Much will change for the Warwick Vets girls’ soccer team this fall. Longtime head coach Tom Flanders is now at Pilgrim, with former Toll Gate assistant Fred Schweizer taking over. And the Hurricanes will move to Division II this year after some tough times in the state’s highest division.
The one constant for Vets is the team’s deep group of seniors. They’ve been through some lean years and a fresh start may not be the worst thing in the world. While losing their coach was tough, moving to Division II could be just what the doctor ordered.
“They’re very excited,” Schweizer said. “They want to succeed, and they view this as a great opportunity for them. Some teams might look at it as a letdown moving from D-I to D-II. I think they view it as an opportunity. It’s good for them.”
Since making the Division I semifinals in 2008, Vets has struggled. The team has won seven games since that semifinal appearance, and just four in the last three years.
For the seniors – 11 of the 19 players on the roster – that means only four career wins, but they’ve stuck with it, and they’re ready to seize the moment this year.
“They’re working hard, and I think moving down to Division II is going to be very good for them,” Schweizer said. “The seniors are a group that, in the span of their careers, has won four games. We’re looking to be successful and I like what I see so far.”
Schweizer served as both the head coach and an assistant with the Toll Gate girls’ soccer team. He is also the boys’ lacrosse head coach at Vets.
Joel Cordeiro, who’s been an assistant with Vets, stayed on and will help ease the transition this season.
It’s been smooth so far.
“I’m still learning a little bit as far as who can play well where and who can shift and things like that,” Schweizer said. “Having an assistant coach who has been with the program for three years has been great. He knows the girls really well, and that has helped me out tremendously. And the girls aren’t afraid to let me know what’s going on. They communicate well.”
Now the ’Canes have to put it all together, and they’re confident that they can.
Seniors will dot the field, led by captains Emily Almonte, Lauren Almonte, Casey Bennett and Jami Derderian. Emily Almonte will run the defense from the sweeper position, while Bennett and Lauren Almonte will anchor the midfield. Derderian will play up front.
Vets also has a senior in net in Katelen Pick, a returning starter.
“Katelen is tough,” Schweizer said. “She’s a great keeper. She’s very good skill-wise.”
Put it all together, and Vets has a solid line up the middle of the field.
“We’re really strong up the middle,” Schweizer said. “They’re a tight-knit group. They know each other well and I think that’s going to help us. We have good senior leadership.”
Other seniors will be big pieces to the puzzle, including Ricki Beaufort, Amber Beech, Halie Cote, Jenna Fontaine, Kelsey Gray and Nicole Luiz.
Juniors Elizabeth Gemmell and Sloan Kinney return after seeing some action last year, and Gemmell scored the team’s only goal at the Warwick Vets Fall Soccer Tournament last week. Juniors Paige LePore, Abbie Paul and Kaitlyn Rhodes are also in the mix, along with sophomore Carlie McPherson and freshmen Madison Bastan and Katherine Raposo.
Schweizer likes what he’s seen so far. While Vets lost its first game at the tournament, it managed a draw against Division I Coventry in its second game.
“I’m so excited to have my own program again,” Schweizer said. “Great group of girls, and a lot of seniors. It’s going to be fun.”
The ’Canes will open the regular season on Thursday at 3:30 p.m., with a home game against North Smithfield. Vets hopes it’s the first step in a resurgent year.
“There’s always an adjustment – new coach, sort of a new system,” Schweizer said. “But they’re very flexible. They’re great, quick learners. We definitely have some things to work on. We’ll regroup. I just want to see them get better from day to day. We’re going to be okay.”