After slow start, Raiders sweep away Block Island
PAWTUCKET – After his club averted a near disaster in its opening game against gritty Block Island on Friday afternoon, Shea High head coach Jeff Ramos decided to deliver a few choice words to his girls before the second.
“I told them, ‘Don’t play their game, play ours. If you don’t, they’ll win,’” he stated. “I said that Block Island is a team that battles, and they’re pesky, so all they had to do was to keep their serves in and communicate better – more loudly – and that should help them cut down on the mental mistakes they were making.”
When asked what Ramos thought of the fact his kids actually listened, he laughed, then offered, “I’m stunned. Usually, it doesn’t come that easy.”
After eeking out a lucky, 29-27 verdict in Game 1, the Raiders rolled to wins of 25-11 and 25-18 to seal a satisfying 3-0 sweep of the Hurricanes inside “The Cage.”
With the triumph, SHS improved to 6-4 in Division III action, while Block Island fell to 3-7.
Junior Alia Darius propelled the hosts, nailing nine kills and six digs, while senior Ashley Torres chipped in six aces, four digs and three spikes; classmate Antonette Cooper a half-dozen aces; and junior Jennifer Martins four more digs and two kills.
For Block Island, junior Charlotte Hall recorded three aces and two kills; sophomore Sophie Mott two spikes and two aces; classmate Savannah Brown five digs; and junior Allison Pineda three aces.
“Shea has improved a lot since the last time we played them,” said head coach Rob Martin, who’s coaching this varsity squad in its inaugural season. “They have great servers and great hitters, and I think we underestimated them a little bit. We also allowed them to steal our momentum.”
With that last comment, he’s right on.
The match started 25 minutes late, as the two officials apparently went to the wrong site, but that first game proved to be a wild one, with a total of 11 ties and seven lead changes.
The Hurricanes held an early 7-4 lead, but – courtesy of Torres’ four straight service points (including two aces) – Shea came right back to seize a 16-12 advantage. The Raiders also seemed to have captured that opening win after Darius served up six straight points to give her squad the hefty 24-18 lead.
The only problem: With Pineda at the stripe, Ramos’ bunch suffered a letdown. Suddenly, they couldn’t return a ball and were miscommunicating, and that allowed Block Island to snag a 25-24 lead.
In fact, when the head referee called junior co-captain and setter Sayara Silwal for a carry, it appeared the ‘Canes had clinched the game at 26-24.
That same official, however, hadn’t whistled a carry but an illegal formation on the part of an SHS back-row player, one which she later deemed legal. She called a replay of the point, and Torres’ acrobatic dink tied it up again.
The hosts later snatched the win with junior Janiah Thompson at the service line and on two Hurricanes’ unforced errors.
Torres also played a significant role in the capture of the middle set, as she served up four straight points for a 6-1 lead, and Cooper manufactured four more (with three consecutive aces) to lift SHS to a 15-4 cushion. The Block fought back to make it respectable at 21- 11, but Shea finished it off at 25-11 on a Mott spike try into the netting, a Darius kill and Hall driving a wallop just wide.
The third started a lot like the second – with Torres’ bullet serve. She managed five straight points for the 7-1 lead, though – thanks to Mott – the ‘Canes sliced the gap to 12-8, then 14-10.
It was still 15-10 after the sideout, but Cooper took control after that. She pounded two straight aces to begin her service, then earned three more points for the 20-11 cushion. Appropriately for the victors, Darius drilled a wicked spike into the floor to end it at 25-18.
Noted Ramos: “I’m surprised with how well we came together after that first game. They kept their consistency. They made some mistakes, of course, but they kept them to a minimum, then refocused and they won the serve back.”