PAWTUCKET – When it came to winning championships, St. Raphael Academy picked up its share of hardware in 2021 and packed all sorts of titles into its large trophy case, from state, class, and divisional crowns to regular-season banners.
That being said, it should come as no surprise that eight of Pawtucket’s top 11 sports stories from this past year center around the Walcott Street school, and here’s a rundown of 2021’s highlights.
Kipyego brothers, SRA boys’ track and field/cross country programs excel again
Once again, the Saints piled up All-Division, All-Class, and All-State honors during the indoor and outdoor track and field and this past fall’s cross country season, and leading the charge again were the Kipyego brothers, Darius, who graduated this past spring and is currently running at Iowa State University, and Devan, who is a junior who won the state cross country title last month.
The highlight of an eventful indoor season came in the final event of the RIIL Championships, the 4x400 relay race. Thanks to a superb anchor leg by Darius Kipyego, the Saints, who also saw Jack Pereira, Pedro Mayol, and Devan turn in strong times, won the state title by clocking a time of 3:34.87 that nipped Classical’s runner-up squad by 0.22 of a second.
During the outdoor campaign, the Saints captured their first Class C title since 1993, and at the state meet, Darius Kipyego added to his state title collection by not only winning the 800-meter race in 1:54.04, but also running the anchor leg of the Saints’ 4x800 relay team that also included Pereira, Mayol, and Devan and kicked off the meet with a winning time of 8:01.87.
As for Devan’s victory at the RIIL cross country meet, he became the first Saints runner in two decades to win a state crown. Thanks to a strong kick in the final mile on Ponaganset High’s 3.1-mile course, he topped a field of 146 runners with a time of 15:32.30 that topped the runner-up finisher, Cumberland High senior Henry Dennen, by more than nine seconds. His time was also the 17th fastest time ever recorded on the legendary course.
Unbeaten SRA girls’ basketball team captures first state title in 21 seasons
After stepping away from the entire postseason in 2020 because of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the St. Raphael Academy girls’ basketball team came back to win its first state championship in 21 years by posting a 43-38 overtime victory over Barrington High in the title game at Rhode Island College.
The Saints, who were led by their All-State center, current UMass-Lowell freshman forward (and R.I. Gatorade Player of the Year) Amaya Dowdy, and sophomore guard Genesis McNeill, saw senior guard Elizabeth Bruno’s free throw at the start of overtime snap a 37-37 tie and kick off a five-point run by the Saints that put away the Eagles.
That win capped an outstanding 11-0 season that saw the Saints win all but two of their games by 14 or more points – their 47-38 win over Portsmouth in their regular-season finale, and their thriller with the Eagles, who entered the game with an 11-0 mark.
SRA girls’ volleyball team repeats as Division III champs with 12-1 mark
The St. Raphael Academy girls’ volleyball team experienced few problems this past spring in repeating as D-III champions, as the Saints capped a fantastic 12-1 season by posting a 3-1 victory over Rogers High at Rhode Island College.
The Saints, who were making their third straight trip to the finals, bounced back from a brutal 25-15 defeat in the opening set to top the Vikings by scores of 25-12, 25-21, and 25-18.
A handful of upperclassmen played big roles in the Saints’ return to glory, starting with senior setter Madison Nault, who netted her 1,000 career assist and is the program’s record holder in that department, junior middle blocker Victoria Adegboyega, senior outside hitter Tatyana Vicente, senior libero Athena Rodrigues, and junior outside hitter Allajah Perryman.
Undefeated SRA boys’ tennis squad wins program’s first title in 12 years
In an undefeated season that contained very little suspense, the St. Raphael Academy boys’ tennis team wrapped up its program’s first undefeated season by netting a 4-2 victory in the Division IV finals over North Smithfield High at Slater Park.
The title was the first for the Saints in a dozen years, and of their 10 victories, six were shutouts.
The Northmen briefly held a 2-1 lead, but the Saints quickly won the next three matches, with the first doubles team of junior Amrit Kohli and sophomore Aaron Baker sealing the title by taking a three-set thriller, the Pawtucket school found itself celebrating a 4-2 victory and its first title in a dozen years.
The Saints’ championship season was extra impressive, for not only did they enter this season with only three players with any varsity experience, but they also did not field a team last year (because of the COVID-19 pandemic) and in 2018 (due to a lack of players).
Darlington American Little League’s ages 8-10 all-star team ends city’s state title drought
The Darlington American Little League’s wait for a R.I. championship ended when last summer’s ages 8-10 all-star team, which was fresh off winning the District II banner, claimed the state title by rallying to a 9-3 victory over District IV champion Smithfield in the finals at Rumford’s Kimberly Ann Rock Complex.
A five-run rally in the bottom of the fifth inning sent Darlington American on its way to its championship, which made the Pawtucket squad – which also featured players from Pineview and Fairlawn on it – the city’s first state champion in more than two decades.
Darlington American, which had won its first two games of the double-elimination tourney with a 6-1 win over District I champion Cranston Western in its opener and a 5-0 victory over Smithfield in the winners’ bracket final, also posted a 3-0 record en route to winning the District II title. In those three wins, Darlington American outscored its opponents, 32-2.
SRA football team wins 12 games, reaches Division II Super Bowl twice
If you add up its records from last spring’s two-month “Fall II” season and this past fall’s normal season, the St. Raphael Academy football team posted a 12-2 record against its Division II opponents that saw the Saints win most of those games by three or more touchdowns and capture back-to-back regular-season titles.
Unfortunately for the Saints, their two losses came in the Super Bowl at Cranston Stadium, as they suffered a 34-6 defeat to also-unbeaten Barrington in last spring’s finals and a 28-14 loss to Classical in last month’s title game.
Nevertheless, 2021 will go down as an outstanding year for the Saints, one that saw a handful of players grab state-wide attention with their superb play: quarterback/defensive back Andre DePina-Gray, linebacker Moses Meus, fullback/safety Napoleon DeBarros, and linemen Isaiah Delgado and Lawrence Thornton.
SRA girls’ soccer team’s superb season ends with 1-0 loss to Burrillville in finals
One of the greatest regular seasons in the 24-year history of the SRA girls’ soccer team ended with the agony of defeat, as a 30-yard free kick with 15:48 to play in the Division III championship game allowed Burrillville High to exit Cranston Stadium with a 1-0 victory over the Saints.
The Saints concluded their season with a 15-2-2 record and the Division III-East regular-season title, but both losses came at the hands of the undefeated Broncos, which won the West’s championship.
The Saints, who were back in the D-III finals for the first time since their 2008 championship season, were led by their four senior captains, Elizabeth Murphy, Ariel O’Brien, Elizabeth Alcantara, and Jazmyne Hall.
St. Raphael Academy softball team earns share of Division I regular-season crown
The St. Raphael Academy softball team’s return to the state’s top division after an 11-year absence saw the Saints earn a share of the Division I regular-season title with a 10-1 record and post a 2-2 mark in the state playoffs.
The two defeats in the postseason? They were two-run losses to the two teams that played in the finals: Coventry, which ended up taking the title, and Pilgrim, which also earned a piece of the regular-season crown with an 11-2 mark.
The Saints received strong pitching from Second-Team All-Stater and 11-game winner Sami Simonds and was bolstered by a potent lineup that included senior second baseman Tori Jacques and sophomore pitcher/infielder Sydney Duclos atop the order.
First-year Shea/Tolman co-op softball team reaches Division IV title game
Two months after joining forces to form a softball team, the Shea/Tolman co-op squad put together a magical season that saw the ballclub not only win the regular-season title, but also reach the Division IV finals at Rhode Island College.
Unfortunately, Shea/Tolman, which posted an 11-4 record, fell to the only team it could not overcome during the season, Central High, and in the title game, the Knights broke a 6-6 tie with three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and ending up posting an 11-7 victory.
Shea/Tolman, which posted a 10-game win streak during the season and was a full game better than Central and Classical in the regular-season standings, was led by junior pitcher Madison Gibbons, freshman catcher Cheyenne Cooper, junior infielder Gina Carpenter, and senior infielder Sarah Masoian.
St. Raphael Academy girls’ tennis team ties program’s record for wins with 15
The Saints ended a magnificent season with a 15-2 record, but did not claim the regular-season championship or Division III title. That’s because both honors went to the Lincoln School, which went undefeated and blanked the Saints in their regular-season finale for the top seed in the playoffs.
The Saints, who also lost to Pilgrim in the D-III quarterfinals, tried to produce their first unbeaten regular season since 1990, but still tied their program’s 2004 record for the most regular-season victories. Senior Christina Wilk and sophomore Alexys Tavares topped SRA’s talented lineup.
Pawtucket players lead Davies boys’ hoop team to Div. III-North regular-season title
The Davies Tech boys’ basketball team captured the Division III-North regular-season championship with an 8-0 record, as well as made its first postseason appearance since the 2003-04 campaign, and the Patriots did so with an all-Pawtucket lineup that included 1,000-point scorer Raheim Rainey.
The head coach is also from Pawtucket, Bob Morris, and while Rainey, who averaged over 26 points per game, earned All-Division honors, so did three more Pawtucket players, senior forwards Ericsen Semedo and Isaiah Gonsalves and junior guard Jean-Marie Preira.