NP girls kick off D-II soccer season

NP girls kick off D-II soccer season

North Providence High junior forward Jessica Rizzo, left, gets ready to kick the ball down the sideline as Burrillville junior midfielder Jessica Rogers zeroes in on her during the opening half of last North Providence High junior forward Jessica Rizzo, left, gets ready to kick the ball down the sideline as Burrillville junior midfielder Jessica Rogers zeroes in on her during the opening half of last Thursday night’s Division II game at the Cougars’ Serio Field. The Broncos posted a 2-0 victory that dropped NP’s record to 1-2. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
New head coach seeks improvement in Cougars’ bid for sixth straight playoff berth

NORTH PROVIDENCE – As an assistant coach on the Shea High boys’ soccer team for the past four seasons, Kabba Joof was fortunate if he could find some free time to watch his children play for their respective North Providence middle and high school teams.

Last year, he managed to catch a few games of the North Providence High girls’ soccer team, which featured his daughter, Agi, and was competing in its first season in Division II, and Joof liked what he saw of the Cougars, who ended up finishing in a tie for fifth place with North Smithfield and losing a last-minute heartbreaker to Mount Saint Charles in the D-II quarterfinals.

This season, Joof is the Cougars’ head coach, replacing Brendon Vallee, who is now coaching at Ricci Middle School, and Joof is working with a 20-player roster with six seniors, six juniors, and six sophomores, most of them back from last season’s 9-4-2 team.

Five starters graduated from that squad, including Third-Team All-State midfielder Amanda Nye and three-time All-Division stopper Kayla Prior, but Joof, whose squad fell to 1-2 last Thursday night by dropping a 2-0 decision to Burrillville at the Cougars’ Serio Field, believes he has the talent that could come together and fetch the Cougars their sixth straight playoff berth.

“Definitely, one of our goals is to return to the playoffs,” he confirmed, “but I really want to see these girls be consistent and improve during the season. I think next year, with the juniors that we have now, we’re really going to compete. I’ll definitely set a higher bar then, but this year, I’m just trying to make sure they understand my philosophy of the game, really play the game the way it’s supposed to be (played), and make sure we’re improving.”

Defensively, the Cougars’ goalkeeper is back in sophomore Ashley Siravo, who posted six shutouts last year, and the “D” in front of her is also strong and features senior Gabrielle Granata, junior tri-captain Nicole Mendoza, and classmates Jeanette Kazarian, who also plays in the midfield, and Agi Joof. Senior tri-captain Alana Gonzalez, who is expected to be a key piece of the defense, is currently sidelined with an injury.

The center midfield is in very good hands with a pair of returning All-Division players, senior tri-captain Aria Amico, who scored a team-high 12 goals last season and made a verbal commitment to continue her soccer career at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., and junior Sydney Daignault. Playing alongside them are sophomore Raffaella Brunetti and freshman Sophia DiMarzio, and the forwards are junior Jessica Rizzo, who netted eight goals last year, and senior Savannah Tallmadge.

Rounding out NP’s roster are seniors Rebecca Madjoucoff, who is the backup goalkeeper, and Catherine McNeil, junior Mariam Sanusi, sophomores Juliana Hall, Sophia Jeter, Taylor McDonald, and Krystal Baez, and freshman Adriana Galvin.

The Cougars kicked off their Labor Day weekend and their D-II season on a high note by cruising to a 5-2 win at home over Rogers. The Cougars, who rolled out to a 3-0 halftime lead, received its scoring from Rizzo, Kazarian, Brunetti, and Galvin, as well as two assists from Brunetti and 10 saves from Siravo.

On Tuesday, Sept. 5, the Cougars were dealt a 5-1 loss to defending D-II champion Scituate at Manning Field, as Amico netted an unassisted goal in the opening half and Siravo finished with 16 saves, and two nights later, the Cougars suffered their defeat to the Broncos in a game that saw Siravo turn away 13 shots, but the Broncos’ Morgan Bassett net a goal in each half.

“Out of all the teams we’ve played so far, Scituate has been the best,” reported Joof. “Everyone on their roster is really good – even the subs coming in off the bench. They’re very, very organized, they’re physical, and they’re quick. Their field is a short field, so they know how to use that field, and they play the long ball, which for their field, is very effective and works well for them.”

The Cougars are currently on a mini road trip that saw them play Tiverton on Tuesday night. On Thursday, they will bus to Westerly for a 6 p.m. game, and the following Monday, they will pay a visit to one of their longtime rivals, West Warwick, in a 3:30 p.m. contest.

“This is going to be a very good season,” said Joof. “I’m seeing improvement every single day. We’re working hard and we’re trying to build something special here.”

North Providence senior captain Aria Amico, right, shown bringing the ball down the field in front of teammate Sydney Daignault, has decided to continue her soccer career next fall at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass.
North Providence High sophomore goalkeeper Ashley Siravo, shown reaching down to catch a shot during last Thursday night’s game against Burrillville, has stopped 39 shots in her team’s first three games.