2009-12-17 / News

Winter sports season kicks off at N.K. high school

By Adrienne Downing

The North Kingstown High School ice hockey team would like to make a third consecutive run to the state championship tournament this year, but the team will have to stay at the top of its game to repeat the previous season’s successes.

The team won a Division III state championship in 2008 and made it to last year’s state Division II finals. This year, the team has moved to Division IA and head coach Keith Higgins said they were tested right out of the chute.

“We have several teams that we have yet to see. Our first game was against Barrington, and they have a strong team. We’ll just need to be prepared to play our game each night,” he said.

The Skippers have started their season 3-0, including two overtime wins against Barrington and Pilgrim.

Experience is on the Skippers’ side, with nine returning seniors, including captains Josh and Jon Desabris, Ryan Scott and Ryan Merz. Islander Tom Abbood, Marc Collins, James Fede, Kevin McMullen and Teddy Kaiser also bring senior leadership to the team.

Merz, Fede and Josh Desabris are expected to lead the team on the offensive side, Higgins said.

The goal-keeping tandem of Matt Buresh and John Morris is a young one. Buresh is a returning sophomore and starter, and Morris is a freshmen.

“On defense, we have a solid core anchored by Abbood, Kaiser, Collins, Scott, Steve Martin and Jimmy Lomas,” Higgins said.

The coach said depth is the team’s biggest strength.

“We have a real good group of freshmen who have entered the program and are ready to contribute,” he said.

Abood has been a solid contributor for the team and Higgins does not expect this year to be any different.

“Tom is a quality young man and true team player. He’s a big, solid defender who loves to play physical,” Higgins said.

The team will travel to Adelard Arena to face Lincoln on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 7:30 p.m.

Gymnastics Jamestowner Megan Salt will be one of the keys to the Skippers gymnastics team’s success this year. The junior is one of the best all-around gymnasts on the North Kingstown team, along with senior Jacqueline Siatti and sophomore Alysse Pazienza.

“This year, we have 13 gymnasts on the team, with four freshmen. The nine returning gymnasts give us a solid base for our team and the freshmen all have a lot of competitive experience,” head coach Kelli Doorley Murphy said.

The team finished 9-3 last season. North Kingstown gymnastics has 15 state Division I titles to its credit, but the entire division has been dominated by LaSalle for the last seven years.

“It’s so early, we haven’t seen any other teams yet, but LaSalle is always tough competition for us. But it really varies every year so I never put anyone out of the running,” Murphy said.

The team’s depth and conditioning will be strong points this year.

“We spend a lot of time working endurance and strength and in the later part of the year that plays a huge part in our success,” Murphy said. “We also have a few really talented event specialists and are able to allow a few girls to work hard on two or three events, which contributes greatly to our team score. It also gives us some depth on some tougher events for us like vault and bars.”

After losing six seniors to graduation last year, Murphy will be looking to underclassmen like Salt to step up for the team.

“Losing those six girls is a big adjustment for this team. But it is kind of nice having a smaller number of girls to work with and we are looking forward to some more one on one attention this year,” Murphy said. “Megan is one of our strongest all-arounders. She has worked really hard in the off season and comes into this year with a lot of new skills and high difficulty in her routines.”

One area where Murphy would like to see improvement is in the team’s consistency. She will also be working with them on their balance beam work, including “staying on the beam.”

The Skippers’ first meet will be this Sunday, Dec. 20, at 1 p.m. at the Newport County YMCA in Middletown.

Girls’ basketball

It is a rare year for North Kingstown High School girls’ basketball when there are no seniors playing on the varsity team. But after losing four senior starters last year, the Skippers do not have a single senior on their roster.

“We have seven juniors, four sophomores and four freshman,” head coach Mike Kelly said. “We had a few juniors on the roster last year that decided not to play this year, so we have a young team.”

Along with missing the senior leadership, North will not have the services of one of their best shooters, junior Alexa Shola, until at least Jan. 16 because of an injury.

Still, Kelly believes that a few of his players will step up into the leadership and scoring roles.

“It is hard to say right now who is going to surface, but I know several of them have the potential to do it,” he said. “The team is so young, but we have quite a few talented players. It is a big adjustment going from JV to varsity, but once they get used to the way we play, they will be fine.”

Kelly said he hasn’t decided yet who will be his solid five starters or team captains.

“It is a nice problem to have when you have seven or eight kids who could fill either one of those roles,” he said.

Some players to watch on the team include juniors Sophia Giraud, Julia Smiley and Emily Lipsitz.

“Emily has played through a number of injuries, but she is a great player and I am looking forward to what she will do on the court for us this year,” Kelly said.

With the addition of Woonsocket and Barrington to the division this year, Kelly said he isn’t sure how the competition will play out, but he is sure South Kingstown will continue to be a rival for the Skippers.

“We beat South twice last year and nobody believed we would even be close to being in those games,” Kelly said. “So it just goes to show what we are capable of.”

Kelly is optimistic about his team’s chances this year.

“The goal never changes for me. If we put out as good a basketball team as possible on the court and play hard every time, we have had a good year,” he said.

The team will travel to East Greenwich tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m., and will host Classical on Monday, Dec. 21, at 7 p.m.

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