EPHS eyes early cohesiveness on girls' soccer pitch

Townies must come together quickly to meet annual aims

By Mike Rego
Posted 10/13/20

EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence High School girls' soccer club started on Friday afternoon, Oct. 9, what will be a limited 2020 Division II regular season schedule of just six games due …

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EPHS eyes early cohesiveness on girls' soccer pitch

Townies must come together quickly to meet annual aims


EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence High School girls' soccer club started on Friday afternoon, Oct. 9, what will be a limited 2020 Division II regular season schedule of just six games due to the novel coronavirus pandemic with a convincing 4-0 victory over visiting Wheeler School at Pierce Stadium.

The Townies, coming off an 11-2-4 overall record a year ago and an upset loss to Chariho in the playoff quarterfinals, held a 3-0 lead at halftime. Jordyn Brogan potted a pair of goals for the locals. Olivia Williams and Hailee Manteiga had one apiece. McKayla Lopes was credited with two assists. Kaylee Davenport made three saves in the EPHS net. The Townies placed 14 shots on goal. Wheeler keeper Kate Keenan made 10 saves.

EPHS began the season minus two of the best players to ever compete for the program: midfielder Alyssa DeOliveira and goalie Mia Jackson, both Class of 2020 graduates.

"Alyssa, she could take over the game on both sides of the ball. The goal is balance her being gone with a combination of players," EPHS head coach Angelo Pizzi said. "We're going to miss Mia's knowledge of the game, her acumen. She really was like a coach on the field. Ultimately we're not going to replace them with an individual. It's going to have to be a team effort, more than just one person."

The Townies went about doing just that in last week's opener to near perfection. Brogan and Manteiga are sophomore forwards asked to replace some of the scoring lost with DeOliveira's departure. Williams is a junior midfielder joined in the center of the pitch by senior co-captain Ashley Dias along with juniors Kayla Hannon and Tessa LaRoche.

Dias and central defender Lily Budnick are the team captains.

"Ashley is a four year starter and Lily is a three year starter," Pizzi said of captains Dias and Budnick. "They both have competed at a very high level on local and premier teams. We're going to rely on Ashley to run the midfielders and forwards. And Lily runs the entire field from the back."

Of his forwards, Pizzi said, "They're fast, lightning quick and they know how to place the ball and know how to strike it when needed."

He continued of his midfielders, "They move around and interchange on field without losing the ability to attack."

Pizzi added of Williams' expanded role, "Olivia is going to play multiple places. She's taking most of our set pieces and corners. She's demonstrated she can handle it. She puts the ball where it needs to be with pace and accuracy."

Lopes’ assists came in the freshman’s first varsity game off the bench where she’ll share time with her cousin, fellow frosh and starter Amanda Lopes. The EPHS back four is anchored by junior Budnick as well as classmates Emily Gorski and Briana Lopes.

"They have a combination of powerful kicking and the ability to see the game as it happens in front of them," Pizzi said of his defensive group.

Davenport got first crack in net for the Townies, a spot she's likely to split time with freshman Kassidy Martins. They have the unenviable chore of attempting to replace Jackson, likely the best goalie in program history.

"First of all we need them to be field generals, to be vocal, help direct what's happening in front of them," Pizzi said of his keepers. "Second, we need them to let the game come to them and the last thing is mind the net, make the saves and clear the ball when they need to. They'll most likely split time if and until one of them establishes themselves."

The rest of the varsity roster includes seniors Carissa Fortes, Natalie Salazar, Sara Sanchez and Kya Abatiello; junior Julia Rocha; and freshman Eva Laroche, each of whom will see varying amount of minutes depending on the game, Pizzi said.

To date, the coach said, "knock on wood," the Townies haven't had any issues with COVID-19 and are assimilating to the health and safety protocols put in place by the Rhode Island Interscholastic League such as the mandatory use of masks during actual game action.

"I was really pleasantly surprised. We had an intrasquad game with masks on for the entire 60 minutes and they all responded well," Pizzi said. "But it's going to be weird. It's definitely going to be an adjustment."

The truncated season, however, has changed the usual aims of the Townies, who for the last several years have been a factor in the title chase at both the Division II and III levels.

"I say it every year. We want to be playing when it's cold outside. We want to be playing at the end of November when it means something," Pizzi said.

"I think if come together we have a chance to do that, but we need to come together very quickly," he added. "Ashley (Dias) said this to the team the other day and it's true. In a regular year you could lose a game early and know you could overcome it because of the sheer volume of games you play. This year, we can't afford that. We have a skillful team that could be good if we play together. If we can just come together we'll be O.K."

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