Northmen fall under .500
North Smithfield drops four-game decision to Panthers
NORTH SMITHFIELD – According to coach Brian Burnham, the North Smithfield High girls volleyball team is a “notoriously slow starter.”
Such was the case at the Michael F. Lovett Memorial Gymnasium on Thursday night, when his Northmen – who were without the services of talented junior outside hitter Hope Trowbridge – couldn’t unravel themselves and dropped the first game, 25-9, to Division II-A foe Johnston.
Trowbridge had been out of the starting lineup since Oct. 3, when she suffered knee issues in a loss to West Warwick and later was diagnosed with patella tendinitis.
Burnham indicated her absence hurt, but so did a whole lot of unforced errors.
Still, his contingent battled back after that opening-set letdown, but later sustained a 3-1 defeat, that by scores of 25-9, 25-21, 2025, 25-19. With it, NS fell below .500 once more at 5-6.
“We actually tried a new lineup in that first game, something we haven’t done before,” Burnham stated afterward. “We felt this would be a good team to try it against, but we got off to a slow start, which we pretty much always do.
“In the beginning, we were Not good,” he added. “We usually start slow, but that was a lot slower. We had one girl, Hope, out; she’s an all-around great player, but she has that injury.”
“We still have a lot of talent on this team, but we don’t fully understand how to win – not yet, anyway. We just need to build some chemistry.”
For the victors, who improved to 8-4 in league action, junior Megan Philbrick recorded eight blocks and six kills on the evening, while senior teammate Gabby DiRaimo chipped in six caroms and four spikes.
As for the hosts, junior Sydney Goodier delivered six kills and was six-for-seven from the service stripe, while senior Morgan Kruzan managed nine digs and five kills and junior Maddie Wilkes four blocks and three kills.
Johnston took advantage of Maikou Kue’s seven straight service points to open the initial game at 8-0, and Jenni Aubin tacked on five more later en route to the 25-9 blowout. Appropriately, Kue’s ace sealed the final point.
The second game, though, was vastly different, as the two teams battled to 10 ties and six lead changes. The Northmen actually held a 19-17 advantage with Wilkes at the service line, but Aysia Correia-Sutton’s kill attempt went wide, and Aubin managed six straight points off her delivery for the 24-19 lead.
Johnston nailed it down at 25-21 when DiRaimo’s two-hand push shot fell to the floor.
In the third, the opponents again went back and forth for six deadlocks and three lead changes before NS decided to push it into a higher gear. Wilkes registered three straight points off her serve to put the Northmen up 118, and senior Emma Grant notched four more (with an ace) to increase it to 16-9.
Another ace off the cord by senior Alyssa Murray gave the Northmen the 2416 lead, and – despite Lauren Messa’s brief success at the service line – they clinched it on a long serve, 25-20.
It didn’t take long into the fourth game for the Panthers to seize control. Sophia DaCosta earned seven consecutive points off her serve for the 9-3 advantage, though NS continued to fight. A Goodier spike sliced the deficit to 21-15, yet Johnstob finalized the deal on a DiRaimo dink.
“Like I said, we’ve got a lot of talent,” Burnham said. “We just need to build more chemistry. We showed a lot of grit in this one. In fact, after our previous two matches, opposing fans came up to us coaches and said, ‘That was the best volleyball match we’ve seen.’
“They also told us that, yes, their team won, but they were impressed with all the back and forth, and that North Smithfield didn’t quit. That made us proud.
“We’re still in range for a playoff spot. We just have to start clicking.”
The good news: Trowbridge is due back sometime early next week.
WAKEFIELD — Cumberland strung together two straight wins for the first time this season, as Emily Bennett produced eight kills and eight digs in a 25-15, 25-15, 25-18 Division I victory over Prout Thursday night.
“We’re playing good right now,” Cumberland coach Ruth Plante said. “After the lineup change [from a 5-1 to a 6-2] the kids have been playing better and playing more consistent volleyball. I’m very happy with what I’m seeing the last two matches.”
Cumberland (4-7 Division I) also saw Mikayla Chandler go 24-for-24 from the service line with four aces and four digs in the win over the winless Crusaders. Libero Ally Raposo added five digs, two aces and a kill.
Setter/right-side hitter Laurel Houle produced 13 assists, four kills and three aces.
The Clippers are back in action Monday night at 7 against All-Stater outside hitter Maile Somera and first-place Barrington.
“I just want to see us play with with consistency and play well, and play the way I know we’re capable of playing,” Plante said. “We’re starting to serve the ball better, which was a problem in the first few matches of the season.”
Senior middle Morgan Kruzan (8, above), setter Emma Grant (4, right) and North Smithfield lost to Johnston Tuesday.
North Smithfield junior Madison Wilkes (3) delivers a kill in the Northmen’s 3-1 Division II defeat to Johnston Thursday night.