The Toll Gate girls’ soccer team struggled to put the ball in the net last season, and the result was a disappointing 3-14-1 record and no place in the postseason.
So this year, the Titans are addressing the problem head on.
After playing a traditional 4-4-2 formation the past two seasons, in which a team employs four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards, Toll Gate is moving to a 4-2-4 look, which will feature two midfielders and four forwards.
The hope is that it increases the Titans’ scoring output. And if that happens, then the wins are sure to follow.
“We’ve always had issues scoring,” Toll Gate head coach Lonna Razza said. “Not generating enough offense, and losing games by one goal or tying. We’re going to try to shake things up a little bit and see if we can’t generate a little more offense.”
It won’t be easy. The change in formation also paves the way for a change in style. With a number of returning players from the past two years, completely switching the way they approach the game is taking a little getting used to.
But so far, everyone seems up to the challenge.
“It’s a huge change,” Razza said. “There was some frustration early. I told the girls, ‘I’m frustrated, you guys are getting frustrated. We’re all in this together. Please just go out there, play soccer, everything is going to come.’”
On Saturday, Toll Gate played in the Warwick Vets fall soccer tournament, which was a four-team event featuring the Titans, Vets, Pilgrim and Coventry.
The results were mixed. Toll Gate didn’t play badly in its first game, but the offense never clicked in a 1-0 loss to Pilgrim. In the second game, the Titans switched gears, scoring twice en route to a 2-0 win over Coventry. Courtney Crowley and Kathleen Morlock provided the goals.
“It’s new to the coaches, new to the team,” Razza said. “They’ve been working at it really hard. I see good things happening.”
One of the biggest differences in the new formation is the role of the midfielders, who have to be the best-conditioned players on the field.
Razza is confident that she has players who can get the job done. Starting in the midfield will be senior captains Karina Santos and Shannon Garvey.
Sophomores Nicole Patricio and Abby Ellis will also see some time there, as will junior Kathleen Morlock. Morlock and Ellis will also play striker.
“I have to have midfielders who are very, very much in shape,” Razza said. “I think we have girls to make it work.”
Up front, senior captain Emily Fox will lead the way after putting together a strong junior season last year. Ellis will join her up there regularly, along with Crowley and senior Kat Hogan.
Sophomore Grace McGrath is in the mix, as well.
In the back, senior captain Meghan McNulty returns for her second year in goal.
While she can also play defense, McNulty is handling the goaltending duties right now as the team deals with a few injuries to other potential goalies.
“We have a couple of goalkeepers up and coming, unfortunately they’re both hurt right now,” Razza said. “[Meghan] does it with a smile. She moves in there, and plays hard and she’ll be starting back there for now.”
Heading up the defense is junior sweeper Emily Waggoner, a key contributor last season. On one side of her will be junior Laura McGuire, while the other side will feature sophomore Jordan Inkley and junior Jaime Given.
Freshman Heather Allstrom is expected to step in and play some defense as well in his first year, at both sweeper and stopper. Junior Tori Bucci will also be on the field, as she returns to the stopper position.
It all adds up to a talented team that is hoping for significant improvement. And soon enough, Razza and the Titans will know whether the changes to the team’s philosophy will show up on the scoreboard and in the win column.
They play this Saturday in an Injury Fund game at Exeter/West Greenwich, beginning at 8 a.m.
“We’ve got another week. We’ve got the Injury Fund next Saturday. If it works it works, it if doesn’t, we can always change out of it.”
After that, Toll Gate will get ready for the regular season. It opens up play on Tuesday, September 6 at Prout at 3:30 p.m.
“I try to not set the expectations too, too high,” Razza said. “I want to be at least .500, maybe make a run to playoffs. I think with the talent I have we can do that, we just not to be healthy and learn the new formation.”