October 30, 2014
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Putting a bow on a hockey championship

Because there’s never enough space in a newspaper for a story as good as Warwick’s girls’ hockey title, a few leftovers from the title series . . .

For the first few years of Warwick girls’ hockey, the team was called the Toll Gate Lady Titans, even though a handful of players from Pilgrim and Warwick Vets were part of it. The switch to the Warwick name was a good one, because the squad has become the very definition of a city team.

The team’s leading scorer was Madison Balutowski, who attends Pilgrim. Two of its top four defensemen, Savannah Hersey and Natasha Savage, attend Warwick Vets. The goal scorers in the title-clinching win, Abby Ellis and Kelsey Holmes, both attend Toll Gate, as does MVP goalie Gabriella Dicomitis.

It’s a perfect combination, not to mention a pretty good indicator that rivals would get along fine if school consolidation ever happens.

Interestingly, the team originally went with the Toll Gate name because most of the players attended the school, but also because of the Titans’ hockey tradition. At the time, the girls team didn’t look poised to add to that tradition. Eight years later, they get their own chapter.

Team effort in net

Dicomitis earned state championship MVP and Second-Team All-Division honors, but she wasn’t the only goalie that helped make Warwick’s big season happen.

Dicomitis split time during the regular season with junior Erin Vermilye, and head coach Dave Tibbetts credited that setup for allowing his freshman to thrive on the biggest stage.

“During the season, Erin Vermilye did a great job when she had a chance and that kind of allowed Gabby to develop at a little bit less pace than if she’d been thrown in as the only goalie,” Tibbetts said. “Erin works hard with her in practice. She’s had a lot to do with Gabby being successful.”

Dicomitis won the job late in the season and shined in the playoffs, especially against a hard-charging La Salle team.

“We knew she had it in her,” Tibbetts said. “She’s got confidence and she’s really athletic. She doesn’t get fazed by the pressure.”

Cavanagh carries on family tradition

Perhaps a Warwick hockey team just needs a member of the Cavanagh family to win a championship.

Paula Cavanagh, a freshman at Pilgrim, joined the Lady Titans this season and scored a goal in game one of the championship series. Her cousins Dave and John led Toll Gate to the 2004 and 2005 state championships, the last hockey titles for Warwick public schools before the girls’ championship this year.

A surging sport

Not only has girls’ hockey grown by leaps and bounds the last few years in Warwick, it’s made tremendous strides around the state, too.

I remember covering a playoff game between a brand new Cranston co-op team and a Bishop Keough squad in 2006-07. Many of the players needed to use the boards to stop, and the game was dominated by one Cranston player who was a strong skater.

Those players, though, helped put down the foundation, and it’s a much different world now. The Division II championship series featuring the East Bay and South County co-ops might have been mistaken for a D-I title series in the early years. The state series was at an even higher level.

“It’s great hockey,” said La Salle coach Sean McNamara. “It was great to watch. It shows how far girls’ hockey has come and it shows how far Warwick has come in a few years.”

McNamara was proud of his La Salle squad, even though it fell short of a third straight title.

“I think this year’s team accomplished as much this season as any of my teams,” he said. “We’ve had injuries, illness, we started the season without a goaltender. We just battled.”

Slogan was close to the heart

All the Titans owned T-shirts emblazoned with their mantra, “Why not us?” Tibbetts and assistant coaches Ryan Henderson and Tom McCormick wore the red shirts under their shirts and ties for the championship series.

William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and williamg@rhodybeat.com. Find him on Twitter @RhodyWill.


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