EAST PROVIDENCE — After a fall to forget a year ago, there's some good news and some good signs for the East Providence High School girls' soccer club as the Townies ready to embark on the …
EAST PROVIDENCE — After a fall to forget a year ago, there's some good news and some good signs for the East Providence High School girls' soccer club as the Townies ready to embark on the heart of their 2023 regular season league schedule in the coming days and weeks.
Firstly, following a year back playing amongst the state's elite in Division I, the Townies quickly were able to move back down a notch to D-II this fall. East Providence went winless (0-15-1) upon its return to D-I for the first time in 17 years and also its first season under former Townie standout Melissa Resendes as head coach.
In fairness to that squad and Resendes, nearly all of the key contributors to East Providence's success in the years prior at both the D-II and D-III levels graduated in the spring of 2022, leaving behind only a handful of experienced, capable players in the program as it tried to contend with the best outfits around.
"I'm excited. More importantly, the girls are excited. They dropped up down to D-II, which is where I think we'll do a lot better," said Resendes. "The energy in the team is completely different than last year. You could tell from the first day we got together. I think the girls are excited to be back in a division where they feel more comfortable, which makes me super excited as well."
In 2023, the Townies find themselves in the more familiar and, based on their talent, more fair confines of D-II. They do so with nine returning starters, including two who have played just about every minute of every game in their high school careers: seniors Eva Laroche and McKayla Lopes.
Laroche, the team captain, and Lopes are two key components in Resendes' 3-1-3-3 formation. Laroche centers the back trio with returning starter and junior Katherine Almeida at her right and classmate Kassidy Martins, a first time regular, at her left. Lopes is the "one" in the defensive alignment in front of junior returning keeper Kloey Iacovone, now in her third year as the starting goalie.
Players in the middle of the formation are all returning starters: seniors Nyima Goncalves and Grace Gagne along with junior Ava Williams.
The three in attack are returning regulars junior Ava Soares and sophomore Alyssa Karalekas along with new starter junior Brennyn Alves.
"Last year we played a lot different. We definitely played more defensively because of the move up to Division I," Resendes explained of the Townies' change in formation this year from the traditional 4-4-2 they employed last fall.
She continued, "This year we're playing with the three in the back. I told the girls I want us to attack more. I want us to take as many shots as we can, put a lot of pressure on our opponents up top."
Among the players first off the bench are freshman Amalia Amici and junior Thalia Lima, who actually accounted for East Providence's first goal of the season just off the bench last week in the Townies' 3-1 loss to visiting Ponaganset. Two sophomores — Acadia Ullucci and Nadiyah Calouro-Vargas — are in the mix to see time defensively.
The coach said that quartet along with some other emerging youngsters give East Providence better depth than the side had last year. In total, 32 young women are involved in the program, allowing the Townies to field a complete junior varsity team.
Resendes said having those reserves contributing to varsity in spots will allow her starters to maintain their stamina as the season goes along. That and, again, returning to Division II where the program enjoyed past successes has created a renewed sense of optimism around the squad.
"They've had that taste and I think going back down to D-II, they know they have things that we need to work on, but I think they're more confident," Resendes added. "And I think having more kids with the team, could give us fresher legs. The (starters) know they don't have to play every second of every game like they did before. Now it's just a matter of getting us all to connect."
As for the season ahead, Resendes said she fully expects the Townies to not only be in the mix for a playoff spot, but also contend for the league championship.
"I tell girls we're in it to win it. That's what I want for them," Resendes said. "Everyone on the team deserves that, but my seniors have worked so hard. They deserve a chance to compete for a championship. I can see that they want it. They're putting in the effort. Hopefully it works out for us in the end."