The Chariho girls soccer team is only one season removed from a state championship that featured a sterling 20-1-1 record. Instead of defending the Division II crown, a brave new world awaits as the Chargers were bumped up to the state’s top division for the next two seasons.
“The girls are very excited for the challenge to be able to compete at the D-I level,” Chariho head coach Brittney Godbout said. “There’s a pretty big gap between D-I and D-II as far as speed of play and physicality, but they worked hard during the summer.”
For Smithfield, the mission couldn’t be any clearer. A rare down season in 2021 (3-12-1 in Division I) resulted in the snapping of a 17-year streak of qualifying for the playoffs.
“We had a young team last year but it was a good learning experience,” noted Sentinels head coach Robert Squillante. “I thought the girls took [watching instead of participating in last year’s postseason] to heart and have bought into what it is to be a team.”
Chariho and Smithfield will square off tonight night at 6:30 at the Chargers’ athletic complex. Who should fans (and Yurview viewers) keep an eye on? Ask and you shall receive. Below is a checklist to help you get game ready. Let’s begin with the away team.
A senior, Nicole Nunes made great strides in goal as last season progressed and finds herself infused with even more confidence as she prepares for her second season as Smithfield’s starter between the posts.
“She was tested often last year but I think that experience is going to work in her favor,” said Squillante.
The crew of hard-nosed center backs includes juniors Lily Niquette and Avery Areson. Featured on the outside of Smithfield’s defensive scheme will be junior Talia Cost with freshman Brooke Tsonos emerging as a pleasant surprise. Tsonos is one of seven ninth graders added to this year’s group of Sentinels.
“They have that camaraderie that comes from playing with each other for a while now. They know where each other needs to be on the field,” said Squillante, specifically referring to Niquette, Areson, and Cost.
Senior captain Tessa Cost and junior Krista Kasbarian headline the midfielders.
“When you see Krista play, you would think she’s a senior or a college player. She’s well ahead of the curve right now,” said Squillante. “Tessa made the team as a freshman and has earned her playing time throughout her career through a lot of hard work and grit. She’s done a terrific job of keeping the girls motivated.”
At outside midfield is senior captain Alyssa Coogan. After paying her dues at the JV level during her freshman and sophomore years, Coogan was motivated to become a contributor to the varsity team.
“She’s ready to go,” said Squillante. “She’s a leader on and off the field.”
In Isabella Bettencourt and Kaylin O’Connor, you have a pair of juniors who will be counted on to finish at the net.
“They’ve got some good chemistry going on right now,” said Squillante. “I’m expecting them to carry us offensively.”
A freshman striker to keep an eye on is Meghan Aubee while sophomore Grace Marshall has made her presence felt at outside midfielder.
“Overall, we’re a solid team that’s going to have a lot of contributors,” said Squillante.
As the Chargers make the jump to Division I, they do so firmly set in the goal-scoring department. Ryann Denecour was a revelation as a ninth grader with 26 goals and 21 assists. Now a sophomore, Denecour will once again serve as an essential building block.
“The girls respect her because she’s so knowledgeable about the game. She also encourages her teammates to raise the bar,” said Godbout. “Having her back to anchor our midfield will be helpful at the D-I level.”
A senior captain, Tessa Azzinaro contributed 22 goals to Chariho’s championship season a year ago. Like many of her teammates, she’s upped her training in preparation for a higher caliber of opponents.
“She’s added even more speed and she was incredibly fast to begin with,” said Godbout.
Chariho’s top line will also include sophomore Emily Brown (“very scrappy,” said Godbout) along with senior captain Brooke Kanaczet and sophomore Ella Dachowski. A senior captain, Kaitlyn Rousseau was described by her coach as a conductor who holds the midfield together.
“Her strength is gaining possession and distributing the ball to the forwards,” said Godbout about Rousseau.
Sophomore Charlie Edmunds is another key midfielder while junior Gabrielle Macaruso is expected to see a bump in playing time. Per Godbout, junior Rachael Abbott, “is our utility player. Last year, she played on the defensive line quite a bit but scored the two goals [in last year’s D-II final, a 3-2 shootout win over Prout]. She’s a very aggressive player.”
Junior Reid DosSantos returns as the Chargers’ primary goalie. Noted Godbout, “She’s always had good hands but has worked on her footwork.”
Junior Tori Babineau along with sophomores Keira Pearce and Ashley Simmons are three returning players who will once again figure prominently in serving as the last line of defense in front of DosSantos. Babineau and Keira will serve as the center backs.
“Tori is a very physical player who works very well with Keira,” said Godbout.
Senior Noella Salaun is a newcomer who made strides as the preseason progressed while three freshmen are expected to make an impact – Addyson Denecour (midfielder), Aubrey Currier (striker), and Grace Downey (defender).
Brendan McGair is a sportswriter and columnist with the Pawtucket Times and the Woonsocket Call. A graduate of Providence College, McGair is a five-time recipient of the R.I. Sports Writer of the Year Award as voted by the National Sports Media Association (NSMA).
Follow McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03 and on Instagram @bwmcgair.