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Saturday, September 27
Pilgrim rebounds after rough stretch
Warwick Beacon photo by William Geoghegan
HAT TRICK AND MORE: Katelyn Vieira scored five goals in Pilgrim’s 5-1 win over North Smithfield.

With high expectations and a hot start to match, the Pilgrim girls’ soccer team was flying high a week into the season. Two weeks later, the Patriots are flying again but they’ve also been on the ground more than they expected.

After opening the season with two lopsided wins, Pilgrim went three games without a victory, playing to a draw with Coventry and losing one-goal games to Moses Brown and Burrillville.

Since then, the Pats have swung back up, with a 4-0 win over Ponaganset on Friday and a 5-1 victory over North Smithfield on Monday.

They’re moving forward, with a little more awareness about how they need to do it.

“I’m hoping they’re back and where they need to be,” head coach Tom Flanders said after Monday’s win. “We had a tough week last week, two one-goal losses. A couple of bounces here or there. We didn’t play that well and other teams are giving us their ‘A’ game. We have to be ready for that because teams are coming at us. If we don’t have our ‘A’ game, we’re in trouble. We just have to make sure we tighten things up and keep playing like we did tonight.”

The Pats improved to 4-2-1 with Monday’s victory, putting them into a tie with Toll Gate atop Division II-South. Pilgrim was set to get another stiff test Wednesday against unbeaten Scituate, with results unavailable at press time.

Thanks to the resurgence, the Pats head into the Scituate game feeling like they’re back on track.

“We talked about not getting down on each other, staying positive and getting through it,” Flanders said. “It’s a long season. You’re going to have some hiccups. Hopefully, our hiccups happened in one week and now we’re moving on and progressing as a team. I think they responded well.”

In the bounce back against Ponaganset, Katelyn Vieira had two goals while Molly Lynch and Emma Manosh tallied one each as the Pats won 4-0. Vieira, Lynch, Kendra Tantimonico and Emma Reilly had assists.

On Monday, the Pats rolled again and Vieira carried the load. The senior standout scored all five goals, including four in the first half. She scored two minutes in with an assist from Lynch and hit paydirt again a minute later, with Manosh assisting. Haley Buco assisted on the third goal, 11 minutes in and Tantimonico set her up for the fourth tally in the 22nd minute.

Vieira added a penalty kick goal in the second half.

“We came out firing, delivering, hitting targets,” Flanders said. “It happened quick. The girls were on tonight. They did very, very well. We moved the ball, we found our target people and we did what we needed to do.”

Hannah Page made five saves for the Pats. Pilgrim gave up a late own goal to the Lady Northmen but otherwise remained in control. It was an impressive performance, considering the fact that North Smithfield came in with a 4-1-1 record, better than Pilgrim’s mark.

“We really played well,” Flanders said.

The Pats are hoping to keep the good times rolling. After the Scituate game, they’ll visit Mount St. Charles on Friday at 3:30 p.m. A match-up with rival Toll Gate looms next Thursday.

“I’m optimistic,” Flanders said. “We’ve got a three-game week again. We started a little stronger than last week. We play a very strong Scituate team on Wednesday so we’ll see what we can do.”

Monday, September 8
Pilgrim sprints out of the gates
Warwick Beacon photos by William Geoghegan
DAYLIGHT: Pilgrim's Alexia Martins dribbles into an open space during Tuesday's season opener against Westerly. Pilgrim exploded for six first-half goals and cruised to a 6-1 win.

After a successful preseason and a championship in the Warwick Vets Fall Soccer Tournament, the Pilgrim girls’ soccer team didn’t exactly pick up where it left off in the first few minutes of Tuesday’s season opener.

But it didn’t take long to change that.

After giving up a few golden opportunities to Westerly in the early going, Pilgrim flipped the field and exploded for three goals in a three-minute span. They added three more before halftime and coasted to a 6-1 victory.

“They were pressing us and they were running an offside trap on us, so it took us some time to figure things out,” said Pilgrim head coach Tom Flanders. “Once we saw what they were doing, we made a couple of adjustments and it started clicking.”

The result was the kind of start Pilgrim was looking for. The Patriots are coming off a Division II semifinal appearance last season and have another squad that’s poised to contend. The preseason offered some validation, and the Pats confirmed it again Tuesday.

Emma Reilly scored two goals, and Katelyn Vieira, Kendra Tantimonico, Molly Lynch and Maddy Almonte tallied one apiece. Vieira had two assists, while Tantimonico, Lynch and Alexia Martins each had one.

A year ago, Pilgrim played to a 1-1 draw in its season opener, but this year’s installment was a different story.

“We played some very good teams in the preseason and I think it kind of toughened them up,” Flanders said. “They’re ready to run. If they get free, they’re going to finish. They’re talented, there’s no doubt about that.”

Westerly was on the attack in the first few minutes, hitting the side of the net on a close-range shot, missing just wide on another good look and watching Pilgrim goalie Hannah Page make a key save.

But as soon as the Pats pushed the other way and got their attack in gear, there was no slowing them down.

In the ninth minute, Vieira slipped a perfect through pass to Tantimonico, who had a step on the defense and ended up one-on-one with Westerly goalie Emily Sullivan. Tantimonico juked past her then took her time and buried an easy shot for the 1-0 lead.


On Pilgrim’s ensuing possession, Vieira struck. She won a battle for possession on the right wing and dribbled into the box ahead of two defenders. She beat Sullivan with a hard shot to make it 2-0.

In the next minute, Pilgrim scored again. Lynch lofted a pass from the right side to the middle of the box, where Reilly controlled the ball between a pair of defenders and muscled the ball into the right corner of the net.

Three minutes, three goals.

“A couple of substitutions, a couple of adjustments, and we were in good shape,” Flanders said. “We did real well. They were getting in behind them, good passes. A lot of nice stuff. I was happy with it.”

Pilgrim obviously couldn’t keep up that scoring rate, but it didn’t fall too far off the pace anyway. In the 16th minute, Reilly found herself wide open behind the defense and drilled the shot. In the 36th minute, Maddy Almonte touched in a shot on a high-arcing crossing pass from Vieira. Just before halftime, Lynch cleaned up a rebound to make it 6-0.

Amid Pilgrim’s onslaught, Westerly never again threatened like it did in the first few minutes, as defenders Haley Buco, Sophia DeLuca, Emily Fluette and Erin Plowman clamped down.

“They play fantastically well together and Hannah Page in net is like playing with a back five, because she’s so talented with her feet on top of her hands,” Flanders said. “They’re doing well.”

Armed with the big lead, Pilgrim put it on cruise control in the second half and used the frame as a chance to get playing time for everybody on the roster. Westerly scored a late goal for the final margin.

All in all, it was about as strong a start as the Pats could have asked for, but it’s still only a start.

There’s room for improvement.

“We need to do a better job recognizing what teams are doing to us tactically in the beginning,” Flanders said. “That first 10 minutes, they could have punched in three goals and made this a completely different game. That’s what we’re going to stress in practice, just recognizing what other teams are doing, give them ideas to deal with whatever we’re facing.”

That’s all part of the process. Pilgrim expects to keep playing well, and wants to play even better.

“We just have to hope they keep their feet on the ground and keep playing hard,” Flanders said.

Pilgrim will return to action today for a 6 p.m. game at Chariho.

Wednesday, September 3
Optimism running high again for Pats
Warwick Beacon photos by Kevin Pomeroy
SLIDE: Katelyn Vieira stretches to poke the ball toward the net in the Warwick Vets Fall Soccer Tournament.

The Pilgrim girls’ soccer team has had a busy preseason – far busier than most – but it’s all by design.

The Pats know they’re good. They just want to be the best.

Pilgrim went 11-2-1 last year – its fourth straight season with at least 10 wins – and advanced to the Division II semifinals for the second consecutive year.

The journey came to an end there though, as eventual champion Burrillville topped the Pats.

With a huge portion of the team that came so close a year ago back in the fold for this season, Pilgrim is working on maximizing its chance at competing for a championship.

It’s played four Massachusetts teams in the preseason with strong results, and on Wednesday it beat Toll Gate and then Coventry to win the Warwick Vets Fall Soccer Tournament.

The Pats have been playing a lot of soccer – and most of it has been good soccer.

“The big thing here with the preseason is to get them feeling good about themselves and keep them healthy,” said head coach Tom Flanders. “We’ve achieved both of those things, which is good.”

Of course, as with any high school team, graduation did take a toll on the Pats, albeit a relatively small one. They lost key contributors Clare Birney, Haley McCusker and Kendra Levesque, but little else.

Pilgrim is loaded with experience.

“Even last year, I looked around at one point and we had eight sophomores that were starting,” Flanders said.

Coupled with Pilgrim’s experience is a whole lot of talent, and it begins up front with returning second-team All-Stater Katelyn Vieira.

Vieira, who was third in Division II in scoring with 18 goals and 11 assists and is a two-time Warwick Beacon Player of the Year, has been a fixture in the lineup for Pilgrim since her freshman year. Now a senior, she’s a captain and is angling to lead the Pats further than they’ve been in some time.

“Soccer is her life,” Flanders said. “She had a great premier season, did fantastic with Bayside. She’s just a top-notch kid and a top-notch player, and wants to be successful. She’s a great leader too.”

As strong as Pilgrim is up front with Vieira leading the way, it’s also strong in the back with junior goaltender Hannah Page. Also a starter since her freshman year, she’s emerged as a leader and one of the state’s best.

She’s serving as a captain, too.


“She’s really somebody that’s a standout,” Flanders said. “She’s really a legit player, and there’s no doubt about it. She could probably play for some college teams right now in her junior year. That’s how good this kid is.”

To go with Vieria and Page, Pilgrim’s other two captains are senior defender Madison Almonte and junior midfielder Kendra Tantimonico.

Tantimonico also plays up front with Vieira, giving Pilgrim a dynamic combination of potential goal scorers. The Pats also added another player to the forward mix with Portsmouth transfer Emma Manosh, a senior.

“She’s fit right in and she’ll do some nice things in her senior year here as a Pilgrim Patriot,” Flanders said.

Other forwards are senior Emma Reilly and junior Arianna Moussaly.

In the midfield are returning juniors Hannah Johnson, Molly Lynch, Alexia Martins and Emily Heon.

On defense, where Pilgrim has to replace multi-year starter Birney, juniors Sophia DeLuca and Erin Plowman are part of a solid group, along with seniors Emily Fluette and Haley Buco.

Pilgrim also has two sophomores on the varsity roster who should help in Ellen Strain and Jeriann Evans, plus four freshmen – sisters Corrine and Hailey Rivera, Caitlin Smith and Alyssa Andrews.

“It’s a good mix of kids,” Flanders said. “I’m thrilled so far with everything that’s gone on.”

The Pats have plenty of reasons to be happy right now. And if everything falls right, they’re hoping to be just as thrilled with the postseason as they are with the preseason.

“I really just want to build on last year’s performances,” Flanders said. “As long as they stay healthy, I’m really a believer in this team. I’m feeling very confident.”

Pilgrim opens its regular season today at Bend Street against Westerly at 5:15 p.m. On Thursday, it plays at Chariho at 6 p.m.

Wednesday, September 3
Season to Season
Pats' two-sport stars building a pair of powerhouses
File photos
FALL: Sophia DeLuca, pictured in soccer season, is one of many Pilgrim athletes who are part of the city's most successful high school programs.

A lifelong soccer player, Pilgrim junior Hannah Page started playing lacrosse only last year. Before long she was scoring goals and playing crucial postseason minutes.

“It’s basically soccer with a stick,” Page said.

She’s not the only one who picked up on the similarities. In fact, she’s far from the only one, and the connection between the two sports has created a run of success that is unparalleled right now in the city of Warwick.

The girls’ lacrosse team has made consecutive trips to the Division III championship game, while the girls’ soccer team has reached the Division II semifinals in back-to-back years.

Across the entire city, only the girls’ co-op hockey team had a more successful season than Pilgrim’s two budding powerhouses last year.

The two teams – and their successes – are uniquely tied together.

Nine players from Pilgrim’s lacrosse team this past spring are currently playing on this fall’s soccer team, and three more graduated who had played both sports for the school last year.

One sport ends, and before long, the other begins. The only thing that seems to change is which ball they’re trying to get past the goalie.

“I think the friendships and the relationships that they build here, they kind of want to duplicate that again,” said Tom Flanders, the head coach of both the soccer and lacrosse teams. “They like the fact that they’re together, they’re singing on the bus. They’re doing all those kinds of things. I think it’s a good thing, and in this case too much of a good thing is a good thing.”

Flanders is at the forefront of the link between the two sports. A longtime coach who helped found the lacrosse program four years ago, Flanders took over the soccer team in 2013 after moving over from Warwick Vets and is currently in his second year at the helm.

SPRING: Sophia DeLuca, pictured in lacrosse season.

The significant crossover among players is directly tied to his coaching. Once he took the reins of the already successful soccer program, players quickly began to try their luck at both sports rather than just one.

“We miss him after soccer, before lacrosse,” said senior Madison Almonte of Flanders.

Almonte and Page are joined this year by Sophia DeLuca, Emily Fluette, Emily Heon, Hannah Johnson, Alexia Martins, Arianna Moussaly and Emma Reilly as mainstays on both teams.

Standouts Haley McCusker, Clare Birney and Jen King are three others who made a name for themselves on both fields before graduating this past June.

And Flanders thinks the connection might grow this spring, with some of his current soccer players talking about trying on lacrosse for the first time when the season comes back around.

That’s the usual transition for the two-sport athletes – they grow up soccer players and pick up lacrosse once they get to high school, since there is no option for youth lacrosse in the city.

It’s been a lucrative pipeline. The track record for soccer players turned lacrosse players is a pretty strong pitch. The vast majority of them have picked up a stick and contributed to Pilgrim’s lacrosse success right away, and just playing the game helps keep them in shape for the soccer season.

“I think you look at the passing patterns, the defensive schemes that we do,” Flanders said. “They’re kind of similar things. Being a good soccer player is going to help you.”

A lot of the time, Flanders doesn’t have to be the one making the pitch. The players do much of their own recruiting.

“I think it’s just so many older girls having an influence on the younger girls,” Almonte said. “Since lacrosse is such a new program at Pilgrim, everyone is always like, ‘Come play lacrosse, come play lacrosse.’ It is such a fun sport.”

TWO TIMES: Emma Reilly, like many others, plays both lacrosse and soccer at Pilgrim.

The winning has certainly helped, too. With an influx of athletes, the lacrosse team has grown at an almost unbelievable rate and figures to be a contender once again this season.

The soccer team, meanwhile, is set to begin its regular season today and will be considered one of the favorites for the Division II championship.

“We take it serious, but we can have a lot of fun,” Almonte said. “And when it’s like that, I think it’s easier to bring the level up like we did.”

The end result is a family-like atmosphere, with Flanders leading the way. Even to an objective observer, it’s easy to see the relationships that have been built on the field and the commitment that the players have to each other in both sports.

“The whole chemistry – you go from the spring into the fall and it’s all the same girls,” Page said. “It makes the sports easier for everyone there.”

The two teams both have been vying for championships and should continue to vie for championships in the coming years. Graduation forces the cast to change from year to year, but it barely seems to change from sport to sport.

“They have other attributes that make them successful in both sports,” Flanders said. “They really do. The girls sports at Pilgrim’s high school, they’re fantastic people and they’re fantastic athletes. Really, the last few years, we’re really blessed with that.”

One thing the soccer-lacrosse players are missing, however, is a title. Lacrosse has come painstakingly close the last two years, while the soccer team was a few bounces away from being in the championship game themselves.

The close calls bind them too. But raising a trophy – or two trophies, for that matter – would bind them forever.

“We’re definitely going for it this year,” Fluette said.

First in the fall, then in the spring.

“This is the year,” Page said. “For both of them.”

Tuesday, July 15
Girls' Soccer Athlete of the Year: Katelyn Vieira

Tom Flanders has no trouble recalling one of the defining moments of his Pilgrim girls’ soccer team’s season, and how much junior Katelyn Vieira was involved in making it happen.

“At halftime of the Burrillville game, we played them the last game of the season and we beat them 1-0 on a second-half goal by her,” Flanders said. “And she basically said at halftime that she was going to score that goal. Against a team that hadn’t lost at home, to say something like that and then actually do it is pretty remarkable.”

But that wasn’t far from ordinary for Vieira, who was a junior captain for the Pats and finished third in Division II in scoring. She was balanced across the board – scoring 18 times and adding 11 assists – and Pilgrim advanced to the semifinals for the first time in years on the strength of her feet.

“The kid can score from anywhere on the field inside the 18,” Flanders said.

The Pats had an inexperienced team – other than Vieira – that was trying to live up to the lofty success of the past two Pilgrim squads, which had made the playoffs after strong regular seasons.

“It was extremely different this season,” Vieira said.

The Pats went 11-2-1 and won a playoff game, and part of the success can be attributed to the leadership of Vieira and her fellow captains. They held numerous captains practices, and tried to push the young group to the limit.

Now the focus is on the future. Heading into her senior year, the ultimate goal for Vieira and her team is to finish with a championship, one that it has been building toward since her freshman year. The team has already had some meetings, and preparing for next year starts immediately.

“We’ve been doing our research, looking at all the obstacles – teams moving up, teams moving down,” Vieira said. “We’re really optimistic.”

Thursday, November 14
Power Pack: RI High School Girls Soccer: November 6th
Related Slideshow: Power Pack: RI High School Girls Soccer: November 6th . . . . PrevNext Pilgrim Regualr Season: 11-2-1, #2 seed in Division 2 Playoffs: Bye in Round 1, Defeated #10 seed Tiverton 3-1 in Quarterfinals. Pilgrim ended Tiverton's cinderella dreams with a 3-1 victory in the quarterfinals, and now get set to face #3 seed Burrillville on Thursday. The Patriots beat the Broncos 1-0 on October 24th to close out the regular season.

Thursday, November 14
Big second half lifts Broncos over Pilgrim
William Geoghegan
EYE ON IT: Pilgrim’s Kendra Levesque lines up a kick during Friday’s semifinal game against Burrillville. Levesque’s goal put Pilgrim ahead 1-0 but the lead didn't last.

In a regular-season meeting with Burrillville, a late goal made the difference in a 1-0 Pilgrim victory. In the Division II semifinals on Friday night at frigid Cranston Stadium, it looked like an early goal might be the clincher. Kendra Levesque’s tally just 38 seconds into the game put the Patriots ahead 1-0, and they carried that lead into halftime.

But the high-powered Broncos still had 40 minutes to work with.

And they made those minutes count.

Taylor Ross tied the game less than two minutes into the second half and the Broncos needed just one more minute to break the deadlock on a goal by Kathryn Antoniello. Pilgrim made a push but couldn’t net the equalizer and the Broncos put the game on ice with a goal in the 70th minute, sealing a 3-1 win.

Burrillville went on to beat Lincoln on Sunday for the Division II championship. Pilgrim headed home with a semifinal loss for the second straight year.

“It was a great start, just the way we wanted to start,” said Pilgrim coach Tom Flanders. “We wanted to come out of the blocks fast. Then it just started to go away from us a little bit. I think the kids were shocked at Burrillville’s first goal. The second goal right away, it really upset what we wanted to do.”

The result was another explosive performance by the third-seeded Broncos, who tallied 13 goals in three games on their way to the championship.

“They kept their heads up being down 1-0 at halftime,” said Burrillville head coach Amy Cardone. “They played like I knew they could.”

Pilgrim’s start put the Broncos on their heels. Off the opening whistle, Katelyn Vieira made a run down the right side and forced to the Broncos to kick the ball over the end-line for a corner kick. Clare Birney lofted it into the box, where goalie Catherine Keable deflected it to the left. The ball bounced to Levesque, who used her left knee to volley it our of the air and into the net.

“We played flat in the first 30 seconds,” Cardone said, “and they put one in on us.”

The Broncos nearly answered a minute later when a shot by Ross smashed off the cross-bar. But from there, it was back-and-forth, with both teams getting chances. Birney almost bent in a corner kick in the 25th minute but Keable knocked it away. Vieira got loose on a run in the 35th minute, but saw Keable win a race to the bouncing ball. A deflection bounced to Hannah Johnson but her shot at an open net sailed high.

At the other end, Hannah Page made five good saves to keep her team in front. They went to the break leading 1-0.

“We felt great at halftime,” Flanders said. “We were playing pretty well, and I think halftime was probably the worst thing that could have happened.”

Halftime gave the Broncos a chance to regroup – and did they ever. In the 42nd minute, Ross – the leading scorer in Division II – settled the ball in the box, created space for herself and ripped a shot between Page and the right post to tie the game.

“Ross is a heck of a player,” Flanders said. “We knew that going in. Clare Birney did an excellent job defending. But players like that, when you give them opportunities, they capitalize. She’s a dangerous player. You can contain it for a while, but they’re going to get their opportunities. When they do, they’re going to take them. That’s what makes them good.”

Unfortunately for the Pats, it wouldn’t be the last seized opportunity. Just 59 seconds after the goal by Ross, the Broncos took a free kick from 25 yards out. Page jumped in traffic and punched the ball away, but it went right to Ross, who slipped it to Antoniello on her left. She had an open look at the net and buried the shot.

“The second goal was huge,” Cardone said. “I told them, ‘Play your game and have fun. Once we put one in, we’ll be fine.’ That’s what they did. You could see a big difference in the second half.”

In control for the first 40 minutes, the Pats suddenly found themselves in an uphill battle. And with speedy defenders Sydney Blais and Isis VanPutten manning the back for Burrillville, it was a steep climb. The Pats struggled to possess the ball in the midfield so had to settle for long lead passes. Blais rarely let the Patriots connect on any of them, while VanPutten shadowed Vieira, Pilgrim’s leading scorer.

“Sydney has a lot of speed and she plays smart,” Cardone said. “Isis normally plays midfield, but she’s our best in one-on-one and I knew I needed to put her on Katelyn Vieira. She did an outstanding job.”

The Pats have scored a good chunk of their goals this season by using their speed and finishing ability to take advantage of miscues. The Broncos never gave them a chance.

“They did a fantastic job,” Flanders said. “They don’t mess up. Normally we can capitalize on a mistake, a second ball, but they never did.”

Pilgrim had a corner kick that went right to Keable in the 59th minute. In the 66th minute, Molly Lynch got tangled up with Keable in the box and the ball slipped loose, but the Broncos cleared it before Pilgrim could take a shot.

In the 70th minute, with the Pats pushing forward, the Broncos countered and sealed the deal. Ross trapped a cross in the box, and played it back to a charging Victoria Libby. She powered a shot into the net to make it 3-1.

The Pats got a decent look for Vieira in the 78th minute, but Keable saved it and not much else materialized.

As the Broncos celebrated, the Pats tried to focus on the positives.

“The thing I have to remember about this team is that they’re young,” Flanders said. “A lot of them are sophomores and they’ve never been here before. They’re going to learn from this experience. We’ll grow as a program. That’s what I’m hoping comes out of it.”

Pilgrim will bid farewell to six seniors – Levesque, Birney, Haley McCusker, Olivia DeLuca, Jennifer King and Shannon Ferry. In their four years in the program, Pilgrim won 49 games. The positive trend continued this year despite heavy graduation losses.

“Fantastic season,” Flanders said. “I’m very pleased with this group. The seniors were fantastic and I look forward to working with our returning players in the future.”

Thursday, November 7
Warwick on center stage in semis
File photo
Pilgrim’s Emily Fluette takes a kick. The ’Canes and Pats are part of a semifinal doubleheader tonight at Cranston Stadium.

Since 2000, Warwick teams have made seven appearances in girls’ soccer semifinal games. Never in that span have two teams done so at the same time.

That changes tonight.

Warwick Vets will play Lincoln in one Division II semifinal at 5 p.m., at Cranston Stadium. Following that, Pilgrim takes on Burrillville in the other semifinal. If they both win, they’ll square off for the Division II championship on Sunday in what would be the first girls’ soccer playoff meeting between Warwick schools since a quarterfinal match-up of Toll Gate and Vets in 2001.

Whatever happens, tonight is a big night.

“I’m thrilled,” said Pilgrim head coach Tom Flanders, who was previously the Vets head coach. “It’s great for soccer in Warwick. On a personal note, I’m thrilled for the Vets kids. It’s something that doesn’t happen often. I’ve been coaching 20 years and I’ve been to one semifinal. You’ve got to embrace it when it happens.”

Pilgrim is in the semifinals for the second year in a row, while Vets is making its first appearance since going to the Division I semis in 2008. The ’Canes struggled in D-I after that season and moved to Division II this year.

No Warwick girls’ soccer team has been to a title game since Toll Gate in 2005. Warwick’s last champion was Pilgrim in 2000.

“It’s pretty cool to have two teams here,” said Vets head coach Fred Schweizer. “It’s good for the city, good for the kids.”

And both teams hope it’s a good result.

In the first game of the doubleheader, the fourth-seeded Hurricanes get a shot at Lincoln, who has been to the finals in two of the last three years. The Lions went 12-0-2 in the regular season, scored the third-most goals in D-II and allowed the fewest.

When they squared off in the regular season, Vets gave up a goal in the first minute of play but nothing else in a 1-0 loss.

While Vets owns victories over both Pilgrim and Burrillville, Schweizer didn’t mind drawing a rematch with the Lions.

“It’s going to be a battle,” he said. “I like our draw. Both Pilgrim and Burrillville are playing really good soccer now. Not that Lincoln isn’t, but having beaten Pilgrim and Burrillville, I’d rather face Lincoln. I told my girls, ‘They’re undefeated. We have nothing to lose. Let’s enjoy being where we are.’”

The Lions are coming off a 3-1 win over Classical. Vets knocked off Scituate 2-0 in the quarterfinals, shutting out the division’s highest-scoring team. The ’Canes would love to see a similar defensive effort against Lincoln – but with more offense than the regular-season meeting.

“We need to come out from the first whistle,” Schweizer said. “We didn’t move the ball very well the first time we played them so that’s one thing we’re working on – possession and patience. Defensively, I thought we did very well. However, we didn’t have the ball in our offensive zone enough.”

The team’s mindset will also be a factor, and Schweizer thinks it’ll be right where it needs to be. Coming off three straight tough years in Division I, the ’Canes have embraced their opportunity in D-II from the beginning. Now they’re ready to seize another chance.

“I want to make sure they recognize how big it is and what a great opportunity it is for them,” Schweizer said. “They’re excited. They’re not ready to be done. They want to take it from the first day to the last day. I think this is the type of group that can control the emotions and not get overly excited. It’s one thing they’ve been very good at last season, keeping their composure. I think they’re excited but also prepared mentally.”

Once Vets and Lincoln finish up, Pilgrim will hit the field and will have its hands full with No. 3 Burrillville. The second-seeded Pats beat the Broncos 1-0 in the regular season finale, but that was just the third time the Broncos were shut-out, and they finished the season with 50 goals, the second-highest total in Division II.

“They’re very high-powered,” Flanders said. “To shut them out in the regular season was something we were very proud of.”

The Pats may not be able to do it again, but they’ll have a much better shot than they thought they would following Saturday’s quarterfinal game. Starting goalie Hannah Page was given a red card in that game for obstructing a clear path to the goal. Red cards typically carry an additional one-game suspension, but the Rhode Island Interscholastic League reviews each penalty report. In this case, the league determined that no further penalty was necessary. Page will be allowed to play.

“From both standpoints, I think it’s a good thing,” Flanders said. “We’re obviously thrilled that she’ll be back and I would imagine, in the spirit of competition, Burrillville wants to play us at our best.”

Pilgrim expects the Broncos to make Page and the defense work. Facing Westerly in the quarterfinals, Burrillville exploded for a 6-0 win. Taylor Ross, the top scorer in Division II, tallied two goals and an assist.

“We’re going to employ the same type of strategy we used in the regular season,” Flanders said. “We’ll see if they adjust and then we’ll go from there. Our back four have their assignments and they know the game plan.”

At the other end of the field, the Pats will go up against a veteran defense and junior goalie Catherine Keable, who made 12 saves in the shutout of Westerly.

In the regular season meeting, Pilgrim got a late goal from leading scorer Katelyn Vieira, and she’s the logical candidate to find the net again.

“She’s a big-time player and she’s scored a lot of goals at big times,” Flanders said. “She knows how important this game is.”

File photo
Katelyn Vieira will try to strike again for Pilgrim against Burrillville, just as she did in the regular season.

Vieira and a few other Patriots have been on this stage before, when Pilgrim was upset by Tiverton in the 2012 semifinals. Most of the starters on this year’s team were on the bench for that game, sitting behind a big senior class. But jitters didn’t seem to be a problem in Saturday’s playoff win.

It’s just about executing.

“Burrillville is extremely tough,” Flanders said. “They’ve got some dangerous weapons that we have to contain. The rest is doing our thing.”


Thursday, November 7
Pilgrim into semis for second straight year with 3-1 win

The Pilgrim girls’ soccer team saw the 2012 season end with an upset loss to Tiverton in the playoffs. The 2013 season began with a 1-1 tie against the Tigers, despite the fact that Pilgrim would go on to post the second-best record in Division II, while Tiverton would win just four games.

On Saturday afternoon, the Patriots broke the spell.

Clare Birney and Kendra Tantimonico scored first-half goals and the Pats held off a charge for a 3-1 win and a spot in the D-II semifinals.

“We played extremely well,” said Pilgrim head coach Tom Flanders. “It was a tough, tough game. Tiverton, even though their record wasn’t great, they had seven ties. They’re like Ebenezer Scrooge as far as giving up goals. They’re stingy. I thought we were going to have our work cut out for us and we did. Our kids played very well.”

Pilgrim, the No. 2 seed, will play No. 3 Burrillville on Thursday at 7 p.m., at Cranston Stadium. The only negative from Saturday is that the Pats may be without starting goalie Hannah Page for the semifinals.

The sophomore, who has played every minute in net this season, received a red card late in Saturday’s game when she came out of the box to clear the ball, missed it and then obstructed a Tiverton player who had a clear path to the goal. According to the officials, that kind of obstruction triggers an automatic red card.

Usually, a red card carries an additional one-game suspension. As of Monday, Pilgrim was waiting for a ruling from the Rhode Island Interscholastic League, since the obstruction was not a typical red card offense like fighting.

“It was a silly thing,” Flanders said. “It’s tough, a bad decision. We’ll have to figure things out. Maybe it’ll create an opportunity for someone to be a hero.”

The loss of Page put a damper on the win, but the Pats are still exactly where they want to be – back in the semifinals for the second straight year.

Based on the draw, Flanders knew it wouldn’t be an easy task. The Tigers surrendered just 10 goals all season, second only to first-place Lincoln in D-II. They allowed more than one goal in a game just twice all season.

“I thought they were one of the toughest draws in a quarterfinal,” Flanders said.

On top of that, the Pats are still an inexperienced bunch, with only a few players who saw major minutes last year. A bye to the quarterfinals meant Saturday was a first-ever playoff game for most of Pilgrim’s starters.

“A lot of these kids haven’t had the opportunity to play in games like this,” Flanders said. “They’ve sat on benches and watched, but with all the seniors last year, they didn’t have the opportunities. They’re stepping in and I thought they did a great job.”

All the concerns were eased in the game’s ninth minute. Katelyn Vieira was fouled in the box and Pilgrim was awarded a penalty kick. Birney took it and easily beat goalie Amber Silva with a shot to the left corner.

Then, less than a minute later, Pilgrim attacked again. Tantimonico ended up with space in the box and she slid a low shot to the left corner for the 2-0 lead.

“Beautiful placement,” Flanders said. “Usually, Kendra is one that likes power, but she went for the placement. That was good. Other times, maybe we put that over the goal. We’ve learned from things, and now that’s a finish. That’s growth that I like to see.”

Pilgrim couldn’t put it on cruise control quite yet. In the 16th minute, Tiverton’s Allison Benevides lofted a free kick from 25 yards out over Page’s head and into the net, cutting the deficit in half.

The Pats largely carried the play after that but still had to sweat it out. Page made a diving save on a close-range shot by Caroline Wilson late in the first half. Less than two minutes into the second half, Mackenzie Mello got loose after a Pilgrim turnover and had a one-on-one race with Page. Page won it and knocked the ball away with a slide tackle.

In the 69th minute, the Pats could finally breathe easy. Vieira headed in a corner kick from Birney for the 3-1 lead.

“They finished the opportunities they could,” Flanders said. “They battled extremely hard and they never gave up. I’m extremely proud of them.”

Birney and Vieira each tallied a goal and an assist, while Page finished with 11 saves. Midfielder Kendra Levesque finished out the game in net.

The Pats will now get ready for Burrillville, whom they just saw in the regular-season finale. Pilgrim won that game 1-0 with a late goal.

The Broncos rolled past Westerly 6-0 in their quarterfinal game.

“Burrillville is a very strong team,” Flanders said. “I think we scored in the 76th minute to end up beating them 1-0 in the last game of the season. They’re going to be extremely difficult. We’ll see what we can do.”


Saturday, October 19
'Canes win showdown with Pats
'Canes win showdown with Pats
Kevin Pomeroy

The Warwick Vets girls’ soccer team beat first-place Burrillville early in the season, and that’s shaping up to be a big win as the playoffs approach.

It wasn’t as big as Tuesday’s win.

Playing cross-town rival Pilgrim as a division foe for the first time since 2005, Vets got an early goal from Madison Bastan and then a stoppage time goal from Lauren Almonte to break a 1-1 deadlock and lift the ’Canes to a dramatic 2-1 victory.

“It just feels fantastic,” Almonte said. “I know for a lot of the seniors, this is one of the biggest games for us for the season. It just feels great to win it. It’s a relief.”

The game was important on many different levels. For one, Vets moved down to Division II this year, making the rivalry between the teams suddenly count in the standings. Both teams are also very much in contention in D-II, as Pilgrim came into the day one point ahead of the ’Canes for second-place in the division.

Thirdly, Pilgrim’s head coach is Tom Flanders, who had coached with Vets for the past 20 years before taking over the Pats job this year.

“It was kind of surreal,” Flanders said. “You see kids for three years play for you, then you look out on the field and they’re in another jersey. You see (Casey) Bennett and (Emily and Lauren Almonte) and so forth, and it’s definitely surreal.”

With so many storylines leading up to the game, it was fitting that it was decided by a wild set of events over the final six minutes.

Vets scored first in the 28th minute, when Sloan Kinney crossed the ball into the box from the right and it bounced around to the foot of Bastan, who put it into the top-right corner. That made it 1-0, and it stayed that way into the waning minutes of the second half.

In the 78th minute, though, Pilgrim’s high-powered offense – specifically forward Katelyn Vieira, the state’s ninth-leading scorer – broke through.

Goalkeeper Hannah Page punted the ball to midfield, where Haley McCusker won it for Pilgrim. After a few dribbles up the field, she flipped a pass to the middle toward Vieira, who had two defenders on her hip. Vieira made one move to elude both defenders, got past Vets goalie Katelen Pick and casually touched the ball into the net for the equalizer.

“There are a lot of teams in this league that have that one go-to girl, and Katie Vieira is a tremendous player,” Vets head coach Fred Schweizer said. “You have to keep track of them. We lost her once and she put it in the back of the net. That’s the type of player she is.”

Even though the goal was scored late, there was plenty of time left. There had been some stoppages earlier in the game, and stoppage time was scheduled to run long.

Vets made the most of it.

“I had a lot of confidence in the fact that they were battling and wouldn’t give up,” Schweizer said of his team. “They haven’t given up all year. They’ve been behind before and they’ve come back. They’re a team that battles from the first whistle to the last whistle.”

Two minutes into stoppage time, the ’Canes were awarded a corner, and Kinney did the honors. She kicked a low ball that somehow found its way through a hoard of players into the box. It bounced around and off players for a few seconds before Almonte somehow got a foot on it and knocked it over Page into the goal.

“It was a lot of back and forth,” Almonte said. “People were kicking it off shins. I just stuck a leg out and popped it in. I was in the right place at the right time.”

The goal-scoring play was controversial, as Page was kicked on the play and stayed down for a minute afterwards. Flanders went to talk to the officials, but they upheld the goal.

“I simply asked a question – how’d she get hurt? They responded, ‘She got kicked in the head,’” Flanders said. “So I immediately said, ‘Well that’s a foul.’ They didn’t agree with me, so that’s that. But hat’s off to (Vets). There was no whistle. They scored. That’s soccer.”

The game nearly took on an entirely different look in the first half, as Pilgrim twice drilled a shot off the post. First, in the fifth minute, McCusker hit the right post from the top-left area of the box, but the ball rolled away harmlessly. In the 34th minute, Clare Birney took a direct kick from just outside the box and hit it hard, but as it slid past Pick, it hit the middle of the post and was eventually cleared by Vets.

“The kids played very, very well,” Flanders said. “I thought we were unlucky a lot of the game. We hit a couple posts in the beginning. Then a few opportunities we had in the second half. It just wasn’t in the cards today for us.”

From that point on, Vets dictated play. Bennett, usually the team’s stopper, spent the majority of the day running stride for stride with Vieira, and limited her chances until that late goal.

It was a key component in the ’Canes’ victory.


“Once (Vieira) moved forward, Casey stepped on her and did an unbelievable job – which is exactly what we expected,” Schweizer said. “We practiced that.”

With only three games remaining for both teams in the regular season, they are each in position to finish in the top four and get a first-round bye. Vets is 9-2-0 and is in third place with 27 points. Pilgrim is in fourth with an 8-2-1 record and 25 points. Burrillville leads the division with 30 points and a 10-2 record – although it has played one more game than either Pilgrim or Vets – and Lincoln is second with 29 points at 9-0-2.

The Pats and ’Canes still have some tests remaining on their schedules. Vets hosts Westerly today at 6:30 p.m., before going to Lincoln on Tuesday for a game that could decide first place. After that, it closes the season at Ponaganset on Thursday.

“I’d like them to ride this into the next game and into the next goal, which is Westerly,” Schweizer said.

Pilgrim travels to Narragansett today at 4 p.m., then hosts Westerly on Tuesday. It ends the season with Burrillville on Thursday.

“They handled that loss extremely well,” Flanders said. “I think they did it with a lot of class. It’s not easy losing to a city rival, it’s not easy losing to someone with eight wins. I think they handled it pretty well.”

Friday, October 4
Pats still undefeated after 7-0 win
Pats still undefeated after 7-0 win
Kevin Pomeroy

If the Pilgrim girls’ soccer team had any complaints about Tuesday’s game with Cranston East, it was that it didn’t finish all of its scoring chances.

But that would be nitpicking – and the Pats still finished plenty of them.

Behind two goals from Katelyn Vieira and five more goals from five different players, Pilgrim routed the ’Bolts 7-0 to stay undefeated. The Pats are 6-0-1 and are tied for first place in Division II with Lincoln.

East has only one win on the year, but Pilgrim head coach Tom Flanders was still a little concerned about his team’s energy level coming into the game after it had beaten formerly undefeated Scituate 5-1 on Saturday.

Two minutes in, it was clear there would be no letdown. After a push by East, Pilgrim’s Clare Birney took a free kick from just outside the box on the left and lofted it directly into the net, over East keeper Olivia Tagliaferri, for an immediate 1-0 lead.

“There’s not much to be upset about,” Flanders said. “They’re working hard. I was a little worried that after playing Scituate, playing them really well, that they’d come in flat. I thought there might have been a letdown but we came out and scored in the first minute and a half or so.”

From there, it didn’t take long for the floodgates to open. The Pats dominated and squandered a few chances from point blank range over the next 15 minutes, but made it 2-0 in the 18th.

Kendra Levesque passed a ball through the box from left to right to Hannah Johnson, who sent the ball into the top-left corner of the goal.

“Pilgrim’s got a very strong team, a lot of girls who know how to play,” East head coach Lauren Tomasso said. “You can tell they’ve played together for a long time.”

Ten minutes later, Kendra Tantimonico won the ball on a goal kick and sent it up to Vieira on the left side. She made a move to get past a defender and quickly made it 3-0. Two minutes later, Sophie DeLuca sent a pass to Vieira on the left, and she did the rest, easily scoring to make it 4-0 before the half.

“It’s amazing how she’s around the ball all the time,” Flanders said of Vieira. “She has a tremendous knack. It’s innate with her. She’s there all the time and she’s always a factor. She’s just a tremendous talent.”

East played better in the second half and made a few runs at Pilgrim goalie Hannah Page, with a shot by Meghan Letendre in the final minute of play being the best opportunity, but Pilgrim was still very much in control.

Meanwhile, the Pats added three more goals – one apiece from Levesque, Molly Lynch and Jennifer King. Lynch’s, in particular, was highlight reel-worthy, as Vieira set it up by dribbling all the way to the goal line and then lofting a pass across the box, where Lynch cleanly headed it in.

“This club is getting better and they’re starting to believe that this is the way we’re supposed to play,” Flanders said. “The kids that come off the bench, they’re getting plugged right into the system and we’re not even seeing a drop-off sometimes.”

Vieira added three assists to go with her pair of goals, while Levesque, Tantimonico and Lynch all had an assist as well.

In the back, Birney led a dominant defensive effort, along with Jeriann Evans, Haley Buco, Erin Plowman and DeLuca.

“Clare is the leader of that back four,” Flanders said. “We’re rotating about five through and we don’t miss a beat. As long as she’s back there, she’s the constant.”

In goal, Hannah Page made seven saves for her second shutout of the season.

Pilgrim has passed every test so far this season – including the big win over Scituate on Saturday – but it still has a few more coming up. Today, the Pats take on Lincoln at home at 3:30 p.m. in a battle for the outright division lead. Next week they have two very winnable games against Ponaganset and East Providence before they take on third-place Warwick Vets on Oct. 15.

That game is always a rivalry, but it has added dimensions now. Both teams are near the top of the division, and Flanders previously coached at Vets.

For now though, the Pats are worrying about Lincoln – and staying unbeaten.

“Lincoln is going to be a massive undertaking on Thursday,” Flanders said. “It will probably be a battle of 6-0-1’s. Hopefully we have the same results as we had with Scituate when we were both 4-0-1. I’m hoping we’ve got it together for Thursday.”

Tuesday, October 1
Young Pats hoping to continue upward trend with new faces
Young Pats hoping to continue upward trend with new faces
Clare Birney gets set for a corner kick.

It’s a new era for the Pilgrim girls’ soccer team.

The Patriots hope it’s a lot like the last era.

After 38 regular-season wins in the last three years, the Pats will finally be regrouping a bit this year. They said goodbye to a deep senior class and saw longtime head coach Mike Weber retire.

Former Vets head coach Tom Flanders is taking over the program and inherits a team that is eager to write its own chapter in the resurgence of Pilgrim soccer.

“We’ve got a lot of kids who were kind of waiting their turn the last few years,” Flanders said. “They’re ready to go. We’re excited. Hopefully we’ll have a good little season.”

So far, so good. The Pats won the annual Warwick Vets Fall Soccer Tournament on Wednesday, capturing the championship with a shootout victory over Toll Gate in a game that was shortened because the lights at Vets weren’t working.

It was a strong first step as the Pats try to pick up where they left off.

Pilgrim has posted double-digit victories in each of the last three years, culminating with an 11-1-2 regular season and a trip to the Division II semifinals last year. Gone from last year’s squad are a host of starters, including All-State defender Heather Wolfenden and all-division honorees Talia D’Ambruoso, Erica Hammond and Nicole Starkey. In all, seven starters – and 11 players – were lost to graduation. Two players also headed off to prep school.

But nobody is calling it a rebuilding year. The Pats have some talented pieces back in the fold, plus a lot of young players who are ready to make their mark.

Leading the way is junior forward Katie Vieira, who was the team’s leading scorer last season despite her youth. She was an honorable mention All-State pick by the R.I. Girls’ Soccer Coaches Association.

“She’s a dangerous player,” Flanders said.

Senior Haley McCusker returns as a starter and a physical presence in the middle, while senior and returning starter Clare Birney is back to anchor the defense.

That trio gives the Pats a veteran in every phase of the game.

“There’s some good leadership on this team, which is excellent,” Flanders said. “They communicate well. They get each other in the right position. It makes the whole team better when you have leadership like that.”

The Pats also have goalkeeper Hannah Page back. She started as a freshman and was one of the big reasons why the Pats had such a big season in 2012. Now a sophomore, Page is ready to do even bigger things.

In Wednesday’s tournament, the Pats won both their games in shootouts. Page saved six of the 10 shots she faced.

“Hannah Page in goal is terrific,” Flanders said. “She won those shootouts for us.”

The rest of the lineup will be filled out by players with varying levels of experience. But the common thread is talent and a desire to seize their moment.

Junior Haley Buco and sophomores Erin Plowman and Sophia DeLuca will join Birney in the defensive unit.

“Our back four is very strong,” Flanders said.

Also in the mix on defense are juniors Skyla Cameron and Kathryn Fontes and freshman Jeriann Evans. Senior Ellen Martin is the backup goalie.

In the middle, sophomore Kendra Tantimonico is ready for a bigger role after seeing some spot duty as a freshman.

“Kendra Tantimonico is a dynamite player,” Flanders said. “Very physical, very aggressive. She’s a strong presence in the middle.”

McCusker is also in the middle, along with senior Kendra Levesque and junior Emily Fluette. Senior Jennifer King, junior Madison Almonte and sophomores Tiana Dickinson, Emily Heon, Hannah Johnson and Alexia Martins are also midfielders.

Joining Vieira up front are senior Olivia DeLuca, junior Emma Reilly and sophomore Molly Lynch.

It’s a good group overall, and Flanders is expecting big things from a deep sophomore class.

“Just like last year’s senior class was a very strong class, this sophomore class is very strong,” Flanders said. “Even if there aren’t sophomores seeing time right now, they’ll be there in the future. There’s a lot of big strong kids who are young. It’s good for the future.”

The present could be pretty bright too. There may be some growing pains as the Pats learn to play with each other, but the hope is that the good times keep rolling.

“They know what it takes to win, even if they weren’t major players on those teams,” Flanders said. “They witnessed it. They’re ready to go.”

Pilgrim will open the regular season on Thursday with a 3:30 p.m. home game against Tiverton.


Tuesday, October 1
Longtime Vets head coach Flanders trades in his blue for Pilgrim black
Across Town
Longtime Vets head coach Flanders trades in his blue for Pilgrim black
William Geoghegan
NEW HOME: Pilgrim head coach watches the action in Wednesday's tournament.

On Wednesday afternoon, Tom Flanders donned a black polo shirt and took a bus to Warwick Vets for a soccer game.

It was a strange day.

For 20 years, if Flanders was going to a soccer game at Vets, he was wearing blue, and he wasn’t taking a bus. Flanders was one of the longest-tenured coaches in the city, having been with the Vets girls’ soccer program since 1993. He was an assistant for three years and the head coach for 17 years.

He’ll remain a head coach this year, but he’ll do it at Pilgrim. It’s his alma mater and the school that his children will attend in a few years. He felt the time was right to make a move.

That didn’t make Wednesday any less strange, as Flanders arrived at Vets for the Warwick Vets Fall Soccer Tournament and headed to the visitors’ bench.

“Coming in here is strange. My kids asked me, ‘Is it weird for you coach?’ I said, ‘I’d be lying if I told you no,’” Flanders said. “You go to work someplace for 20 years and it’s what you know. I took a bus here today. It’s going to be different.”

The Pilgrim job came open when another longtime coach, Mike Weber, retired after 13 years at the helm. Weber led the Pats to 38 wins in his last three years, one of the program’s best-ever runs. He left on a high note, having taken the Pats to the Division II semifinals last year.

Flanders teaches at Vets but has spent the last few spring seasons as the head coach of the new Pilgrim girls’ lacrosse team. Knowing that his children – including a daughter – are set to attend Pilgrim, and knowing that the job might not open up again anytime soon, he pulled the trigger.

“My kids will eventually go to Pilgrim,” Flanders said. “I thought I may lose the opportunity. The last time the Pilgrim job opened was 13 years ago. My daughter’s nine. I said, ‘Let’s do it now.’”

The move created a game of musical chairs in the Warwick soccer scene. Flanders is across town, while former Toll Gate assistant Fred Schweizer is moving to Vets to take over as the head coach there.

For Flanders, it’s an exciting move – but it wasn’t easy.

“It was very difficult,” he said. “There’s good, quality kids here. But it’s exciting. It’s a new challenge.”

Both Pilgrim and Vets have hit rough patches in the last five to 10 years. Pilgrim was the first, which ended up as a silver lining. The Pats moved to Division II in 2006, and struggled for several more years before turning everything back around in 2010. The last three years have been dream seasons.

The goal for Flanders is to keep the momentum alive.

“Mike Weber did a great job,” he said. “The kids are hard workers and I know he instilled that in them. It’s nice coming in here. They’re accustomed to winning. Hopefully, we’re going to add to that total.”

The Pats have some work to do. Much of last season’s nucleus was lost to graduation, and all three of the team’s big seasons were built by talented veterans. It’s a lot of talent to replace.

“They lost 11 seniors and two others to prep school, but it’s a good situation,” Flanders said. “We’ve got good young kids here. They want to learn, they want to get better. I’m excited. All of our practices have been great.”

Flanders has challenged the Pats in the preseason, and they responded with a championship in last Wednesday’s tournament.

It’s a good sign.

As the Pats celebrated on the Vets field, it was another strange moment for Flanders. He didn’t have to play his former team in the round robin tourney, but it’ll happen in the regular season. Vets is also down to Division II this year, which means the teams will renew their rivalry.

“It’ll be very, very difficult,” Flanders said. “The kids that I left here are fantastic kids. Fred’s going to do great things over here.”

Flanders hopes he can do great things, too – across town.


Tuesday, October 1
Patriots top Johnston, stay unbeaten
Photos by William Geoghegan
KICKING IT: Pilgrim sweeper Clare Birney tracks down a ball as Johnston

The last few years, the Pilgrim girls’ soccer team has built a reputation as one of the best teams in Division II. As a result, the Patriots are taking everybody’s best shot this season, even though the team is as young as it’s been throughout its run of success.

But the Pats are handling those best shots.

And the reputation is as strong as ever.

Pilgrim held off a determined Johnston team for a 2-1 victory on Tuesday afternoon. It was the fourth straight win for the Pats, who are 4-0-1 and sitting in a familiar spot near the top of the D-II standings.

“If you said you’re going to be 4-0-1 five games in, I would have signed for that in a second,” said head coach Tom Flanders. “We’re battling. It’s not going to be an easy thing. There’s a lot of good teams. We’ll just do our best.”

Pilgrim played Tiverton to a 1-1 draw in its season opener. Since then, the Pats have done nothing but win. They topped North Smithfield 2-1, Classical 4-1 and Mount St. Charles 3-0 before fending off Johnston on Tuesday.

There have been some rough patches within each game and growing pains along the way. But considering the team’s youth – Pilgrim starts six sophomores – it’s been a terrific start.

And it may only get better.

“The thing we’ve got to remember is that this is a very young team,” Flanders said. “There are a lot of 10th graders on this team, a lot of kids who are playing varsity for the first time. They were hidden behind all those seniors for so long and now it’s their time to shine. They’ve got to get used to being in the spotlight, and when they do they’re going to be a very dangerous team. Hopefully, they’re going to peak at the right time.”

On Tuesday, Pilgrim generally carried the play against winless Johnston but was kept off the scoreboard in the first half. The Panthers defense limited quality chances and the midfield won more than its share of 50-50 balls to keep Pilgrim from dominating possession.

The Patriots still had a flurry of shots but came up empty each time. Johnston goalie Amber Dion made several big saves, including a diving stop on a rocket by Haley McCusker.

“We were able to hang in there,” Johnston coach Tim Sprouls said.

On the Pilgrim side, the issue with the chances was quality vs. quantity. The Pats were getting enough shots, but they weren’t good enough.

“We were basically just trying to go forward too much,” Flanders said. We needed to build a little bit before and not be so predictable. We were very predictable – just turning and going forward. We made some adjustments and the play was a lot better, the chances were a lot better, in the second half.”

And Pilgrim wasted no time capitalizing.

After getting just one corner kick in the first half, the Patriots took four in the first 13 minutes of the second half and turned two of them into carbon-copy goals.


In the 43rd minute, Clare Birney took a corner from the left and placed it into the middle of the box, where Katelyn Vieira headed it into the net. Ten minutes later, that duo connected again and Pilgrim went up 2-0.

“We had times when we were playing like islands,” Flanders said. “The strikers were up and the mids were back. We made that adjustment at halftime. Once they started closing those gaps, we were putting them under pressure and they were putting the ball out of bounds. Once that starts to work, it’s very effective and you’ll get those corners.”

After the second goal, Johnston did some of its best work of the day, creating a handful of chances and forcing Pilgrim goalie Hannah Page into action. In the 69th minute, the Panthers broke through. A cross by Danielle DeAngelis was headed into the air by Zenobia Griffin. It came down and bounced around before Gravel volleyed it past Page and into the net.

“That was nice and it was a team effort down there,” Sprouls said. “We had three girls in the box and they all just kept hanging in there and hanging in there.”

Suddenly, the Panthers were right back into the game, but Pilgrim didn’t let a comeback get off the ground, with defenders Birney, Sophie DeLuca, Erin Plowman and Haley Buco keeping Johnston at bay. Gravel and Christina Hardman teamed up for a run with eight minutes left, but Birney – Pilgrim’s sweeper – cleared the ball before a scoring chance could develop. With four minutes left, Hardman got loose but was called for offsides. Apart from those chances, Pilgrim controlled the action and held on.

“We’re getting everybody’s best game, and we’ve been up to that,” Flanders said.

Despite the unbeaten start, the Pats see plenty of things to work on. On Tuesday, both goals came on dead-ball situations.

“We still didn’t finish one on the field so we’ve got some work to do,” Flanders said.

And the Pats will be working with an eye on a showdown. They’ll visit fellow unbeaten Scituate on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

“We’ve got a tough game against Scituate on Saturday,” Flanders said. “We’ll get back to practice and correct what we need to correct. I think they all know the things they can do better and that’s big when they understand that.”