COVENTRY — The South Kingstown volleyball team came into Tuesday’s Division II-South contest with two-time defending state champion Coventry as the second hottest team in the state having won its nine previous contests.
The Rebels, however, ran into the hottest team in the state.
Coventry, which was playing without first-team All-State outside hitter Jill Ward, used 13 kills and three digs from senior Kelsey Ferrara and eight kills and three digs from senior Haley Dennis in a routine 25-14, 25-16, 25-19 victory.
“I really hadn’t put much thought into match, but we knew we were challenging our depth. I wasn’t worried about what was happening on their side of the net, I was more concerned with our side,” Coventry coach Leo Bush said. “We were all right tonight. We weren’t at our absolute best and that’s a pretty good team we just beat.”
“We’re able to pull games out under any circumstances,” Dennis said of playing without Ward. “I think our offense is pretty strong, but there are still a couple of things we need to work out. All together we played solid.”
South Kingstown (10-4 Division I-South) is in a battle with rival North Kingstown for the No. 2 seed in the upcoming playoffs. The Rebels and
Skippers both know whoever finishes second will avoid the undefeated Oakers until the state final at Keaney.
Even though the Rebels are geographically the closest school to URI, they have never played a match at Keaney. SK coach Chris Fagan hopes this year’s team will be the first led by junior outside hitter Stephanie Laraway, who had seven kills, three aces and a pair of blocks.
“We didn’t play well,” Fagan said after the Rebels were swept for the second time this season by the Oakers. “We didn’t pass well and we didn’t serve tough. We just couldn’t keep them off balance. We stayed in the third game because we served tough, but then we started making unforced errors.”
Coventry (14-0 Division I-South) clinched the I-South title outright with Tuesday’s win and the Oakers are just victories over Prout and Chariho away from going undefeated for the second time in three seasons seasons.
Bush said he was pleased with the play of his outside hitters along with senior setter Abby White, who chipped in with 30 assists, four aces, three digs and three kills.
“I felt like tonight they keyed in on our middles and tried to take away our middle game,” Bush said. “What that does is open up things for our outside hitters. It opens up Kelsey to dink and dunk and Haley likes to run things a little quicker. Things were working our really well for them.”
Just like in many of their matches this season, Coventry was the smaller team. South’s big block is led by Stephanie and Brittney Laraway along with Mariclaire Gulla and first-year varsity starter Devin VanHouton.
South’s biggest problem in the opening two games was put together an attack. The Oakers, led by libero Casey Head, White and defensive specialist Keely DiBiasio, served tough and took the Rebels out of their offensive system.
The Rebels scored the opening point in the first game, but that was about as good as it got for the visitors. South hung in the second game until White took the service line late in the game and helped Coventry open up a big margin.
“Our block failed a little tonight, too. They were hitting into too many seams,” Fagan said. “I think on a neutral court and if we have more practice we can play better against them. We’ve had sporadic practice time over the last few weeks. We had a four-or-five-day layoff recently and that’s not good.”
Both teams sent out the same lineups in the third game, but this time South didn’t let Coventry breakaway. Bush was forced to use a timeout with his team trailing by one and Fagan used one of his two timeouts after the Oakers opened up a 16-14 advantage.
South twice cut the deficit to one (18-17, 19-18) but White made a superb block on a Coventry overpass to keep the Oakers ahead. Head served the Oakers to match point before Sam Higgins ended the evening with a kill.
“I felt as though the timeout they called midway through the game was kind of a statement that they were trying to win this game,” Bush said. “They started pushing harder to win that game and that’s what we talked about in the huddle. I was happy the next time they called timeout was at 24-18.”
While Coventry finishes the season with two teams it dominated earlier, the Rebels will look to avenge an earlier loss to Prout to finish the season. Toll Gate, a team which surprisingly took SK to five in September, visited Wakefield Thursday (results unavailable at press time).