EPHS girls’ soccer team seeks return to Division II playoffs

Returning starters, senior leadership buoys hopes of the Townies

By Mike Rego
Posted 9/4/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence High School girls’ soccer team opened up its 2019 fall campaign this week, its second season back in Division II, with the aim of returning to the postseason …

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EPHS girls’ soccer team seeks return to Division II playoffs

Returning starters, senior leadership buoys hopes of the Townies

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence High School girls’ soccer team opened up its 2019 fall campaign this week, its second season back in Division II, with the aim of returning to the postseason after missing out on the playoffs a year ago.

The Townies went 4-9-3 in 2018 with 15 points, four shy of the minimum required to earn a D-II tournament bid. Eleven of the 17 teams in the division qualified for the playoffs. Sixth seeded Mount St. Charles eventually upset then unbeaten and regular season first place Pilgrim (18-1-0) in a shootout for the title.

East Providence graduated just two of its 11 regulars from a year ago, meaning the Townies have a bevy of starters back who have hopefully gained from their pursuits last fall.

“Of the nine games we lost, only one of them was a blowout. Most of them were by only a goal or two, so we were close,” said EPHS head coach Angelo Pizzi, about to begin his eighth season on the sideline. He’s assisted for the sixth year by his wife, Stacie.

“We’re looking to build on end of the season last year, when we were playing well,” Pizzi continued. “We see ourselves as playoff team this year. We’re going to ride the leadership of all our seniors to get there.”

Five of the Townie seniors are quite experienced, being four-year starters and members of EPHS sides which won the Division III championship in 2016 and returned to the league finals before losing Johnston in 2017.

Goalie Mia Jackson and midfielder Alyssa DeOliveira are the team co-captains. Midfielder Aliyah Pattie, who scored the title-winning penalty kick as a freshman, forward Ashley Cassino-Henriquez and midfielder Savannah Feola are the other four-year contributors.

“I turn to Mia every moment throughout game,” Pizzi said of Jackson, his All-Division keeper. “She’s like having a coach on the field. She knows all about the tactics and her game management is outstanding.”

On DeOliveira, Pizzi added, “Her knowledge of the game is exceptional. She has a very, very powerful foot. She’s always looking towards goal with distribution or with the strike.”

Returning starters sophomore Lily Budnick and junior Ashley Dias are the central defenders in front of Jackson in the Townies’ 4-4-2 formation. Sophomore Briana Lopes and senior Isabella Monteiro join varsity as perimeter defenders.

“I’m comfortable with our two returning starters inside and their ability to teach the two new players, who are both confident players and have a lot of speed. All four of them have a lot of speed,” Pizzi said of his back four.

Junior Emily Gorski joins DeOliveira, Pattie and Feola in the middle of the pitch.

“I’m hoping our two center mids, DeOliveira and Pattie, really run the show. They ended last season playing really well together, and we’re looking for that spark to continue,” Pizzi said of his midfielders.

Sophomore Olivia Williams and Cassino-Henriquez open the season atop the EPHS set as strikers. Williams had a superb freshman effort last fall, leading the Townies with seven goals.

“Olivia was expectational last year,” said Pizzi. “We’re hoping she and Ashley play off each other and work to their potential. They both have good skills. It’s a just a matter of putting the ball in the back of net.”

Others expected to contribute this fall are seniors Taylor Donnelly, Simone Driscoll-Nicholaus and Luana Rodrigues; juniors Carissa Fortes and Emily Raposo; sophomores Kayla Hannon and Tessa LaRoche; and freshman newcomers Jordan Brogan and Hailee Manteiga.

“We’re in a tough division with good coaching and exceptional athletes, so we have a fight on our hands,” Pizzi said of the season ahead. “But like I tell the girls, they want to be playing after Halloween, you want to be playing when it’s really cold outside. They have the ability, the tactics and the skills. They have everything they need to compete. But the question is can they bond together as a team and play ‘Townie’ soccer, so we can be successful? We shall see.”

Of note, with the start of construction on the new EPHS, the Townies will return to Pierce Stadium this fall for their home games after playing the last few years on campus. East Providence opened its season Wednesday, Sept. 4, at Pierce against Chariho. The Townies head to Exeter-West Greenwich Monday afternoon, Sept. 9, for a 3:30 p.m. match then are home Thursday, Sept. 12, to face Johnston at 6 p.m.

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