NORTH KINGSTOWN – The playoffs are not supposed to be that easy.
Once the regular season ends, the playoffs are supposed to be a long, grueling challenge that tests the mettle of every player. Unless, it seems, you are the North Kingstown girls volleyball team.
Had those in NK gym last Friday night blinked, there is a likely chance they may have missed it as the Skippers put a swift, punishing hurt on Mount St. Charles, 25-11, 25-16, 25-15, in the RIIL Division I quarterfinals.
“That was pretty perfect,” said NK coach Victoria Tefft. “Anytime you beat a team by 10 points or more, you’re in good shape.
“…It was really, really fun to watch the team play that well. I think it’s so hard to get past the quarterfinals in any sport. It seems to be the one where all of a sudden you’re going smoothly down the road and – BOOM! – something gets thrown up in front of you and you’re on your face. They had such good rhythm tonight and such synergy on the court.”
Unlike their regular season contest with the Mounties, in which they struggled to find rhythm early, the Skippers set the tone right at the start, opening the first game on a 6-0 run on a trio of aces by Hailey Flavin and pair of kills by Allie Barton.
North’s lead grew to 8-1 before Mount called a timeout in an attempt to stem the bleeding. They went on a 3-1 out of the stoppage, but could never fully slow the North juggernaut. After Mount had closed the gap to 9-4, North went on a 12-3 run en route to a fully dominating performance in the 25-11 win.
“Everybody who played did their job and that’s all you need a team to do,” Tefft said. “Do your own job and don’t worry about if a ball gets by you.
“…The most significant thing is we’re cutting down on our unforced errors. We’re becoming more patient. We’re understanding you don’t have to swing hard. Take a little bit off it, keep it in play and then reset.”
The scores became closer as the night went on, but the North train kept on rolling and picking up steam as the points racked up for the Skippers. In nearly the same amount of time it took to close out the first set, North rolled the Mount in sets two and three, winning 25-16 and 25-15, respectively. Mount was showing signs of life late in the third when they cut their deficit to 21-15, but a bad serve turned the ball back over to the Skippers and three strong plays along the net closed out the game and punched North’s ticket to Keaney.
“We’ve done a lot of adjusting. Coaches love it when you can adjust,” Tefft said. “We made a lot of adjustments, we’ve been doing a lot of individual work. Fine tuning attack skills, talking about serving tactics and strategies and really getting our defense to buy into the philosophy of relentless pursuit of the ball. You saw that tonight. We had so many great touches.
“…This last couple of weeks I think they understand that they have a shot at this with the skills that we’ve developed and the teamwork.”
With the win North advanced to the semifinals where they faced Division I-North champion Classical on Wednesday night at URI’s Keaney Gym (results unavailable at time of press). Though Classical scored a 25-18, 23-25, 25-22, 25-14 win when the two faced in the regular season, Tefft was confident after the quarterfinals that her team was in position to advance, regardless of their opponent.
“We don’t care who else shows up on the other side of the court, we’re just happy to be there,” said the Skippers coach. “It’s always good to get to the semifinals and be on the big stage. This is a great, great bunch of kids. These girls, I can’t say enough about the unity on this team and how much they pull for each other and with each other. It’s just fun to coach them.”