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Portsmouth High’s girls’ soccer team off to strong start

By   /   September 11, 2013  /   Be the first to comment

Forward Leah Hibbad corrals an ariel pass at midfield versus Smithfield Tuesday night.

Richard W. Dionne Jr.

Forward Leah Hibbad corrals an aerial pass at midfield versus Smithfield Tuesday night.

PORTSMOUTH — The high school varsity girls’ soccer team couldn’t have faced a tougher opponent for its second game of the season, but proved it was up to the challenge.

After defeating Mt. Hope in the season opener, 3-0, the team blanked Smithfield Tuesday night at the high school, 1-0.

Smithfield is the defending Division 1 state champions, PHS coach Jim Blaess pointed out.

“We knew they had some quality players,” Mr. Blaess said of Smithfield, adding that his team needed to be patient to “accept the conditions” needed to score.

“I didn’t think (the Smithfield coach’s) reserve players we as good as our reserve players,” he said. “We struggled in the final 15 minutes of the first half, but really took charge in the second half. I think we wore them down.”

Portsmouth defender Grace Cavanagh fights for the ball.

Richard W. Dionne Jr.

Portsmouth defender Grace Cavanagh fights for the ball.

The loan goal came with nine minutes left, when the Patriots’ Natalie Yaw scored on an assist from Leah Hibbab. PHS goalie Gabby Armin was outstanding.

“She had 11 saves,” said Mr. Blaess.

Things don’t get any easier for the team this week.

“We’re off to a great start and we’re working very hard, but we’ve got a another tough game on Friday against South Kingstown, who was the runner-up in the Division 1 finals,” he said.

Although 12 seniors returned to the team this year, only five of them are starters, said Mr. Blaess. “It’s a good balance of players,” he said.

Reaching out to Newtown

The team is also busy with charitable efforts to assist the community of Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed in a school shooting in December 2012.

Portsmouth midfielder Hannah Wilkie heads a goal kick back toward the Smithfield net.

Richard W. Dionne Jr.

Portsmouth midfielder Hannah Wilkie heads a goal kick back toward the Smithfield net.

“In the off-season, the girls wanted to do a charitable event,” said Mr. Blaess. “We set up a fund-raiser and a goodwill game with Newton.”

A friendly game versus the Newtown High School girls’ soccer team will be held at Roger Williams University in Bristol at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5. The Newtown team will be hosted at no charge by the Newport Harbor Hotel for the weekend, and will also enjoy sightseeing events in Newport.

Before the game the Patriots will present a monetary donation to the Newtown International Center for Education, a parent and community organization that supports teacher scholarships and professional development to bring resources to their classrooms.

Anyone who would like to contribute to the donation should make a check out to the PHS Athletic Boosters Club and write “Newtown Soccer” in the subject line. The mailing address is PHS Athletic Boosters Club, PO Box 438, Portsmouth, RI 02871. Contributions are tax-exempt donations (the tax ID number is 46-0578959.) The School Committee Tuesday night voted to contribute $100 to the cause.

Portsmouth striker Jessica Kaufman keeps a Smithfield defender at bay while dribbling upfield.

Richard W. Dionne Jr.

Portsmouth striker Jessica Kaufman keeps a Smithfield defender at bay while dribbling upfield.

The PHS team also hopes to raise some additional funds from the game, which Mr. Blaess hopes will attract a healthy crowd. “We’re still working on seeing if we can get the gate receipts for a donation toward the effort,” he said.

Even though the Oct. 5 matchup will be a friendly one, the game should still be competitive.

“They’re the defending champions in Connecticut’s Division 1,” Mr. Blaess said of the Newtown team. “There are no easy opponents in Division 1.”

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