EAST GREENWICH - With 10 victories in its last 11 regular season matches, the North Kingstown High School boys volleyball team emerged as the second-best team in the state.
That label was stolen on Friday.
Sixth-seeded Bishop Hendricken upset the second-seeded Skippers 3-1 in the Division I semifinals at East Greenwich High School to advance to the championship.
“There were just some opportunities for us to string some points together, string some rallies together and we didn’t execute,” North Kingstown head coach Brian Hesford said.
The loss ended a resurgent season for the Skippers, who had won a total of four matches in the previous two years combined. This year, they cleared that mark in the second week of action and really turned it on in the second half of the season. Their 10-1 stretch included a victory over first-place Coventry, a team they were hoping to run into in the title round.
The Skippers also swept Hendricken amid their big finish, but the Hawks looked like a different team in the rematch. Having already pulled one upset against No. 3 La Salle, Hendricken played some of its best volleyball of the season in springing another one versus the Skippers.
“They beat us pretty good a few weeks back,” Hendricken head coach Mike Harrington said. “I was hoping it was going to be a tight game, knowing that puts us in it and we made a few adjustments. Maybe the pressure’s on them. Maybe that played out tonight. I don’t know. Our team really just rose to our top level tonight.”
North Kingstown won the opening set, jumping out to a 4-1 cushion and leading throughout. Top hitters Hudson Greene, Zack Koehr and Bobby McKay tallied three kills each as the Skippers posted a 25-18 win.
Another strong start pushed the Skippers to a 5-2 lead in the second set, but this time, Hendricken rallied. The Hawks seven of eight points to grab a 10-7 lead and would stay in front the rest of the way, winning 25-22.
“NK is really good,” said Harrington, whose daughter Jaime plays for the Skippers’ girls volleyball team. “To be down 5-2 is not surprising in the first two sets. They’re just really good. They do everything well. Jake Roy is phenomenal. They’ve got guys like Hudson and Zack. They’re deep. That’s kind of how I expected these games to go. We were hoping to stay close, pull it out at the end.”
The third set was the closest of the night, with neither team ever leading by more than three points. The Skippers got to game point on a block by Koehr that made it 24-23, but the Hawks won the next three points on a kill by Jose Lamendola and two North Kingstown hitting errors, securing a 26-24 win and a 2-1 lead.
With a chance to finish off the match in game four, the Hawks jumped to a 9-5 advantage. North Kingstown got back within two soon after, but after making it 15-13, the Skippers started losing ground. Hendricken four out of the next five points, then did the same down the stretch to finish off a 25-19 win.
“We controlled that first ball as well as they did,” Harrington said. “It allowed our offense to keep up with them. That’s something we haven’t always been great at, but we were tonight.”
Zach Fraser did the rest, coming up big on the attack time and again.
“He’s elite,” Harrington said. “He’s a powerhouse. When he plays with full confidence, he can do a lot.”
Greene, Koehr and McKay had solid performances on the attack for the Skippers, but it wasn’t enough.
“We kind of stumbled a few times, and credit to Hendricken for forcing that,” Hesford said. “They played a really nice match. They’re playing Sunday for a reason.”
The Skippers were hoping to be playing on Sunday, but even being in range was mission accomplished for the year.
“Just want to give all credit to the seniors. They led us here. We’ve struggled the last two seasons, and they worked really hard,” Hesford said. “They put us in the semifinals as a two seed, with a really good opportunity to play in the final on Sunday, except we ran into a hot Hendricken team. All credit to Hendricken for forcing us into not our best match.”
In the title match, Coventry swept the Hawks to claim the championship.