WEST GREENWICH—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 couldn’t be more excited to return.
“It’s awesome [being back out on the field]. I missed it a lot,” Light said. “It was awful to just sit there and literally not be able to do anything to help them.”
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.
“…We just keep telling [Cruise] we want her back,” Light said. “We’re doing whatever we can to put us in playoffs to give her a chance to play at the end of the season but there’s not much else we can do.”
“Marissa’s been really helpful. Before every game she comes up to me and says something and she’s been such a great friend though this whole thing,” Cruise says. “She says that she’s playing for me.”
Even with all the losses off the field though, the Avengers have done nothing but win on the pitch.
East Greenwich – along with North Kingstown and Portsmouth – is one of just three teams to start the Division I season 4-0-0 (La Salle is 2-0-0) thanks to Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Toll Gate.
The wins haven’t been all fluff either, as last Thursday’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 – indicates.
“Caroline’s out for the season and Maria Nunez hasn’t even played yet, she’d be another starter and right now we’re not deep. We only have 28 girls in the program,” EG coach Scott Douglas said.
“It’s nice to have [Light] back, she’s done well and she did a nice job today and this was the best team we’ve seen so far.
“…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 they’re in the top four. They’re good. They’re very good.”
From the moment the Knights took the field last Thursday EWG coach Kevin Fraser knew his girls didn’t have it that day and the Avengers took full advantage.
“We were terribly off today,” Fraser said. “Even our warm up and everything my assistant coach [Steve Marmas] and I were talking saying that they’re just flat today. They’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 wasn’t going to come today.”
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 EG’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.
“It was one of the best goals you’ll see,” Douglas said. “She 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.”
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 – who played through quadriceps injuries – in check.
“We always try to play out of the back so we try to settle things down,” Light said. “We knew obviously coming up from Division II they won like three years in a row so we knew she was very good.
“She 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.”
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 – who traded in her cast for a walking boot Wednesday – will return to the field this season, the senior midfielder is still holding out hope to make it back.
“I’m supposed to be out until mid October but I’m hoping to be back for playoffs,” Cruise said. “Fingers crossed.”