The Pilgrim boys’ soccer team produced a strong showing against crosstown rival Toll Gate on Thursday in the second game of the Injury Fund round robin at Warwick Vets Middle School on Thursday.
In the 30-minute, abbreviated game, the Pats rushed out to a 1-0 lead in the third minute when sophomore Danny Peixinho buried a penalty kick opportunity. Six minutes later, senior Evan O’Connor closed the scoring to make it 2-0 after a tremendous individual effort, using his speed to get behind the Titans’ defense.
The season-opening performance was certainly encouraging after a strong campaign last fall, in which Pilgrim went 8-3-4 in Division III. With a veteran group back, the Pats should be towards the top of the D-III standings once again this season.
“With 12 seniors, we’re hoping to do well,” Pilgrim head coach Bill Carroll said. “We have a strong group.”
The Pats endured a tough loss with Aaron Ramos, who led Pilgrim in goals and points as a freshman last season, moving on to the Revolution Academy, but the Pats will still have plenty of firepower up front.
Peixinho had a strong freshman campaign in 2016 with nine goals and 11 points, and he looks poised to have an even strong 2017 season. O’Connor will also provide speed and a scoring ability at forward, and senior Thomas McMullen will make the move from midfield to forward to add depth up front.
“We have to get someone scoring 15, 16 goals,” Carroll said. “Hopefully that will be Danny. Tommy McMullen moving up front should help us, as well.”
Senior Niall Blackadar and sophomore Collin Murphy will lead the way at midfield, and senior captain Matt Woods will anchor a strong defensive unit. Woods will be joined by seniors Ben Hunt and Sean Blanchard and junior Dawson Enright on the back line. That group will play in front of junior goalkeeper Max Caracuzzo, who compiled several starts in net as a sophomore in 2016.
“We have a good group of kids,” Carroll said. “Everyone knows their roll. We just have to keep going and work on the fundamentals. If we get the fundamentals right, the team should be OK.”
Carroll pointed to Davies and Ponaganset as two other teams that should be strong, as they didn’t lose too many key pieces from last season either.
But, all in all, Pilgrim unquestionably has skill and depth. Those two things can carry the Pats to the top of D-III.
“I expect to be in the playoffs and do well in the playoffs,” Carroll said. “Whether we win it or not is up to the kids. If we stay healthy and don’t get injured, these kids are capable of winning it.”
Pilgrim will get its regular season started this afternoon when it hosts Cranston East (5-5-5 in 2016) at 3:30 p.m.