By PETE FONTAINE
They came in a small box, but were in honor of a huge accomplishment.
They had individual names and numbers, an outline of the state and a blue stone with a soccer ball inscribed under the stone.
They were rings – a terrific remembrance – for the 17 undergraduates and two coaches who made up Johnston High School’s 2017 Girls’ Division III State Championship Soccer Team.
“We’d like to thank the (Johnston) School Committee that supported the purchase of the rings by the Athletic Department,” Keith J. Cory, CAA, the Panthers’ Athletic Director said Tuesday night. “The rings are beautiful!”
Because the Lady Panthers compiled a sparkling 16-1 overall record during the 2017 Rhode Island Interscholastic League Division III season and were going to receive rings, the Johnston School Committee wanted to make the presentation – which was held at the outset of Tuesday night’s meeting – special.
School Supt. Dr. Bernard DiLullo called each of the Lady Panthers present to the front of the Nicholas A. Ferri Middle School Library and presented their ring, and Chairwoman Janice D. Mele presented each JHS player with a special citation, except for Bianca Robbins – the team’s talented top scorer – as committee member Gena Bianco presented the citation to her daughter.
They also honored Head coach Tim Sprouls and Assistant Coach Amanda Areson with rings and citations for leading the Lady Panthers to the Division III state title last fall.
Johnston, for those people not familiar with the team’s sparkling success, completed the regular season with a 12-1 record, with the Lady Panthers’ only loss coming to East Providence, which the Blue and White beat for the state title after dispatching a tough Lincoln School squad in the semifinals.
The Lady Panthers also posted back-to-back non-league wins and ran their overall 2017 mark to 16-1. Over the past two seasons, Sprouls’ squad has only lost two games, the other defeat coming at the hands of rival East Providence in the 2016 finals by way of a shootout.
Johnston finished much of that 2016 campaign unbeaten, only to lose to the Lady Townies via that shootout.
The Johnston School Committee also made it known – and offered its sincere congratulations – to Sprouls who was named the Division III Coach of the Year in 2017.
Those Lady Panthers who were honored Tuesday night are: Olaitan Olagundoye, Audrey Mahoney, Samantha Gobielle, Grace Muller, Emma Salzillo, Bianca Robbins, Vielka Pichardo, Marlana Colardo, Captain Gabriella Scarcella, Captain Madison Plouffe, Haley Gaunt and Victoria Marchesi.
Among the Lady Panthers who could not able to attend Tuesday’s special ring presentations were: Nayeli Arbodola, Delaney LaRose, Captain Gabriella Sauro, Shelee Lastor and Kaylee Lameiro.