A 59-match win streak and three consecutive state titles put the North Kingstown volleyball program in select company, though volleyball in Rhode Island has seen dynasties before.
Coventry was the most recent team to win win three in a row, doing it in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Only two of those Coventry teams were unbeaten, so with three unbeaten squads, the Skippers have a little separation.
East Providence in the early 2000s won five consecutive championships, with four of those teams going unbeaten. Toll Gate won four straight from 1985 to 1988, after previously winning five straight from 1979 to 1983.
North Kingstown has had a few title streaks of its own, having won two in a row in 1991-92 and 1995-96.
Cranston East gave North Kingstown perhaps its biggest scare of the season in the semifinals thanks to a 26-24 win in the opening set. It was just the second set loss all year for the Skippers, and the other one had come with them leading 2-0 against South Kingstown.
Instead of worry, the Skippers were just happy they had come back from a seven-point deficit to make it close down the stretch.
“There was a clear time where, for eight points, we weren’t crisp enough in execution,” head coach Brian Garrepy said. “We ran all of our offensive weapons, but we hit the ball long, hit the ball out, got blocked a couple of times. If we go back and look at it, maybe a timeout in between, maybe just force the middle a little more there. Proud of the girls to come back. It was good to end that way, even though we didn’t win the first game.”
The comeback paved the way for better showings in the next three, as the Skippers won 25-12, 25-21 and 25-20.
“I think we were a little nervous in the beginning,” said senior Keri Spitler, who finished with 18 kills. “Getting to the semifinals is a big deal. But we just had to get out of our own heads so we could fix it.”
Beyond the comeback, the coaching staff was also thrilled with the attitude that fueled it, which started on the bench.
“The coaching staff was most impressed with the jubilation of all 20,” Garrepy said. “Everybody showed up and they were excited about every single point in this match. As a coach, I can’t be more proud of anything than that.”
The three-year title streak has roots in a team that got a strong program back in business. After a 6-11 campaign in 2014, Garreppy and assistants Corey Maack and Kevin Harrington took over the program. They inherited a team that didn’t have the kind of volleyball talent or experience that the current juggernaut has, but that did have something else.
“The first group that we had and this group is night and day different,” Garrepy said. “When we took over, the depth wasn’t there. It was a great group of kids and that group was thirsty. We were hard on them about changing the culture. This group came in with a high volleyball IQ. They play year-round and they play with another. Their level and their IQ level is super high. That first group, we came in and said, ‘We’ve got to smooth this out. We want to put our spin on it.’ And they overachieved.”
That team went 12-5 in the regular season but surged to the championship match, where it finished as the runner-up. That set the stage for a 16-2 campaign in 2016 and another championship appearance. Since then, it’s been nothing but victories.
“It’s such an honor to play at North Kingstown High School,” senior Haley Sawyer said. “I transferred here when I was a sophomore, and since then we’ve gone undefeated. It’s been an extraordinary journey. We’ve faced some pretty tough obstacles, like last year in the state championship, we won in five. But it’s been great, quite the experience.”