Like so many of the teams at Narragansett High School did last year, the Mariners’ boys soccer team enjoyed a good deal of success as they made a run all the way to the RIIL Division II Championship game.
There was a price to be paid for that success, however, as more than half the players on that 2012 squad were graduating seniors.
That is the challenge facing coaches at a small school such as Narragansett. Not just trying to figure out how to be successful and win in an individual game or season, but how to best set up their program to be consistent year after year.
It is also a challenge the Mariners seem more than ready to face as they begin their preparations for the 2013 season.
“Pick up where [we] left off,” said Narragansett coach Ryan Kanaczet of his intentions for this season. “A lot of the kids this year are playing the rolls they had last year. It was a two-year plan. You have to foreshadow and figure out where you’re going to see these guys in a year.
“They are another year older, another year wiser. Some kids as sophomores are going to play like juniors, as juniors need to play like seniors. That’s Narragansett ball.”
The names on the roster may have changed moving into this fall, but Kanaczet is hoping that with the success of last year’s JV team, some returning Varsity starters and the offseason play in summer leagues for both the high school and with other South County teams, there will be more than enough talent to step in and fill all of the vacated roster spots.
With new restrictions cutting down the number and length of practices this preseason, the numerous new faces for Narragansett faced the additional challenge of having to get ready in a hurry in order to remain one of the top teams in Division II.
Kanaczet figured the best way to counteract the limited time was to not just increase the number preseason scrimmages and games, but also strengthen their preseason opponents.
That was certainly the case in the Mariners’ scrimmage Saturday against North Kingstown, who finished last season tied for fifth in Division I.
“I think it’s a lot of preparing and playing,” Kanaczet said when asked how the Mariners could improve upon 2012. “A lot of the kids are dedicated and played summer league and worked out together, so I think it’s the more playing we can get. That’s why we were trying to get [Saturday’s] game in. This was tough competition against a DI school. We’re DII, one of the smallest schools in the state. We did this for a reason.
“…The strength of our preseason schedule is pretty strong. I think there’s value in seeing those kids. They get better by watching them play.”
As daunting as the task of rebuilding nearly an entire roster may be and while there is admittedly “still things to work on” before the season opener on Sept. 6 against Pilgrim, Kanazcet is happy with how his team is progressing through their preseason. Happy to the point where there should be little doubt this year’s Mariners squad has a good chance at repeating what they did in 2012.
“I think with the current make-up of Division II being one big division and 12 teams making the playoffs…I’ll put it this way, we will be a playoff team,” said the coach. “I don’t think it is at a point where they shouldn’t be. We have some kids who got experience playing in playoff games last year. We had some huge wins, so to have the kids see us get through some of those wins and building off that experience.”
After another set of scrimmages on Monday, the Mariners will wrap up their preseason with three non-league games.
First they will face North Kingstown once again, this time in their Injury Fund game Thursday at East Greenwich High School at 5:20 p.m.
Narragansett will then face Chariho at home Friday at 3:45 p.m. and conclude its preseason next Tuesday back at East Greenwich for the Fall Classic against South Kingstown at 5 p.m.