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WEST GREENWICHâ€”Playing through adversity has become a common practice for the East Greenwich girls soccer team.
Before she had even stepped on the practice field last season the Avengers lost star defender Marissa Light to a knee injury, yet the team had enough talent that after some position shuffling made their way into the playoffs.
Now a senior captain, Light is back on the field for the Avengers this fall and couldnâ€™t be more excited to return.
â€śItâ€™s awesome [being back out on the field]. I missed it a lot,â€ť Light said. â€śIt was awful to just sit there and literally not be able to do anything to help them.â€ť
Unfortunately for the Avengers as one standout returns another has been lost as senior captain and midfielder Carolyn Cruise will likely miss the entire season with a broken fibula.
â€śâ€¦We just keep telling [Cruise] we want her back,â€ť Light said. â€śWeâ€™re doing whatever we can to put us in playoffs to give her a chance to play at the end of the season but thereâ€™s not much else we can do.â€ť
â€śMarissaâ€™s been really helpful. Before every game she comes up to me and says something and sheâ€™s been such a great friend though this whole thing,â€ť Cruise says. â€śShe says that sheâ€™s playing for me.â€ť
Even with all the losses off the field though, the Avengers have done nothing but win on the pitch.
East Greenwich â€“ along with North Kingstown and Portsmouth â€“ is one of just three teams to start the Division I season 4-0-0 (La Salle is 2-0-0) thanks to Tuesdayâ€™s 4-0 win over Toll Gate.
The wins havenâ€™t been all fluff either, as last Thursdayâ€™s 1-0 victory over Exeter-West Greenwich - who, despite playing its first season in D-I, is still likely one of the best teams in the state â€“ indicates.
â€śCarolineâ€™s out for the season and Maria Nunez hasnâ€™t even played yet, sheâ€™d be another starter and right now weâ€™re not deep. We only have 28 girls in the program,â€ť EG coach Scott Douglas said.
â€śItâ€™s nice to have [Light] back, sheâ€™s done well and she did a nice job today and this was the best team weâ€™ve seen so far.
â€śâ€¦This is a huge win for us right now at this point in time having the number of injuries and now playing against one of the top four teams in Rhode Island I bet. I bet theyâ€™re in the top four. Theyâ€™re good. Theyâ€™re very good.â€ť
From the moment the Knights took the field last Thursday EWG coach Kevin Fraser knew his girls didnâ€™t have it that day and the Avengers took full advantage.
â€śWe were terribly off today,â€ť Fraser said. â€śEven our warm up and everything my assistant coach [Steve Marmas] and I were talking saying that theyâ€™re just flat today. Theyâ€™re not excited. You take [the game against] South Kingstown they were up for that game, they were excited, you could see it in the warm up. I could just sense and see that it wasnâ€™t going to come today.â€ť
A miscue in the 15th minute allowed the Avengers just the opening they needed as the Knights failed to clear a loose ball out of their zone, which allowed EGâ€™s Jen Sarazen to break the ball out wide.
Sarazen sent a cross into the box from right to left that perfectly found the foot of junior Giovanna Mandarini at point blank range, giving EWG keeper Makayla Brady no shot at making a save.
â€śIt was one of the best goals youâ€™ll see,â€ť Douglas said. â€śShe got down, served it, came in [and] volleyed it. Just a beautiful goal by Giovanna. Jen worked hard, she put the pressure on, won the ball, gets the cross [and it was] beautiful.â€ť
The score remained the same through halftime and into the 57th minutes when the Knights appeared to finally break even.
EWG sent a corner kick into the box amongst a mess of players that went just over the outstretched arms of EG keeper Caroline Preston before caroming off the back post and out.
The ball appeared to have barely crossed the line on the far post before the English on the ball brought it into the field of play but officials deemed it had not done so.
That would prove to be the best chance the Knights got as Avenger defenders Alex Freeman and Light did a tremendous job to keep All-State striker Kara Shaw â€“ who played through quadriceps injuries â€“ in check.
â€śWe always try to play out of the back so we try to settle things down,â€ť Light said. â€śWe knew obviously coming up from Division II they won like three years in a row so we knew she was very good.
â€śShe scored the two goals the other day against SK so we knew she was someone to watch out for so we just made sure she was always covered.â€ť
The Avengers will return to the pitch today at 6:30 p.m. when they host defending champ Smithfield before travelling to take on Cumberland Tuesday at 3:45 p.m.
Things may not have gone according to plan so far for East Greenwich but on the field all the Avengers have done is produce results without their fallen captain.
While it is unlikely Cruise â€“ who traded in her cast for a walking boot Wednesday â€“ will return to the field this season, the senior midfielder is still holding out hope to make it back.
â€śIâ€™m supposed to be out until mid October but Iâ€™m hoping to be back for playoffs,â€ť Cruise said. â€śFingers crossed.â€ť