SRA girls' volleyball team locks up Div. III regular-season title

SRA girls' volleyball team locks up Div. III regular-season title

St. Raphael Academy senior setter Maddie Nault, left, and junior middle hitter, Victoria Adegboyega, #7, team up to block a spike by Central middle hitter Laneeda Latpakdy, #10, during last Wednesday afternoon’s Division III match at the Saints’ Alumni Hall. The defending D-III champion Saints, who wrapped up a 10-1 regular season by rolling to their second 3-0 victory in as many days, will host their semifinal-round playoff opener on Thursday at 5 p.m. against either Central Falls or Narragansett. If the Saints win that match, they will appear in Saturday afternoon’s finals for the third straight season. (Breeze photo by Kayla Panu)
Wins over Central, Rogers conclude 10-1 regular season; Saints host Narragansett in Thursday's semifinals

PAWTUCKET – Thanks to impressive 3-0 victories on its home court last week over Central High and Rogers High, the St. Raphael Academy girls’ volleyball team solidified its spot atop the Division III standings and received a quarterfinal-round bye in this week’s playoffs.

The Saints, who are the defending D-III champions, will seek their third straight trip to the championship match on Thursday at 5 p.m. They will host 5th-seeded Narragansett, which posted a 3-1 victory over 4th-seeded Central Falls in Tuesday night’s quarterfinals at the Warriors' gym, C.F. had defeated SRA in their season opener, but since then, the Saints haven’t lost a match.

The title match is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Rhode Island College, and on the other side of the playoff bracket is 2nd-seeded Block Island, which lost to the Saints in last season’s finals, and 3rd-seeded Rogers, which topped SRA in five games in the 2018 title match.

As for the regular-season title, it’s the Saints’ second in the last three seasons, “and it’s a nice little accomplishment for us, but it doesn’t mean anything yet,” SRA head coach Cory Linhares said after last Wednesday’s victory over Central, which raised their overall record to 10-1 and D-III mark to 8-1. “As long as we maintain the momentum we have, I think we’ll be all right.”

Linhares is in his second season as the girls’ head coach, “and I think (because of) another year in my system and another year with each other, we’re better this time around,” he said. “We have a lot more weapons. We added (senior) Amaya (Dowdy), and having (junior) Allajah (Perryman) outside, who’s a really good hitter and a good passer, have made a difference. I think we are better in a lot of ways.”

Central, which won just two matches this spring, put up a fight and did not hand over the win easily. The Saints trailed at one point in each of their three sets with the Knights, but still came out with a 25-12, 25-19, 25-19 victory. Junior middle hitter Victoria Adegboyega and Dowdy each had eight kills to lead the attack, and senior setter Madison Nault, who handed out her 1,000th career assist a few weeks ago, dished out 12 assists.

After taking the first two sets, Linhares was able to rotate his entire bench in the lineup in the third, which has been hard to do “because the teams we play against are so competitive,” he admitted. “It’s really tough to get a lot of the kids in without messing up the flow of the game.”

A day before defeating Central, the Saints posted a 25-19, 25-21, 25-23 victory over Rogers. Adegboyega delivered 12 kills, including the game-winner in the final set; senior Tatyana Vicente added seven kills, 13 digs, and five aces, and Nault added 29 assists.