The Exeter-West Greenwich girls soccer team’s résumé over the past three seasons speaks for itself.
The Knights haven’t lost a game since 2010 and have won the last three Division II Championships in convincing fashion.
You have to go back even further to find the team’s last losing season as a 6-10-0 record in 2005 marked the last time the club finished below .500.
This season, however, nothing is guaranteed, for the Knights are moving up to Division I to try and prove they belong playing amongst the state’s best.
“They’re ready for it and they’ve been working hard,” EWG coach Kevin Fraser says. “They got together quite a bit during the offseason to get some conditioning running in and they’re excited about the season.
“They’re ready and they want to take that next step. They know it’s going to be completely different this year.”
A little over a week into the preseason Fraser has liked what he’s seen and thinks his team has what it takes to compete at the next level.
“I’m trying to just mentally get them prepared the best I can,” he says. “We’ve had a pretty aggressive preseason camp so far.
“I think we have the players where we’ll be competitive. I’m certainly not saying we’re a top team in D-I but I think we’ll be competitive.”
When you return a player the caliber of senior Kara Shaw, it’s hard to believe the EWG has any chance of being a non-factor this season.
Shaw led Division I and II in scoring last season with 21 goals and 15 assists for 36 points on her way to being named the Southern Rhode Island Newspapers Girls Soccer MVP.
She did more than put up numbers though, as Shaw made plays when it mattered most.
For the second time in three years Shaw scored the game-winning goal in D-II Championship and it’s the type of effort the Knights will need on a daily basis if it hopes to compete this season.
It’s not just Shaw, however, as EWG has a number of strong returners back this fall that can more than carry their own weight.
“Having Kara back for one more year it’s really key and she’s had a very good preseason,” Fraser says. “Alyssa Clements is back again this year so that gives us another big offensive punch that we lost with Alyssa Giorgio graduating.
“Emily LePage, who was a top scorer, she’s back again. Defensively we’re looking fairly good and we totally changed out attacking and defensive formations so it can be played at a higher level.”
Senior Nicole Cotrone – a captain on this year’s team along with LePage and Shaw – should also be strong contributor on this season’s team, while sisters Brooke and Emily Pagliarini have each had a strong preseason thus far.
One spot where there was some definite uncertainty this season for EWG was in net with Katherine Regan graduating last spring but EWG caught a break with a transfer from North Carolina, sophomore Makayla Brady, settling in town with her family.
“She’s got very good height, great hands and great ability,” Fraser says. “She played at a very high level in North Carolina.”
Brady won a tight preseason competition for the spot with junior Phoebe DePerry and sophomore Kendra Racine, who according to Fraser weren’t “too far behind Makayla” for the starting gig.
The biggest surprise of all for the Knights though has to be the fact that Fraser is back to coach the team.
“I did not expect to be back of this year,” Fraser said. “Last year I said my goodbyes to the team. I never in wildest dreams thought last December if you talked to me that I would be back this year. I’m probably more surprised than anyone.”
After retiring from the Warwick Fire Department in 2009 Fraser moved back New Hampshire – where his family is originally from – but never stopped coaching the Knights.
Since then he has made the over four-hour commute one way from Lyman, N.H. to West Greenwich during each soccer season to coach the team.
While he may not have expected to be on the sidelines this fall, it is only appropriate that he is as he guides the Knights through a new chapter in the program’s history.
Exeter-West Greenwich will play its first D-I game Thursday, Sept 5 at 3:30 p.m. when it travels to take on neighboring Coventry.