Last year was an atypical down year for the Warwick Vets girls’ lacrosse team, as the ’Canes didn’t win a single league game en route to the worst season in the program’s eight-year existence.
Heading into this year, the landscape around Vets has changed, and so have the ’Canes. They don’t have very many new players, but the young group of girls they forced into action last year has made substantial strides and should be much more prepared for the varsity stage.
In a new-look Division II that has changed from 17 teams to 10 teams thanks to the creation of a D-III, Vets will be on the hunt to get back to its winning ways, as it won at least six games in each of its first seven seasons.
“Our whole varsity squad is coming back,” Vets head coach Kathy Moan said. “They were sophomores last year expected to play varsity positions. I feel like with another year under their belt they look good.”
Vets is now part of D-II-Central, along with Classical, Cranston East, Lincoln and the Lincoln School, which is in its first year competing in the RIIL. Lincoln and East each went 11-3 last year, while Classical was 6-8.
With those teams on the schedule, improvement won’t come easy. Yet, Vets is confident it can compete.
“We’re going to face a couple of teams we haven’t faced in a couple of years, which is nice,” Moan said. “It’s going to be nice to play different teams. I feel like we can play with those teams.”
At the forefront of the team’s optimism is the return of twin juniors Emily and Lauren Almonte. Emily Almonte was first-team D-II-North last season, while Lauren Almonte was on the second-team.
Together, they’ll provide some offensive firepower for a team that will need to score plenty of goals to keep up with some of its title-contending opponents.
“I think the two twins, they compete with each other anyway, I think it just drives them to work harder,” Moan said. “I definitely think that they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
The Almontes are the most noteworthy returners, but they aren’t the only ones. Junior Jenna Fontaine is back after being named second-team all-division a season ago, and she should help solidify the midfield alongside the twins.
“She’s so tiny, but she’s so quick,” Moan said of Fontaine. “She’s really strong with her stick. I think that the other teams are going to underestimate her, but she goes out there and I think she’s going to be a force.”
Sophomore Savannah Hersey, junior Casey Bennett and senior Victoria Flynn will round out the middle.
Behind them, Vets will turn to senior Bianca Capelli and juniors Alyssa McCracken and Ricki Beaufort to keep teams at bay. Behind them is first-year, sophomore goaltender Katelen Pick, who is taking over for the graduated Christine Amaral.
“It’s her first year playing lacrosse, but she actually went to a goalie camp over the summer and fell in love with it,” Moan said. “She looks really good in goal.”
Pick will be just about the only player without significant varsity experience seeing the field. At attack, juniors Jami Derderian, Nicole Luiz and Megan MacCrae will try to supplement the scoring already expected to come out of the midfield.
Sophomores Sloan Kinney and Shelby Mahoney will swing between varsity and JV and provide depth in the midfield.
And a year’s worth of experience for everybody has already shown through in practice.
“They’re hitting their targets when they’re making passes,” Moan said. “They’re more aware of what’s going on on the field, so they don’t need to think about it anymore. They know what to do.”
They’ll find out on Thursday just how much a difference there is in a game situation. Vets travels to Classical for a 4 p.m. game to open the season.
“I look at last year as a rebuilding year,” Moan said. “It was a very young varsity squad, and we’re going to be better.”
Simply put, the ’Canes just want this year to be better than last year was, and the pieces are in place to make it happen.
“I want to see them have fun,” Moan said. “I felt like last year there was a lot of frustration. I want to win some, but if not, I want to see them having fun.”