North­men fall un­der .500

North Smith­field drops four-game de­ci­sion to Pan­thers

Pawtucket Times - - SPORTS - By JON BAKER jbaker@paw­tuck­et­times.com

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.

CLIP­PERS SWEEP

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.”

Pho­tos by Ernest A. Brown

Se­nior mid­dle Mor­gan Kruzan (8, above), set­ter Emma Grant (4, right) and North Smith­field lost to John­ston Tues­day.

Photo by Ernest A. Brown

North Smith­field ju­nior Madi­son Wilkes (3) de­liv­ers a kill in the North­men’s 3-1 Divi­sion II de­feat to John­ston Thurs­day night.

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