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WAKEFIELD â€“ Things had been going well for the Prout girls volleyball team. Winners of five straight and coming together as a squad with the postseason beckoning in little over a week, things were going in the right direction.
Until North Kingstown showed up in the schoolâ€™s gym on Tuesday night that is.
While the Crusaders fared better than the 25-15, 25-17, 25-12 hurt they suffered in their season opener against the Skippers, they could never distance themselves from their opponents Tuesday, while North pulled away with the 25-18, 25-22, 25-22 win.
â€śA lot better,â€ť said Prout coach Katie Walsh. â€śOur passing was there, we were siding out this time, we just let in too many runs. That will happen, but â€“ god â€“ we put up a fight for a team with such great servers.
â€śâ€¦I am so proud of my passing tonight, it really came together. I can honestly say this was one of our best passing nights. We have never had a game where we sided out so quickly every time.â€ť
As they have gotten better throughout the course of the season, the Crusaders also got better throughout the course of the night on Tuesday, struggling through the first game.
Trailing 12-8, Prout had kept it tight in game one and then scored the next two points to get within striking distance, but a trio of kills by Northâ€™s Allie Barton highlighted a run of four-straight and seven of nine for the Skippers to give them a good cushion at 19-12. Prout showed life late, but North held on for the 25-18 win.
After falling behind 5-2 early in game two, Prout finally found some traction with their offense, eventually putting together a four-point run to take the lead at 9-8.
As became a theme for the night and the game, however, any time Prout managed to either tie the game or take the lead, North came out and scored the very next point.
â€śWe were really good at siding out most of the time,â€ť said Walsh, â€śbut is was those small two, three point runs that we couldnâ€™t reciprocate that added up and eventually led to them winning.â€ť
An ace by Michaela Cavanaugh gave Prout a late 20-18 lead, but the Crusaders failed to string together consecutive points the rest of the way, while giving up rallies of two, three and two points to the Skippers who locked down the 25-22 win.
The final game of the night featured much of the same. Prout kept it close and tight, but once again could no pull away from the Skippers, never scoring more than back-to-back points.
For the night, their longest runs were of three and four points coming early in games one and two, respectively.
Prout led game three late at 19-17, but the Skippers once again did what their hosts could not and reeled off five straight â€“ their longest streak of the night â€“ and seven of eight to push things to match point.
Prout rallied for two more to make it 24-22, but the Skippers sealed the win on the ensuing point as Barton played a tip over the net the Prout defense could not control for the 25-22 win.
The loss was a setback from their improved play of late, but with the progress the Crusaders had seen rebounding from a 3-5 start to their season, Walsh is confident in the direction her team is heading as the end of the regular season nears.
â€śWe really started to put it together, do a lot more team building,â€ť said the Crusader coach. â€śThese girls love to talk to each other off the court, now itâ€™s getting them to talk on the court.
â€śItâ€™s starting to come together. Itâ€™s unfortunate itâ€™s at the end of the season, but itâ€™s great to see. Great progress.â€ť
With the playoff looming, the Crusaders will be battle tested by the time they arrive next week, with a tough stretch of games to close out the season. Starting with the NK match, Prout finishes the regular season playing their final three matches against the top three teams in Division I-South.
â€śIt can either be a confidence builder for us or a confidence destroyer,â€ť said Walsh. â€śIâ€™m really hoping weâ€™re going to build, thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m praying for, but itâ€™s going to be a real testament if these girls want the season to end on a good note or not. Itâ€™s up to them.â€ť
Prout returned to the court on Thursday night to face the 14-0 Coventry Oakers (results unavailable at time of press).
They will wrap up their regular season slate at home with a 6:30 p.m. match next Tuesday against South Kingstown.