Saints seek return to D-III title match

Saints seek return to D-III title match

St. Raphael Academy sophomore Allajah Perryman, shown serving the ball during last season’s Division III championship match against Rogers, is back in the Saints’ lineup this season. The Saints are currently 2-0, thanks to their victories in Providence over Mount Pleasant and Central. (Breeze photo by Kayla Panu)
Linhares takes over girls’ volleyball team after guiding boys to first championship

PAWTUCKET – After taking over the St. Raphael Academy boys’ volleyball program this past spring and guiding the Saints to their first Division III championship, Cory Linhares is stepping in as the girls’ coach this year.

And Linhares is inheriting a team that reached its first D-III finals last season after claiming the Division III-A regular-season title with a 15-1 record, but graduated three big players in Sydney Charette, Sierra Gonzalez, and Korto Jackson.

“It’s a different game from the boys,” Linhares said about the transition of coaching SRA’s two volleyball teams. “With the girls, you have to go back to the basics and set a foundation early.”

Linhares said that right now, his team has been trying to find the right pieces to replace the seniors from last year and have the girls that played with those seniors step up.

This year’s team is made up of mostly juniors, but Linhares does have a few seniors. Aliviyah Perryman is back, and Paige O’Brien is a first-year senior who “is a super big addition to the middle,” Linhares added. “She plays basketball and is a great athlete. She tried out and blew me away.”

Two returning juniors who are the captains are outside hitter Tatyana Vicente and setter Madison Nault. Linhares said that those two players were big parts of the team last year, and over the summer, took the initiative to lead the way in offseason workouts and help out the other girls.

After starting as a freshman, Victoria Adegboyega is back as a middle hitter. Allajah Perryman is on the right side, Athena Rodrigues is the libero, and freshman Ava Tavares will start as well. Linhares said that Allajah could also step in and set if needed.

“The big thing I’m emphasizing this season is our serve,” Linhares said. “We have five girls that can hop serve. Paige picked up jump serving and had nine aces in our first match.”

That first match took place on Tuesday, Sept. 3, in Providence and saw the Saints blank Mount Pleasant by scores of 25-14, 25-13, and 25-15. Nault had 22 assists, Vicente added seven kills and six digs, and the Saints had a total of 32 aces, with Vicente adding seven and Nault picking up six.

“We played pretty well, but gave them an 8-1 lead in the third set,” Linhares said. “We rallied 13-9 and took over from there.”

On Monday night, the Saints were back in Providence, this time taking on Central at the Providence Career & Technical Academy. The Knights proved to be a tougher opponent than Mount Pleasant, but the Saints defeated them in four sets.

The Saints, who won the match by scores of 29-27, 25-16, 20-25, and 25-19, were led by Nault, who dished out 30 assists, O’Brien, who added 10 kills, five aces, and four blocks, and Abegboyega, who had eight kills and five blocks.

Linhares wants his team to improve each day and make sure his players know they are going to have to work to get back to the championship match, even though they expect to be back there, as does the school, he said. He added that there is always room for improvement.

“The goal always for me is to compete for a championship,” he said.

Being a newcomer to Division III girls’ volleyball, Linhares said he does not know much about the teams in the league, but he said his team will have to watch out for Rogers, the reigning D-III champion, as well as Narragansett and Central. The Saints will host Rogers on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

To prepare for the season, Linhares had his team compete in a jamboree, and the Saints played some of the top teams in Massachusetts and were able to take what they did there and use it in last week’s win over the Kilties, Linhares said. He added that their serve/receive needs to get better.

“My message to the girls is that we aren’t in November or the state championship,” he said. “September can be frustrating. We will make mistakes and be out of place, but it’s a chance to reset the season. We will see first-time leaders on the court and will continue to work hard.”

He continued, “I make practices very difficult, and we always work on something that is uncomfortable. We will take it one day at a time.”