Pilgrim’s 2019 Lady Patriots are raring to get the fall soccer season underway.
The Lady Pats went undefeated during last year’s regular season, and then deep into the playoffs, before falling in the Division II Final to Mount St. Charles, who rallied back from a two-goal deficit and beat Pilgrim in penalty kicks.
Since then, Pilgrim has graduated several key players from its team.
“We definitely lost a lot,” Lady Pats head coach Tom Flanders said. “We lost nine seniors off of that team. One being an All-New England player and Beacon player of the Year with McKenna Leahy, as well as All-Division players like Alexis Vieira, Jordan Petrucci, and Lila Giguere.”
“So, there’s a lot to make up, but I think we have a very strong, young squad,” Flanders continued. “I am extremely optimistic with this team. I don’t know if we’ll go the entire season without a loss or anything like that. So, I hate to compare teams, but this team seems to be a very relaxed group. They communicate well with each other and there really is no ceiling on them right now.”
Pilgrim will run a 4-3-3 formation, which is four defenders, three midfielders, and three strikers.
Doing the goalkeeping will be sophomore Janelle Mixner, who will start for her second season.
“It’s always good when you’re returning your keeper,” Flanders said. “She learned a lot in her freshman year, so we expect big things out of her.”
Mixner has been refining her skills since last year.
“She’s worked on some of the things that needed to be addressed in the off-season, including her communication and being more of a presence on the field,” Flanders said. “Having a year under her belt where she understands the varsity position, I think is going to help her tremendously. Experience is a wonderful thing and she has it now, and she can draw off those experiences last year and help her succeed in new experiences this year.”
Working with Mixner will be the assistant coach, Ria Carroll, who specializes in goalkeeping. It will be Carroll’s second season with the team as well. Carroll has coached at Prout, Providence College, and Bryant University.
“She’s very experienced,” Flanders said. “She’s an excellent goalkeeping coach. So, we’re fortunate enough to have her back to work with our young keeper and we’re excited for that situation.”
Heading the four on defense in front of Mixner, will be Hannah French, a senior captain, who Flanders calls a solid leader.
“She brings positive energy,” Flanders said. “She has a tremendous motor. Her communication organizes us and often starts our attack. She is a great captain.”
Joining French at centre back will be Madison D’Amato, a sophomore assistant captain, who Flanders expects to have a big influence on how the team does this year, and two full backs in sophomore Amelia Murphy, and junior Faye Strain.
“Amelia is a very, very strong kid defensively with tremendous speed and tremendous talent,” Flanders said.
And Strain cracked the starting roster after impressing both Flanders and Carroll over the summer, while helping Pilgrim win the Division I Ocean State Cup.
“Strain has had a tremendous summer and really made a strong argument for herself to be in the starting lineup,” Flanders explained. “If she continues to play like that, she’s going to remain in the starting lineup and be a huge part of our program this year.”
Leading the midfield will be Sarah Lynch, a sophomore.
“She controlled a lot of our midfield last year,” Flanders said. “She’s going to do a nice job for us there. “Everything goes through her. She’s our playmaker and does a fantastic job.”
With Lynch in the middle will be Dasani Stewart, a freshman, who Flanders expects, will surprise a lot of people with her speed, physicality, and her overall technical ability, and Gabrielle McGowan, a junior, who the head coach described as extremely fit.
“She (McGowan) dedicates a whole lot of her time to soccer, so I expect big things out of her.” Flanders said. “She definitely spent the summer training and she arrived to camp in tremendous physical condition.”
Up front for Pilgrim will be Lily Brown, a junior striker and assistant captain, and her younger sister Gillian Brown, a freshman forward, both of whom also play for Bruno United FC, plus Alanna Coffie, a sophomore.
Last season, Lily racked up over 20 goals for Pilgrim, while Gillian, shined at Warwick Vets. And Coffie, like Lily, contributed a ton to Pilgrim’s squad last year, according to the head coach.
Helping Pilgrim off the bench is Ella McCusker, a junior transfer student from Providence County Day, and Lindsay Flanders, the head coach’s daughter, who is a sophomore swing player that will see some time in the midfield at both the junior varsity and varsity levels.
And the head coach couldn’t be more excited to have Lindsay on the team.
“I’ve been coaching high school girls soccer since 1993,” Flanders said. “And so, it’s been quite a few years of coaching other people’s kids, and now I get an opportunity to coach my own at the high school level, so it’s kind of cool.”
Other bench players include Hannah Lee, a junior, and Kyla Riddensdale, a sophomore utility player, as well as Elise Van Luinen, a sophomore, and Ella Centrachio, a junior All-City hockey and All-City lacrosse player, who also played tennis last year.
And last, but certainly not least, Flanders expects Annamarie D’Angelo, a senior captain and lacrosse stud, to play a huge role for the team off the bench.
“She’ll be kind of that kid that comes in when one of the strikers needs a substitution,” Flanders explained. “She’s a kid that really doesn’t have that much soccer experience, but works extremely hard. A leader that will definitely help us coming off the bench. She scored four or five goals for us last year on the varsity level. So, if she picks up her game, that could be where we go to for some of the goals that we’ll be missing from Vieira and Leahy.”
“Those kids (Vieira and Leahy), we’re going to have to account for,” Flanders reiterated. “Between those two girls, we’re probably going to have to account for 45-50 goals that we graduated.”
Also, making the team’s squad are freshmen swing players Faith Meade and Keira Ramsden, as well as seniors Zulay Izazaga and Gabrielle Bessette. Bessette will begin the season on the disabled list with a knee injury.
“So, the program, even though we graduated a lot, we did have a lot of kids last year waiting to get in or that got in and saw some time,” Flanders explained. “And there’s a nice balance of returners and new that seem to be making a nice recipe for us.”
And the Lady Pats are riding high after winning the summer league.
“The girls have been working extremely hard this summer,” Flanders said. “They came into camp extremely fit. We’re definitely happy with the amount of work and dedication. That’s what it takes to succeed at this level. Talent just isn’t enough. You need to be fit, you need to be strong, you need to be healthy, and you need to be lucky. You need to be a lot of things, and so far they’re trying to take care of all those things that they have control over.”
“They played extremely well in the summer,” Flanders added. “And I think, they’re confidence level is pretty high right now and I think they’re feeling good about themselves.”