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The season that will stretch into November is not yet two weeks old for the East Greenwich High School boys soccer team. They are still a week away from the official start to 2013 with their season opener against Cranston West. It is early.
That is a good thing for a young, developing Avengers squad that needs all the time it can get. For East, it is not going to be about how the team starts this fall, but how they finish.
East Greenwich finished the regular season in fifth place in Division II last fall, qualifying for the playoffs. They advanced to the quarterfinals, where their season came to an end with a 2-0 loss to Westerly High School. The make up of the team has changed coming into the 2013 season, however. Graduating some, having other players from last yearâ€™s squad opting not to return and the smallest numbers the program has seen in some time, the Avengers will be young and raw.
To start the season that is.
â€śItâ€™s early, but surprisingly weâ€™re doing ok,â€ť said East Greenwich coach Pat McGuirl following the teamâ€™s practice on Monday afternoon. â€śWeâ€™re young this year, we only have five seniors. A couple returning players decided not to play this year.
â€śWeâ€™re looking to get some experience this week. We have a lot of scrimmages lined up. We play a tough schedule. We hope to be better in November by the time the playoffs roll around. â€¦Weâ€™re just trying to accumulate as many points as we can and when the playoffs roll around, weâ€™ll see what happens.â€ť
Defense will be the key to success for the Avengers this fall with a strong core on the backend built around junior goalkeeper Nolan Cooney, who is entering his second year as a starter, and Ryan Douglas, another junior and a three-year starter who will be filling the sweeper role for East.
â€śOur strength should probably be defense,â€ť McGuirl said. â€śNolan Cooney is coming back. â€¦Heâ€™s a very good goalkeeper. Heâ€™s aggressive, heâ€™s technically sound and heâ€™s a big, confident kid, so weâ€™re very good in the back and Ryan Douglas is returning. Heâ€™s actually a third year starter and heâ€™s moving back to sweeper this year. With those two guys weâ€™ll be solid in the back. We wonâ€™t give up a lot of goals, but we might have a lot of low scoring games.â€ť
Cooney and Douglas anchor a defensive corps that also features senior Owen Giles and juniors Peter Goretoy, Jordan Melnick and Bobby Quinn manning the backend. Their performance will be vital to any success East Greenwich may have in 2013 as the team is still searching for the right lineup to help produce at the front end in a rotation that will be highlighted by seniors Tyler Ferra and Will Karabots, and junior Greg Kehoe.
â€śWe need goal scoring up front,â€ť McGuirl said when asked the biggest challenge facing the Avengers. â€śKehoe, Ferra, Karabots. We need somebody to step in and score a bunch of goals for us. Defensively we should probably be pretty solid, but weâ€™re trying to find the right combinations up front to see if we can find someone to score a bunch of goals.â€ť
Despite their youth and inexperience, with the goal in mind to not just return to the playoffs, but get a top four seed and first round bye, the Avengers will test themselves this season. All three of their allowable non-league games will be played against Division I opponents, the first of which comes next Tuesday night â€“ two days before their regular season opener â€“ against North Kingstown, followed by contests later in the year against LaSalle and Central Falls, who finished second and third, respectively, last season.
All it will take is more confidence for the returning players and experience for the newer players, according to McGuirl, to get back to where they want to go. It is early and they have the time. The journey starts Thursday as the Avengers travel to South Kingstown to face Westerly in their annual Injury Fund contest, which will begin at 6:10 p.m. Next Tuesday they will welcome North Kingstown to Carcieri Field for a 5 p.m. start and then they will play their Division II opener next Thursday, September 5, at 3:30 p.m. on the road at Cranston West.