The Pilgrim field hockey team is in for another season of challenging games, but during the summer and at the start of preseason practices last week, you wouldn’t have known.
It’s year four of a tough alignment in Division I for the program, but the players keep coming back.
“They’re spirited,” said head coach Nisa San Giovanni. “A lot of them went and played in the summer league and they work hard. They’re great kids. Year in and year out, we’re very luck to get great kids who want to work hard.”
That’ll be the foundation again as the Pats try to make the best of a tough situation. After winning three games in 2010 and 2011, they went winless last year. It won’t be easy to improve on that this year, but the Pats are working to make it happen.
“We lost a few seniors, but we have some good returning players,” San Giovanni said. “We’ll probably be about the same as last year in terms of our ability but we’re working hard at it.”
The Pats lost their only all-division player from last year, Kelly Vatter, to graduation, along with a few other standouts. Several of the returning players immersed themselves in the sport by playing with Lead the Way field hockey in the off-season. That might lead to some improvement, but it will still be a tough road.
“That’s encouraging to see, but we don’t have the horses to play with the best teams,” San Giovanni said.
But the Pats do have a team that’s willing to give its best effort, starting with the returning players.
At the goalie spot, senior Courtney Cardoza is back for her third year as the starter. She’s faced a lot of shots in her career and has stopped a fair amount of them.
“She’ll get 20, 25 saves a game,” San Giovanni said. “She’ll keep us in it.”
In front of Cardoza, the defense will be led by returning starter Haley Donahay, a senior. Sophomore Lillian Saran, who now plays year-round, will also be there, along with juniors Sarah Dolan and Dera Silvestre.
Ellen McDonnell, a softball star who came out for field hockey last year, will anchor the midfield. Up front, junior Chrissy Cavanagh returns and her sister, freshman Paula Cavanagh, may force her way into the varsity lineup from day one. Seniors Jessica Pope and Greta Smith are also in the mix.
Several other players are also back and looking to make an impact at various spots.
“It’s a great group,” San Giovanni said. “I was very pleased with the interest and the enthusiasm.”
Pilgrim played in a set of Injury Fund preseason games on Saturday and tied Division II teams Rocky Hill and Cranston East. Against Division I, Lincoln, Pilgrim lost 4-0.
“That tells you – that jump is just so tough,” San Giovanni said.
But the Pats will once again make the best of it. They expect to be competitive in several of their Division I games, and they’ve also scheduled a pair of non-league games against cross-town rival Warwick Vets, a Division II team.
“The girls will work hard,” San Giovanni said. “Woonsocket, Tiverton, South Kingstown – there are some teams that are in a similar boat to us. Hopefully we can pull out a few wins.”
The Pats will open the regular season on Tuesday with a 3:30 p.m. home game against Moses Brown.