NORTH KINGSTOWN – 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 state’s individual title. Walking away from the school’s tennis courts on Tuesday afternoon following the Skipper ’s Division I quarterfinals match against Barrington, coach Tim O’Neill might have summed up his team’s recent run best with one simple sentence.
“The dream season continues.”
It came down to the wire against the Eagles, but by days end North punched their ticket to Thursday’s semifinals by virtue of a 4-0 win.
“Last meeting with Barrington went right down to the last match,” O’Neill said of the Skippers 4-3 victory over the Eagles during the regular season. “Knew that today, if everybody was sharp, it was still going to be a close one.
“…Barrington’s not here because they’re not strong. It’s always exciting.”
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. Barrington’s 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 driver’s 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, North’s 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 North’s third point.
“That’s a huge x-factor,” O’Neill said of his team’s tenacity, “when you have a good team and they really rally around each other. It’s 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.
“These 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.”
The doubles teams have been the Skippers’ 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, North’s 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.
“You never know how the chemistry’s going to work,” O’Neill said. “All four of our doubles teams found a really terrific chemistry equation. They’ve been incredible.
“As far as trying to do some sort of analysis on what’s the best skill sets to put together, at this level I don’t think that really matters. You find the two who click and who love to play together and that’s it. …It’s such a wonderful luxury to have that to be able to call on.”
North’s 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 Thursday’s semifinals. They will head to Slater Park to face second seeded LaSalle, with matches beginning at 5 p.m.
“This is incredible,” O’Neill said of the win, “10 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.
“Too much fun.”