Fall sports are finally here


Last week, I wrote about the upcoming football season as practices got underway. This week, the remaining sports will get back to work, so naturally, I figured I would set the table for other storylines that have my attention as we head into the fall. Here we go.

For boys soccer, I’m looking forward to the Division II race after last fall’s dogfight. Pilgrim finished with nine wins while Cranston West won eight games and Cranston East six. None of those teams won the title, but all made the playoffs and had chances to make some noise in the postseason.

Pilgrim graduated its starting keeper in Austin Kilduff and its captain in the midfield in Jacob Holland. This team will be relying on a big junior class in 2022 including breakout player Ryan Annunziata, who emerged last year as one of the division’s most dangerous strikers. Pilgrim has been solid for quite some time and should again be somewhere toward the top of the standings, but it will be interesting to see how it overcomes some of the senior losses.

Cranston East is in a similar situation and lost arguably the best player in the division in Carlos Andrade. The Bolts were young last year and will be fairly young again in 2022, but the question really is who will replace Andrade’s production?

Warwick boasts some of the state’s best girls soccer talent and I am always intrigued to see what is in store for Pilgrim and Toll Gate.

Pilgrim had another big year in Division I and has cemented its place as a powerhouse. We are still waiting for the Pats to break through and take home a title, but it seems like it’s only a matter of time. They’ve been knocking at the door for awhile.

Gatorade Player of the Year Sarah Lynch has graduated along with keeper Janelle Mixner, captains Amelia Murphy, Lindsay Flanders and Alanna Coffie. That is a huge chunk of production to be replaced, but once again, the talent keeps coming for this program.

Returners include Dasani Stewart, Gillian Brown, Amaya Coffie, Keira Ramsden and Haylee Marcotte. Will this team be able to return to the top of the standings and flirt with an undefeated season as it did last year? That may be a little tough, even for Pilgrim, but there is no doubt in my mind that the Pats will be a playoff team with a legitimate shot at a title, despite losing so much.

Toll Gate won the Division III championship in 2020 and then returned to the playoffs in Division II last fall. When looking at what is returning, I think it is safe to say that Toll Gate will be a favorite to take the title this fall, or at least is among the favorites.

The team’s best overall player will be back in Olivia Dutra, along with Katie Pale, Morgan Caianiello, Adeline Areson, Kara Yelman, Alison Pankowicz, Brooklyn Marinelli, Callie Fagundes. The projected senior core is going to be large and experienced along with a solid junior class. The Titans should have everything they need to be a favorite.

For girls volleyball, Cranston West was our best team in 2021 as it won its division by going 13-3 and reaching the playoffs. Pilgrim also reached the playoffs with a solid campaign as well. Gianna Ramos will have to take the reins to guide Pilgrim back to the postseason.

For field hockey, Pilgrim entered 2021 as the team to watch for our coverage area. Although the team did not lay an egg, it did have a shaky start to the season and never fully recovered from it, finishing below .500. It was surprising, especially with the large senior class it had leading the way. We’ll see this fall, but it could be another rebuilding year for Pilgrim.

Last year was the first season that East and West co-op’ed, and although the team picked up two wins, it did seem to gel a little bit in the back half of its schedule. Let’s see how much growth there has been since then.

Last fall was probably the most successful cross country season collectively for our schools in the three years that I had covered RI sports.

Hendricken did what Hendricken does … it went undefeated all year, won the state championship, then later won the Northeast Regional Championship. The Hawks came back with a vengeance after losing to rival La Salle in 2020 and had perhaps its best season ever as a program. The Hawks always churn out elite runners, so I’m sure the status quo will remain in 2022.

Pilgrim and Toll Gate also had solid campaigns and figure to compete well this season too on the boys side.

Cranston East had a big season on the girls side as the team went 9-1 and had a nice showing at states. It will be interesting to see if this is the year that the Bolts take that next step toward a title. Pilgrim’s Keaney Bayha took home a top-10 finish last season as a freshman, so to say she will be a factor would be an understatement.

Finally, girls tennis.

Pilgrim was perhaps the biggest surprise of last fall for me, as it finished 10-6 in the regular season but went on a run and appeared in the state championship. Pilgrim was supposed to be solid, it had a nice lineup, but I don’t think a single person would have guessed that it would have pulled off upsets over both Central and St. Ray’s in the playoffs. What a run.

This year will be different as Pilgrim graduated Abigail Vest, Emma Spolidoro, Mia Gustafson and Hailey Link. Madison Boscia, Berndinie Delias and Grace Schenk are among the returners, but we will see how they will fare being moved up a few spots in the lineup.

My Pitch, sports column