After losing several key starters to graduation, 2019 could be labeled as a rebuilding year for the Gabriel Richard girls soccer program, but the Pioneers have established themselves as a solid team
Second-year coach Phillip Hayes knew that there would be some tough sledding this season, but is encouraged by the possibility of the Pioneers (3-5-2) approaching the .500 mark as the season comes to an end.
“Considering what I expected out of these new girls and knowing that I lost a lot of seniors last year, I’m pretty content,” Hayes said. “I’m excited about the new girls who are playing this year because they were unsure about being on the team, but the returners were very welcoming because we’re a very family-oriented team.”
The Pioneers returned eight players with the majority being sophomores who got some early varsity experience as freshmen.
Richard returners include senior defender Gabby McTaggart, junior defender Patricia Aguilar, sophomore forward Olivia Margiera, sophomore defender Anastasia Javarinis, sophomore defender Lauren Wood, sophomore midfielder Kerstyn Solesbee and sophomore midfielder Gillian Draft.
Senior goalkeeper Lauren Williams also returned to the Pioneers this season, but is currently out with injury. Sophomore Emily Robertson and senior Lindsey Robertson have both seen time between the pipes for Richard in her absence.
Senior Francesca Pizzo has seen time as a defender and midfielder this season while junior Laura Lipinski is performing well in her first season on the team in the midfield.
Besides serving as goaltender for a stretch, sophomore Emily Robertson has also been an aggressive force on defense for the Pioneers while sophomore Maria Ritchie starts as a midfielder. Kate Wagatha – also a sophomore – is seeing time at both midfielder and as a forward.
Freshman Izzy Assimacopoulos is the team’s second-leading scorer with six goals in her rookie campaign as a forward while fellow freshmen Aderola Owaduge and Terese Kleinow both are starting their prep career on the Richard midfield.
Despite losing several key players from last year’s team, there is an attribute that newcomers and returners alike share on the field at Richard this spring.
“We’re aggressive,” Hayes said. “We’re understanding that a lot of teams don’t hold back, so there’s no reason that we shouldn’t do that either.”
On March 22, the Pioneers traveled to Chesterfield to take on Austin Catholic and came away with a 1-1 tie.
Richard remained on the road on March 28 and came home with another draw with a 2-2 tie against Detroit Cristo Rey.
On March 26, the Pioneers suffered their first loss of the season with a 6-1 loss to rival Allen Park Cabrini.
The early season struggles continued on March 29 with a 3-2 defeat to Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes.
“At the beginning of the season, a lot of the girls didn’t know where they were going to fit or what they can bring to this team,” Hayes said.
On April 4, Richard earned its first win of the season with an 8-1 drubbing of Frankel Jewish Academy. Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes handed the Pioneers another loss on April 6 with a 2-1 win in Riverview. On April 10, Cabrini toppled Richard for the second time this season with a 6-1 win in Allen Park.
On April 13, the Pioneers ended their losing streak and earned its second win of the year with a 4-0 victory over Detroit Cristo Rey.
“It was a nice adjustment getting those on the board and having the girls know what it feels like to win,” Hayes said. “It pushes them to do better each time.”
With the majority of the team slated to return next spring, the Pioneers have been learning on the fly to not only make the most of this season, but to also prepare for future success with a relatively young squad.
“It’s exciting to see the change in teamwork and atmosphere when they’re on the field compared to the beginning of the season,” Hayes said. “It was a very hard struggle with confusion and now they get it and it’s just about constantly getting better at what they’re doing.”
The Pioneers will take on Cardinal Mooney on May 6 and Frankel Jewish Academy on May 9 to close out the regular season.