This is the third season in a row that the Pilgrim girls’ soccer team is one of the favorites to claim the Division II title, and they’re hoping that the third time’s the charm.
Traditionally, fairy tales follow the rule of three, where everything comes in sets of three. For Pilgrim to get its fairy tale, though, it’s going to need to buck that trend.
You see, being designated as a “contender” in the past has brought heartbreak along with it for the Pats, as they were eliminated from the playoffs the past two years without winning a single game.
They lost to sixth-seeded Mount St. Charles in 2010 and sixth-seeded Mt. Hope in 2011.
Never, though, have things lined up quite this favorably for success, which could put an end to the rule of three.
Here’s what I mean – since rising toward the top of the division two years ago, the Pats haven’t ever been in as solid a position as they’re in right now to walk away with a championship.
The last two years, they had chance. This year, they have a better chance.
Based on both their regular season play and their postseason draw, the Pats could finally make the history they’ve wanted to make over this three-season stretch.
Let’s look at the regular season. Pilgrim went 11-1-2, and claimed the No. 2 seed in Division II. Though the schedule was shortened this season and the Pats didn’t play as many games as year’s past, they had their best regular season over the three years. In 2010, they went 13-2-3. In 2011, they were 14-4. Both years, they were the No. 3 seed.
This season, they enter the postseason on a 13-game point streak, in which they’ve won 11 games and tied two. Their only loss was in their season opener – nearly two months ago.
“I think that as the season has been going along we’ve been getting better and better,” Pilgrim head coach Mike Weber said last week. “That’s what you want to do – you want to work to peak.”
That’s a new trend for Pilgrim. As recently as last year, it lost its final game of the season.
Back to this year though. After losing to North Smithfield to begin the year, Pilgrim’s only non-wins (ties) came against Exeter-West Greenwich and Lincoln – the No. 1 and No. 3 seeds, respectively.
EWG and Lincoln have also played in the last two D-II finals, with EWG winning both times.
If winning a championship goes through those two teams, then the Pats have proved they can play with both of them.
But it gets better. The Pats played EWG in the third-to-last game of the season, and – like I said – they tied the Scarlet Knights 2-2. That tie is the only blemish on EWG’s resume, as it finished the season 13-0-1.
In fact, since EWG won the 2010 title and then went 18-0 last year en route to another title, the tie against Pilgrim was the first non-victory for the Scarlet Knights since the middle of 2010. Just last year, EWG beat Pilgrim twice by a combined seven goals.
After this year’s game, EWG coach Kevin Fraser was pretty impressed with Pilgrim.
“The good news,” Fraser said, “is that it would be – if both teams make it to the finals – a heck of a final.”
Translation: We’re two best two teams in the division, and their isn’t all that much separating us. Pilgrim is much closer to us this year than they were last year.
As far as the playoffs go, the Pats have every reason to be optimistic. By virtue of getting the No. 2 seed, they don’t have EWG on their side of the draw and couldn’t play them again until the finals.
Pilgrim also won’t have to deal with North Smithfield – the one team it lost to this year – as North Smithfield is on the other side of the draw as well.
Since Division II changed its format this year to 12 playoff teams instead of eight, there are four first-round byes, and Pilgrim has one of those. The Pats haven’t had that extra rest each of the last two years.
Pilgrim won’t open the postseason until Nov. 5, when it will take on either 10th-seeded Narragansett or 7th-seeded Westerly.
That means that the Pats won’t have to play against a No. 6 seed, which has been a problem each of the last two years (for what that’s worth).
And look at the Pats’ track record against Narragansett and
Westerly: During the regular season, Pilgrim beat Westerly 1-0 and beat Narragansett 7-1.
A win in that game would put the Pats in the semifinals, where they would play either Lincoln, Tiverton or Burrillville.
You know that they tied Lincoln during the season. Against Burrillville, they won 8-4, and against Tiverton they won 4-3.
Winning that semifinal game would put Pilgrim in the finals, most likely against EWG – who they played tougher than any team has in over two full years.
See? It all lines up.
Two years ago, Pilgrim head coach Mike Weber threw a lot of sophomores into the mix, making them essentially learn on the fly.
Well now those sophomores are seniors – 11 of them. It’s not now or never for Pilgrim to win a title, as the Pats do have plenty of talented underclassmen, but this is the year that Pilgrim has had its eye on for three seasons.
The Pats are tired of fairly tales that follow the rule of three.
Oh, if they did win the whole thing? It would be their third championship in school history.
That can’t be a coincidence.
Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor for the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.