Rhode Island communities mourn sudden death of student-athlete who was ‘heart’ of her teams

“She was kicking a penalty kick, and she just collapsed.”

Communities across Rhode Island are mourning the sudden death of Maddie Potts, a 17-year-old senior at Chariho High School, who died after collapsing at a soccer game over the weekend.

Barry Ricci, superintendent of schools of the Chariho Regional School District, told The Westerly Sun there’s been an “outpouring of support” for the school following her death.

“She was a tremendous athlete and a compassionate person,” he said. “She’s kind of a legend around here.”

Ricci said Potts was playing with the school’s soccer team Saturday night when she suddenly fell to the ground.

“She was kicking a penalty kick, and she just collapsed,” he told the Sun. “Everything that could be done for her on the field was done. There was a parent who was a doctor who resuscitated her.”

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The Richmond resident and captain of the soccer team was taken to Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence where she died from a brain aneurysm, according to the Sun.  

Ricci told the newspaper he left the hospital Saturday evening “thinking she was going to make it,” only to find out early Sunday she’d passed away.

“I cannot believe it,” he said.

Her teammates, joined by some members of the boys’ soccer team, were told Sunday morning.

Messages of shock and grief rippled across social media following news of her death.

Flags at the school were lowered to half-staff Monday and a candlelight vigil is planned for 6:30 p.m. on the high school’s game field.

A plea started by students at Chariho for their classmates to wear blue at home games to honor Potts has been quickly picked up by other schools across the state.

“Maddie represented the very best of our school as an artist, an athlete, a classmate, a teammate and a friend,” Ricci said in a statement.

Potts played on both the soccer and lacrosse teams, according to the Sun.

“She was the heart of both teams, always enthusiastic, a great leader, had an amazing work ethic and always was a phenomenal teammate,” Brittany Godbout, head coach of the girls’ soccer team, told the newspaper. “All of the girls, from seniors to freshmen, looked up to her and idolized her. She will be impossible to replace, but we will utilize the energy and spirit and work ethic that she brought every day to practice and games throughout the rest of our season.”

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Athletic Director Mike Shiels described Potts as “the best of the best” whose “positive effect” on both her teammates and coaches “could never be measured.”

Sun sports editor Keith Kimberlin wrote Monday that Potts’s “life was one that was well-lived” and said he hoped others would find inspiration in her as they tried to move forward from the tragedy.

“She played with intensity and passion, she was intelligent, articulate and well-spoken,” he said. “But most of all she was a good teammate. She encouraged others on the field. She supported them when things did not go well. She was always there. She was a person others wanted to be around.”