BURRILLVILLE — The R.I. Interscholastic League girls soccer season is still in its infancy, but the seniors on the Burrillville girls soccer team have already won more games this season than they won in their first three campaigns combined.
The Broncos are having fun playing soccer again.
“It was pretty tough to get to this point, especially as a freshman in Division I with all that stress,” senior captain Sydnee Yankee said. “It’s a lot more rewarding now because we have great team chemistry and we’re finally winning games. It would be great if we could win a title this year because when we were in eighth grade the team won in D-II.”
“I want to make this a memorable season because the last three years were terrible, a real struggle,” senior captain Mackenzie Kennelly said. “We’ve been doing really well this season and we just want to keep having fun. It would mean a lot if we could win it this year.”
The Broncos picked up their third victory in as many tries to start the season with a 6-1 victory over Johnston at Gledhill Field on Monday afternoon. The Broncos received a hat trick from junior forward Sarina Melo and freshman goalie Olivia Ferraro recorded seven saves in the victory.
Wins like Monday’s haven’t been seen at Gledhill Field since the likes of Sam England, Victoria Patriarca and Sam Prario were in high school. The Broncos played in back-to-back Division II finals against Scituate, winning the 2017 title game 1-0 in penalty kicks. The Broncos went 25-3-3 over those two seasons, so it made sense they would move up to Division I along with the Spartans.
The only problem for coach Jeff Lavigne was he graduated nearly every starter from that 2017 squad and Division I teams were simply too deep and too talented for a team that doesn’t feature many kids who play elite club soccer. The Broncos won just one game in 2018 – a 3-2 home win over Cranston West.
Burrillville earned one point in 2019, so Lavigne and the Broncos were excited for last season because they were headed back to Division II. And then the pandemic altered any chance of a normal season. The Broncos – and the rest of the state – managed to play a six-game regular season.
The Broncos picked up a win over Scituate, but they suffered close losses to teams like Ponaganset, Mount St. Charles and Lincoln.
Coming into this season Lavigne gave his seniors the choice: they could stay in Division II and likely be a middle-of-the-road playoff team or they could drop down to Division III, compete for a title and give the inexperienced kids an opportunity to build some confidence. The Broncos moved to Division III and have won their first three games by a combined score of 21-2.
“We want to finally win some games,” junior captain Allie Trimble said. “We have a lot more chemistry this year and that’s really boosting our morale and helping us play better as a team.”
Trimble is one of a number of players who has championship experience Trimble, Olivia Fullam, Regan Polacek, Ferraro and Jolie Forrest all played on the undefeated Division III champion girls lacrosse team in the spring.
“Our aim is to have that feeling again,” Trimble said.
Monday’s game felt like a lot of those lacrosse games where the Broncos imposed their will on an opponent that didn’t have any answers. Fullam opened the scoring thanks to an assist from freshman forward Gabriella Calapai. Melo doubled the lead and then junior midfielder Adelina Young scored the third goal.
Jenna Corrao found Forrest for the fourth goal and then Melo scored the final two goals to finish off her hat trick.
The Broncos were tested for a while in their 4-1 win over Exeter-West Greenwich last week, but tougher tests await starting with Wednesday’s visit to Narragansett. Fellow unbeaten Westerly visits Monday.
“Winning the championship is my goal,” senior captain Cami Weekly said. “After what we’ve been through the last three seasons, we all told each other to never give up and have fun.”
“We just need to keep working hard and persevere through whatever happens,” Yankee said. “We need to avoid the drama and continue to bond because that’s what helps us on the field.”
Follow Branden Mello on Twitter @Branden_Mello