Rollins said. “There’s competition for every position.”
The Rebels went 10-1-4 last year, with its only regular season loss coming to unbeaten La Salle. Aiming for a second straight appearance in the state championship game, they ended up a step short when Smithfield edged them in the semifinals.
Graduation didn’t take a big toll in terms of quality, though the Rebels did lose all-state defender Anika Tomlinson.
The big returning group is led by seniors Faith Hutchins, Sarah Sorlien, Lauren Hubert and Maggie Montle, who are serving as captains. Hutchins remains the backbone as she enters her fourth season as the starting goalkeeper. She had eight shutouts last season en route to another all-state honor.
“It certainly makes up for a lot of mistakes when you have Faith back there,” Rollins said. “Four straight years, I really haven’t had to worry too much about what’s going on. In the future, I’m going to have to worry, but hopefully not too much. It’s great to have her. She’s a leader, she plays every game, the kids look up to her. As a coach , I really appreciate that.”
Other returning players include Carley Fewlass, Hayden Hill, Jami Hill, Claire Lidsky, Anna Kelly and Sydni Vesterholm. Some of them may be in different spots this year as the Rebels switch things up and welcome talented newcomers to the squad.
“Although we didn’t lose a lot to graduation, we did change a lot of things around,” Rollins said “We’ve had some kids step up who we wanted to see a jump from last year to this year, and that has changed things around a little bit. But it’s preseason, so we’re still trying to figure out who’s going to play where.”
Whatever the lineup, the Rebels are expecting good things. Experience and talent is accompanied by a winning pedigree.
“We were in the state final two years ago and the semifinals last year,” Rollins said. “This is a group that won a middle school championship and a lot of them have been playing varsity since freshman or sophomore year. I would hope that we can take that next step but they’ve got to figure out how to overcome the down spots and really capitalize when we’re playing well.”
Crusaders putting down a foundation
Prout has a new head coach for the second time in three years. If all goes according to plan, they won’t have another new one for a long time. John Pastore, formerly the head coach at North Smithfield but a Narragansett resident, is taking over a team that’s in his backyard.
“I’m looking to stay here for a while and really build a program,” Pastore said.
This year will be the first step, and it’s already off to a promising start. The Crusaders beat East Greenwich 1-0 in Tuesday’s season opener on a goal by Lauren Moriarty and a shutout effort in net by Allison Schofield.
It was a welcome start for a team that went 2-11-2 last year.
“First game, first win,” Pastore said. “I think the girls will be excited and the school will be excited. I think East Greenwich played a little better than us, to be honest, but soccer is a funny game. Sometimes it’s the team that wants it more. My kids never gave up, which is big.”
Pastore is taking over for Ivan Ilijevski, who spent two years at the helm after the departure of longtime coach Ria Carroll. Numbers in the program had started to dip a few years ago, but have held steady lately, and Pastore likes the squad he’s inheriting.
“We’re trying to improve on what they had last year,” he said. “It’s a great group of kids. Lot of energy. We just kind of have to figure out the game a little bit better.”
Graduation claimed six players, including second-team all-stater Emma Slade. Picking up the leadership torch are senior captains Kseniya Farrell, Kendra Gever and Peyton Perry. The senior class also includes Carina Kortick and Lillian Kenyon.
Farrell has been the team’s top scoring weapon for several years now. In the opener, she was flanked up top by freshman Lauren Farless. Gever is setting the tone in the midfield, while Perry leads the defense.
“Young group, but a fun group,” Pastore said. “We’re a work in progress, but I think you’ll see us improve every game.”
Mariners back to the starting line
Narragansett’s girls soccer program – along with a number of other teams at the school – always seems to get its talent in waves, complete with crests and troughs.
“I don’t really know why but that’s been the Narragansett way for a long time,” head coach Kathryn Mahoney said. “You just have to make do with it, but it does make things challenging. You almost have to start over with the system every time you get in a new group of players.”
That’s the mode the Mariners are in this season. Last year, a 12-player senior class led them to the Division III championship game and a runner-up finish. They didn’t have much youth behind them, but now a class of 10 freshmen has joined the program.
Another wave is here, and the cycle is starting again.
“We lost a ton – 12 seniors, many of which were starters, not just on the team, but starters for four years,” Mahoney said. “To say the least, it’s definitely a rebuilding year. Fortunately, we had a great turnout of freshmen.”
Many members of the class will see immediate playing time, though they won’t be alone. Seniors Anna Lubic, Jamie Hultquist, Natalie Landy and Bryn Stillwell are set for leadership roles.
Lubic was one of the few non-seniors who played a significant role last year, finishing as the team’s leading scorer en route to second-team all-state honors. While she won’t have her old teammates setting her up, her speed alone is enough to make her one of the league’s top threats.
“We’re fortunate we have her back,” Mahoney said.
Hultquist, Landy, Stillwell and junior Rylie Mitchell also have experience.
“They’ve kind of played supporting roles, unsung heroes of the team,” Mahoney said. “They’re hard workers. While they might not necessarily contribute in terms of goals, they’re key returners.”
Junior Lucia Given will take over for four-year starter Shannon O’Connell in the goalkeeper’s spot. Ashley Conroy and Allison Seaver are among the other returners. Then it’s on to the newcomers.
“There’s a lot to learn, a lot to work on, but I see a lot of promising things,” Mahoney said. “There’s definitely a lot of talent coming in the freshmen class.”
The plan for the Mariners is to build on the promise and see where it takes them.
“It really is hard to say because there are so many new members of the team,” Mahoney said. “We’re trying to take it game by game. Last year was a different mindset going in. We knew we had a strong core group. This year, we kind of have to wait and see. We’re just focused on what we need to do day by day.”