EAST PROVIDENCE – It was a night of ups and downs for the South Kingstown girls volleyball team on Monday night.
It was a very bleak start to the night, but the Rebels overcame and escaped East Providence with a 11-25, 27-25, 25-23, 14-25, 15-7 win in the Division I quarterfinals over the Townies.
“Scary there for a while,” said South coach Chris Fagan. “A lot of guys are sick. They’re just getting over it. …Took a couple games to warm-up with the weekend.
“[Playing on Friday] would have been better for us because of the momentum coming off Prout.”
After the match was moved from its originally scheduled date of Friday to Monday, it was not a pretty start for the Rebels as they struggled to find their groove after the long layoff.
Aided by some unforced errors, East Providence opened the first set with a 6-1 run. A pair of kills by Stephanie Laraway and aces by Kayleigh Clauson got South back to within one at 6-5, but that was as close as it would come to winning the night’s first game. The Townies broke off a 16-3 run en route to burying the Rebels in a 25-11 win.
“We were real flat,” Fagan said.
The Rebels did not look like they were at all ready for a playoff contest as they fell behind early in the second game, as well, with the Townies opening a 10-3 lead to start the game. It looked as though the end of their season would be quick and painless. Slowly, however, as the night wore on, the Rebels crept to life.
Trailing 17-11, South put together a 8-3 run to close the gap to one at 20-19 but East Providence pulled away again as a pair of aces aided a three point run to push them to the brink of a commanding 2-0 match lead.
Middle hitter Marina Ramos, however, played a ball into the net, returning the serve to the Rebels, who went on a 5-1 run to tie the game at 24 apiece.
Emily Taylor then played a ball long for the Rebels, pushing the Townies to game point, but an unforced error again tied the game at 25-25. An ace by Mariclaire Gulla gave South their first lead of the match at 26-25 and Ramos went long on game point, squaring the match at 1-1.
With new life, South started to become a different team in the third game. Twice early they trailed by just two points, but after Gulla gave the Rebels the lead at 9-8, they were in front the rest of the way.
The win was by no means easy, though, as the Townies did not let the Rebels get too far ahead and put together a late three-point run to tie the game 23-23. EP then, however, played a pair of balls out-of-bounds and South took the overall lead at 2-1 with a 25-23 win.
It was a lead short lived as the East Providence dominance from the first game returned and the Townies once again ran away from South, forcing a decisive fifth game with a 25-14 win.
After an evening’s worth of struggles, with their season on the brink, South played like a team desperate to make it to the University of Rhode Island’s Keaney Gymnasiusm.
“Jill Hathaway went in, had a real great hit, and the passing was a little better,” Fagan said. “They all passed better, maybe it took that long to warm-up.”
The Townies scored the first point, as they had done in every game, but a quick side out by the Rebels tied the game at 1-1 and the rout was on. After losing five straight points, East Providence called a timeout to try and stop the bleeding, but they just could not slow down South Kingstown.
Gulla and Laraway shined, each putting up multiple kills in the game, while Taylor contributed from the serving line as South blew East Providence away, 15-7, winning the match 3-2.
As difficult as Monday’s match was, things are not going to get any easier for the Rebels, now on the cusp of returning to the championship match for the first time since 2005.
Waiting for them when they arrive at URI’s Keaney Gym on Wednesday for their 7:30 p.m. semifinal match will be an undefeated Coventry team. In two matches this season, the Oakers were a perfect 6-0 against the Rebels, winning each game by an average of 9.5 points.
“Overall they played well,” Fagan said of the East Providence match. “I have to figure out something different for Coventry, I’ll tell you that. We have to do something different.
“We’ll have to block well. …We have to get healthy in a couple days.”