Af­ter slow start, Raiders sweep away Block Is­land

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

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.”

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