WOOD RIVER JCT.—Good luck to the six girls volleyball teams stuck competing in Division I-South this season because they’re going to need it.
As expected, Coventry appears to again be the team to beat after getting off to a hot start with two straight three-set victories over South and North Kingstown, but the Oakers don’t look like the same team that flat out blew everyone out of the water at season’s end last fall.
Prout looks to have taken a step back but is still very competitive, Chariho will once again be tough and NK and SK have greatly improved from last season.
Even Toll Gate – who was winless a season ago – seems to have gotten better, meaning the race to make the playoffs in D-I South should be a good one as it unfolds this season.
Monday night’s contest between the Rebels and Chargers certainly did little to dissuade that assertion as SK emerged with a very narrow 21-25, 25-20, 25-23, 25-23 victory.
“Everyone played a little better but we’re still missing too many serves,” SK coach Chris Fagan said. “We’ve got a good blocking team so we need to just put the ball on their court and just block.”
After the Chargers took the opening game the Rebels bounced back in the second and appeared on their way to an easy win with a 24-17 advantage.
Chariho rallied though, rattling off three straight points before a Kristin Karpowicz block ended the surge to knot the match at one game apiece.
South carried its momentum into the third, building a lead of 11-5 before Chariho slowly worked its way back into it and taking its first lead at 16-15.
The Chargers pushed their advantage to 21-18 and even led 22-20 before the Rebels made a comeback to tie the game at 22-all.
The two teams then traded points before the Rebels abruptly ended the game, taking a 24-23 lead after Katie Gannon’s serve sailed long and Kayleigh Clauson ended it with an ace.
The Chargers appeared to be reeling to start the fourth – going down 5-0 after a series of communication errors – but snapped out of their funk as three Rhiannon Wilson kills highlighted a 6-1 run from Chariho to tie the game.
“She’s kind of deceiving because she’s got a small stature but she takes advantage of the technical things that she’s learned,” Chariho coach Doug Bliven said of Wilson. “In the past she’d bring that heater one after another but she’s starting to develop a game where she knows where to mix in some off-speed shots.”
From that point forward neither squad opened up a lead greater than three points but it was the Rebels that found themselves ahead 24-22 in the game’s waning moments.
The Chargers got one back when Mariclaire Gulla’s swing found the net but could not hang on as Olivia Finnegan ended it for SK by pounding the ball off Chariho’s block for the match-winner.
“We made some strides in executing some complicated schemes that we’re trying to do and I think the things that kept us back in the match are the simple things we kind of overlooked at times,” Bliven said.
“…It’s encouraging to know that they’re quick fixes but we’ just didn’t have them this match.”
The Rebels (1-1 D-I South) will be back in action today at 6:30 p.m. when they travel for a showdown with rival North Kingstown.