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NORTH KINGSTOWN â It is a good time to be a member of the North Kingstown High School girls tennis program.
The JV squad wrapped up their league title last Friday. On Sunday, the Skippers top doubles team of Lucia Bolibruch and Grace Callahan captured the stateâs individual title. Walking away from the schoolâs tennis courts on Tuesday afternoon following the Skipper âs Division I quarterfinals match against Barrington, coach Tim OâNeill might have summed up his teamâs recent run best with one simple sentence.
âThe dream season continues.â
It came down to the wire against the Eagles, but by days end North punched their ticket to Thursdayâs semifinals by virtue of a 4-0 win.
âLast meeting with Barrington went right down to the last match,â OâNeill said of the Skippers 4-3 victory over the Eagles during the regular season. âKnew that today, if everybody was sharp, it was still going to be a close one.
ââŠBarringtonâs not here because theyâre not strong. Itâs always exciting.â
Things started smoothly for the Skippers as junior Taylor Masi got North on the board quickly, ripping through a 6-0, 6-1 win over Julia Forte at No. 2 singles before most of the remaining matches in play even began their second set.
With a return to Slater Park in mind, Bolibruch and Callahan continued their momentum from the weekend with an easy 6-2, 6-1 win in the top doubles spot for the early 2-0 overall lead.
From there it became a dogfight for the Skippers. Of the remaining five matches on the board, only No. 3 doubles finished in straight sets.
As the third doubles teams warmed-up, things looked good for the Skippers after the first sets of the matches in progress, as all three of the remaining singles matches won their first set.
Mary Morabit had some trouble at No. 1 singles after leaping out to a 4-1 lead against Emily Deslaurier. Barringtonâs top dog made a run, closing the gap to 4-3, Morabit rebounded to take the first set 6-3.
The Skippers saw the opposite at No. 3 singles as it was Grace Zangari making the comeback, trailing Abby Voight the whole way until she rallied for three straight wins to turn a 4-5 deficit into a 7-5 win. Maria Bolibruch traded games back-and-forth with Monica Drimbarean in their first set before coming away with the 6-4 win.
North was in the driverâs seat, but Barrington turned the tides of the match, making a clean sweep of the second sets in the singles matches to force a third set in all three.
Conversely, Northâs No. 2 doubles team of Coralie Wilcox and Maia Cavanagh dropped their first set 6-2 before rallying in the second for a 6-3 win to force the deciding third. Wilcox and Cavanagh fell behind 1-0, but took the next two games and never looked back en route to a 6-3 win, scoring Northâs third point.
âThatâs a huge x-factor,â OâNeill said of his teamâs tenacity, âwhen you have a good team and they really rally around each other. Itâs one of those things where they catch their own momentum, they catch fire. You see it in certain teams where they just never ever, ever go away.
âThese guys have become a wonderful unit. About two weeks into the season a switch went off and everyone was sort of all hands on deck, all pulling for each other.â
The doubles teams have been the Skippersâ strength all season long and Tuesday was no different. With Barrington clawing their way back into the match as only Morabit was leading in her third set, Northâs No. 3 doubles team of Maddie Bishara and Maria Cimerol came in and put the hammer down. The duo lost the very first game of their match and then reeled off an impressive12 straight for the 6-1, 6-0 win, securing the winning point for the Skippers.
âYou never know how the chemistryâs going to work,â OâNeill said. âAll four of our doubles teams found a really terrific chemistry equation. Theyâve been incredible.
âAs far as trying to do some sort of analysis on whatâs the best skill sets to put together, at this level I donât think that really matters. You find the two who click and who love to play together and thatâs it. âŠItâs such a wonderful luxury to have that to be able to call on.â
Northâs remaining singles players held strong, but ultimately fell; Morabit 6-2, Zangari 7-5 and Bolibruch 6-4. By then, however, the match was over and the Skippers had advanced to Thursdayâs semifinals. They will head to Slater Park to face second seeded LaSalle, with matches beginning at 5 p.m.
âThis is incredible,â OâNeill said of the win, â10 year ago when these courts were brand new, North Kingstown was a Division II so-so. Having been around this for that long, to be here is incredible.
âToo much fun.â