PAWTUCKET — When perennial Division II contender Shea High was promoted to Division I for the 2010 season, the Raiders were immediately tabbed as state championship contenders by several rival coaches.
Shea lived up to the hype over the regular season, completing a 12-1-5 campaign in Division I-North on Thursday with a 7-0 romp over winless East Providence.
The match provided a chance for coach Pierre Ridore to play his entire roster, a deserving reward for a team that responded to the challenge of Division I soccer by working together for a common goal.
“We just want to go into the playoffs and win,” serious senior captain Gerson Gomes said after Thursday’s match ended. “We don’t think about last year.”
The Raiders were upset last November in the Division II playoffs, overlooking a .500 Lincoln team that came into the playoffs intent on beating Shea and defending the division title it had won the year before (also against Shea).
“We overlooked Lincoln,” Ridore admitted. “The advantage of playing in Division I is that there is no team you can afford to overlook. If we play Portsmouth in the first round, we know that’s a team that tied us last week. If we draw North Kingstown, that’s a team we beat by only one goal during the regular season.”
The Raiders’ only loss this season came against Barrington, a 2-0 defeat earlier this month that accentuated a late-season slump.
“We trained hard for this season,” Ridore said, “but then we sort of slowed down in the last few weeks. We had several ties and the loss to Barrington. Because of that, we wanted to finish the season on a good note against East Providence.”
The Townies held Shea scoreless until Gomes scored late in the first half off an assist from striker Emerson Barros.
The floodgates opened in the second half as Shea scored six more goals, two of them coming from Barros. Midfielder Anildo Amado started the onslaught 10 minutes after intermission with an assist from Joao Cardoso. Gomes then set up Cardoso for a goal five minutes later that made it 3-0.
Barros scored back-to-back goals at 58 and 60 minutes into the game to blow it open. Reserve midfielder Ienik Spencer, a freshman, and sophomore Delcio Rocha competed the scoring.
Ridore thanked his players for their effort after the match ended, then spoke about the upcoming playoffs.
“The only thing we teach the kids is to win,” he said, brushing aside the idea that finishing only three points behind Barrington in the regular season was an impressive accomplishment. “We will play a tough opponent next week, whether it is North Kingstown or Portsmouth. We will not make the same mistake as last year. This team will be ready to play winning soccer when the playoffs begin.”
Shea’s first-round foe hinges on the result of today’s game between North and South Kingstown.
“If North Kingstown loses or ties, we play them,” Ridore said. “If North Kingstown wins, we play Portsmouth.”
The coaches will meet on Saturday to determine the playoff brackets. Preliminary round games will be played on Monday. Shea’s first game will probably be next Wednesday, at home.