The last three seasons haven’t been ideal for the Warwick Vets girls’ soccer team, which has won a combined six games over that stretch.
This year doesn’t figure to be any easier, as the Division I landscape is still filled with strong teams from top to bottom and isn’t showing any signs of weakening. But the ’Canes aren’t planning on lying down, and they’re getting themselves ready for the challenges ahead with an equally challenging preseason slate.
Vets was scheduled to travel to Westwood, Mass. for a game against Westwood High School on Monday, followed by a game with D-II contender Pilgrim today, a match-up with D-I Scituate on Wednesday and a game with two-time defending Division II champion Exeter/West Greenwich on Thursday.
If everything goes according to the plan, by the time the D-I games begin, Vets will already be battle-tested.
“It will keep our girls moving in the right direction,” Vets head coach Tom Flanders said. “In my opinion, I chose the best teams in D-II to play in our preseason. We take them on that out of state trip. What other teams are doing in other states, it’s usually a good test.”
The ’Canes preseason already began this past Saturday, as they hosted the Warwick Vets Fall Soccer Tournament. The two-game showing came with some ups and downs.
Playing in the first game of the tournament, Vets got goals from Larissa Paolantonio and Emily Almonte and knocked off Coventry 2-0.
That win put the ’Canes in the finals against Pilgrim, and it didn’t go quite as well. Pilgrim won 4-0, and Flanders thinks perhaps a long day caught up to his team a little bit.
“We had a good showing against Coventry in that first game,” Flanders said. “We had a car wash earlier in the day. They were tired. Then there was a two-hour layover. They came out very slow. Not to take anything away from what Pilgrim did, but we didn’t match the intensity in the first 15 minutes of that game and it cost us.”
But the overall takeaway from the tournament was positive, and it was a good beginning to the long season ahead. Luckily for the ’Canes, they have a lot of experienced players to lean on going forward.
Vets has three senior captains – Kara McCrudden, Brooke Medeiros and Paolantonio.
Paolantonio is a striker who should handle a sizeable portion of the team’s scoring load, while McCrudden is making a positional change from defense to midfield. Medeiros is currently sidelined with an injury, but should make a big impact when she returns in the near future.
The senior class extends much further then those three, though. Twins Katie and Kristen Gregory are back, and they’ll be both be playing on defense. Katelyn Ravenell is another senior who will be playing in the back.
In the midfield, returner Katie Evans will see plenty of time, and a newcomer to the team, senior Caitlyn Howard, is also in the mix.
The junior class is big as well. Casey Bennett, who has been on the varsity since her freshman year, will serve as an attacking midfielder, and she’ll be joined in the center of the field by twins Lauren and Emily Almonte. Lauren Almonte will also play some striker.
Other juniors on the team are midfielders Kelsey Gray and Nicole Luiz, striker Jami Derdarina, defender Ricki Beaufort. There is also Amber Beech and German exchange student Tami Ross, who will help out in the midfield.
Junior Katelen Pick is back for her second year in goal.
“That’s one of the things,” Flanders said. “These kids have been around for a while. A lot of these kids are tremendous athletes, they’re three sport athletes. They’ve just got to hone in on the soccer mindset.”
The ’Canes also have three sophomores on the roster in Sloan Kinney, Abbie Paul and Elizabeth Gemmell. They’ll play all over the field.
Tara Medeiros – Brooke’s sister – is the only freshman on the team, and she is the back-up goalie and will also contribute to the midfield group.
It’s a team made up of players in all four classes, and they’ll all be counted on to make an impact.
“Hopefully we’re going to do some good things this year,” Flanders said. “I’m all about effort. That’s what I want out of these kids. Everything else will take care of itself.”
After finishing up with its heavy preseason slate, Vets will take Friday off from game action before jumping right back in on Saturday in its Injury Fund game at Exeter/West Greenwich High School.
It’s all part of the preparation.
“I think we’re going to be okay,” Flanders said. “We’re going to battle. We are in D-I. It’s a battle.”
The regular season is set to begin on Thursday, September 6, as Vets will host South Kingstown at 5:15 p.m.
And the ’Canes will be looking to do all they can, and hopefully turn some heads in the process.
“Every win, every point in Division I is important,” Flanders said. “When you’re a school like ours, we have to fight for every little thing that we get. That’s what I’m stressing. Hopefully they play with a little chip on their shoulder and they want to go out there. People have expectations for us. We have our own expectations. Hopefully we live up to that.”