With the playoffs coming up in most sports, I have begun rummaging through the various playoff schedules, formats and possibilities.
One thing that excites me is how a handful of our girls soccer teams are ready to make a run toward a championship.
The Pilgrim girls are sitting in first place in the Division I South standings and have been one of the top two teams in the state along with Cumberland. The Lady Pats hit a rough patch a few weeks back where they lost to Cumberland then tied Cranston West. It is impressive to call a 0-1-1 week a rough patch, but that is how good the Pilgrim squad has been this year.
Pilgrim moved up to Division I last season and fit right in as it reached the state finals against La Salle. Although there are a few other teams in the mix like Cumberland, Cranston West and La Salle, the Pats should be right in the thick of things from here on out.
Alanna Coffie and Sarah Lynch have been two of the best offensive players in the state and girls like Amaya Coffie and Gillian Brown have been great depth pieces. The defense along with keeper Janelle Mixner have been tremendous, allowing just 10 goals in 15 league games. Pilgrim has been firing on all cylinders and is definitely hard to overlook in the postseason.
Toll Gate has also emerged as a contender in Division II after a rocky start this fall. Much like last year, the Lady Titans have caught fire in the second half of the regular season and seem to be peaking at the perfect time.
Toll Gate ripped off a five-game winning streak and has won five of its past six contests overall. Although its seeding will be somewhere in the middle of the standings due to a few early fall losses, Toll Gate will have every opportunity to make a run come playoff time and it will be exciting to watch.
Striker Olivia Dutra has been unbelievable this fall after having a breakout year last season. Dutra became a key piece to the Titans’ offense down the stretch last year and had a few big performances in the playoffs. Now, even with teams keying in on her, it hasn’t mattered much as she is putting up crazy numbers on the scoresheet.
Another big development with this team has been keeper Maddie Clark. The team had a few solid goaltender options but injury has thrusted Clark into the full-time role. She has thrived and has been sitting in the top three all fall for saves in net. She has been a stonewall and paired with Dutra, Toll Gate may be the dark horse of the division.
Cranston West has a very deep and experienced group this fall but has still been one of the biggest surprises in the division to this point. The Falcons last loss came at the hands of defending champion La Salle back in September, (West played the Rams again on Wednesday but the results were not available at press time).
The Falcons have been holding steady and have played some outstanding soccer in the month of October. West tied Pilgrim and first-place Cumberland and has cruised to a handful of other big wins in the process.
Point being, the Falcons have proven to not only be able to hang with anyone in Division I, but they have also proven to be a legitimate threat to take it all.
Julia Robbins and Maddie Alves have been one of the best 1-2 punches in the state this fall and should continue to lead the way into the playoffs. The Falcons have also pitched seven shutouts which is outstanding and should not be overlooked.
It’s always fun to see this many teams in our coverage area competing in the same sport, especially when teams like Pilgrim and West are within the same division. I think it goes to show just how strong our local leagues are in the area and how far the programs have developed over the past few years. It should be a fun couple of weeks coming up.
Another thing I wanted to mention was the idea the Pilgrim girls had for their senior night festivities last week.
During their game, the girls wore special attire and raised funds to honor local 2 year old Rowan Shaw, who is currently fighting cancer.
Prior to the game, the team heard of Shaw’s battle and decided that it wanted to dedicate its senior night to him and helping the cause. Between the donations, the special uniforms and whatnot, it was a nice little celebration to spread awareness and to help Rowan out. He and his parents actually made the trip to the game to catch the action which was heartwarming to see.
I think that this is a great idea and should be copied moving forward. Every team does a senior night, but for teams to find different causes to take part in and support would be awesome. Some teams already do that, obviously, but to see that become the norm would be tremendous and would make a huge impact.
So, shout out to the Pilgrim girls for a wonderful idea.
Lastly, it has been a minute since I have touched on the national scene. My biggest item I wanted to talk about is the Red Sox.
After taking a 2-1 series lead over Houston in the American League Championship, the Sox dropped three straight contests to be eliminated. Although Boston hit a hot streak and gave it a respectable fight, in my opinion, it was playing with house money just being there.
Look, the Red Sox had maybe the best offensive lineup in the entire league and you saw it carry the load throughout the playoffs. However, the Sox’ pitching staff was shallow and lacked consistency. If the bats went cold - which they did - they would stand no chance.
We’ll see how the front office addresses the pitching staff this offseason. The team needs another starter and at least one more relief arm.
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