The Johnston Lady Panthers lacrosse team has started the 2019 season, and this year, they have moved up to Division II, where it’ll be anything but a breeze.
“The competition and skill level will definitely be a challenge this year,” Johnston head coach Jay Areson said. “The girls will have to earn every goal and win this year.”
“I have five, four-year starters with playoff experience and a championship under their belt,” Areson said. “Gabby DiRaimo and Kaylee Lameiro know how to score, so I will be looking for them to put some points up. Grace Muller is the workhorse of the team. She is a midfielder, who can make plays. Bianca Robbins is the rock of the defense. Her quickness and skill level are a natural gift that can change a game instantly. And, Julianna Zalewski is an experienced defender, who I can count on. I will be relying on all five to keep us in every game. Beyond that, I have many seniors that have come out for the first time. It’ll be a learning curve for many.”
The team captains this year will be DiRaimo, Lameiro, Muller and Robbins.
Jeweleana Lariviere started the first game in net against Middletown on Monday afternoon.
“She is a junior, who has varsity experience as she split the job last year with Mikayla Thimas,” Areson explained. “She is still learning the game and its quickness, but I have the confidence she will do a great job”.
Thimas, also a junior, was injured in a game last season against Rogers. She said she plans on being back in time for the Lady Panthers home opener on Wed., April 9th against Cranston West. Areson says the two goalies will be competing for the starting job.
Being in a new division, Areson eyes some new opponents and he believes that Narragansett, Prout, and Middletown all have strong squads that will test his team.
“We will definitely be ready to compete in every game,” Areson said. “I have some very competitive girls on my team, and they give 110 percent all game.”
One up-and-coming player to watch out for will be Bianca Robbins’ younger sister, Julia Robbins, a freshman.
“She comes with experience and knowledge of the game,” Areson said. “I can put her in any position, and she has emerged as a player you can build around.”
A big factor for Johnston will be if it can keep conditioned.
“Some keys of the season will be if we can stay healthy,” Areson said. “We have a young team and don’t have experience beyond with who’s on the field. Another key will be how we keep our composure to the stronger teams. But I am looking forward to the competition and to send off these 14 seniors.”
Bianca Robbins said she is ready for the challenge. In fact, the star defenseman feels the Lady Panthers can go all the way, just like they did in 2017 when they won the D3 title.
“I do feel confident going to D2,” Robbins said. “I do believe we can make it all the way if we play as a team. I think any team can win at any time if they play together and play their hardest.”
It will be the multi-athlete’s final sport in what has been an illustrious high school career.
“It’s crazy to think that this is my last sport I will ever play in high school,” Robbins said. “After four years doing a sport each season and playing two sports in the fall, it’s going to feel weird in college not doing a sport each season.”
Robbins will attend Roger Williams University next year where she will study Business Management. There, Robbins will play soccer in the fall and run track in the spring.
“I will still be busy, but I will miss playing high school sports,” Robbins reiterated.
As the end nears, it has meant a lot to Robbins to don the Columbia blue and white for the last four years.
“It felt good playing wearing a Johnston jersey,” Robbins said. “I accomplished good grades while playing sports. I hold the scoring record here with 192 goals. I was the first girl to be a football kicker here, and I did good in basketball and lax.”