After two rough years in Division I, the Warwick Vets field hockey team is back where it belongs in D-II this season.
And the ’Canes are eager to make themselves at home.
“I was telling the girls that it will definitely be a different experience this year,” said head coach Jim Areson. “We’re where we belong, and as I told them, I expect to win. I expect to be in games and win games.”
That’ll be a welcome change.
In 2010, Vets was moved to Division I as part of Rhode Island Interscholastic League realignment, despite the fact that the program had gone 3-11-2 and 2-12-2 in the two years prior.
The results in D-I were predictable. The ’Canes worked hard and had the right attitude, but most games got away from them. Playing against the best teams in the state – many of which have strong feeder programs – they finished 0-15-1 in 2010 and 0-16 last year.
Another round of realignment has put the ’Canes back in D-II, where they’ve had a solid run of success, including a championship season in 2005.
“I don’t know what D-II is going to be like, but we’ll be in every game,” Areson said. “That in itself will be a different experience for them.”
As Vets heads back to D-II, it’ll field a team with good numbers and a solid core. Forty players came out for the squad, the highest number in Areson’s 18-year tenure. And though Vets lost some key contributors from last year, a solid nucleus remains.
Seniors Lauren Enos and Jenna O’Connell are serving as captains. Enos will be expected to provide some offensive punch while O’Connell will anchor the midfield.
At the defensive end, Vets will have a new starter in goal after the graduation of the tandem of Stefanie Abbot and Christine Amaral. Sophomore Naomi Franzen, who’s new to the position, is penciled in as the starter, with Rose Robbins also in the mix for varsity time.
Sam Supsky and Caitlin McDonough, both starters last year, are back as the foundation of the defense. Senior Jen Scotti will join O’Connell in the midfield, along with sophomore Savannah Hersey, who started immediately as a freshman last year.
Areson expects the tandem of O’Connell and Hersey to shine.
“The team is going to be built around Jenna O’Connell and Savannah Hersey in the middle,” Areson said. “They’re going to be playing big roles.”
Enos will lead the offense along with sophomore Allexsya Santos-Smith. Sophomore Taylor Axtmann has also stood out in practice.
For all the returning players, the experience of playing in Division I should only help.
“One of the good things about playing in D-I is that they all have experienced the best players in the state,” Areson said. “They should not be intimidated or any of that, by anyone. That’s definitely a good thing.”
On the flip side, some of the players have never been part of a varsity win. From a confidence perspective, that’s a tough starting point, but Areson hopes the team can leave it behind quickly.
“My fear is that we’ve been taking such beatings, and I can tell them till I’m blue in the face that they’re going to win, but they actually have to go out and perform,” Areson said. “They’re going to have a chance. I’ll be interested to see if they will step up and really ride that. We’ll see what happens. I’m interested to see how they’re going to react to all this.”
Ultimately, Vets is just happy to be back in a spot where it can compete. The hope is that the players will run with that.
“I don’t know if we’ll win, but we’re definitely going to compete,” Areson said. “No more of those lopsided scores. Top six make the playoffs. There’s no reason we should not make the playoffs.”