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North Kingstown's Abby Ryno blocks a tip during the fall season.

Three years ago, North Kingstown High School’s volleyball coaching staff knew the program might have its next star in Abby Ryno, even as she spent little time on the varsity court.

“Her sophomore year, she attended JV practice and varsity practice every single day,” North Kingstown head coach Brian Garrepy said. “She would train for almost four hours. There was never a point in the season where she said, ‘This is too much,’ or ‘I don’t want to be here.’ That year, she got to learn an awful lot from players like Keri Spitler and Haley Sawyer. I think that added to the love of the game and her understanding of the position she played. She had that want and desire to achieve at a high level. We got to see her start to emerge as a potential high level player.”

That potential would soon become reality. In the spring 2021 season, she began to emerge. And last fall, she took center stage as the state’s most dominant player. The rise culminated with Ryno earning Gatorade Player of the Year honors on Tuesday.

The one-time next star now fits in officially with a long line of predecessors. Ryno is the sixth player from North Kingstown to win the Gatorade award. Former teammate Keri Spitler won in 2019-20. Before that, it was Sam Andreozzi in 2007-08 and three from a dominant era in the late 1990s – Diane Dynon (1998-99), Jill McEwen (1997-98) and Meghann Carney (1995-96). No other school has had more than four girls volleyball Gatorade winners.

“From a volleyball standpoint, she put herself in a position to be recognized for the player of the year award every night she took the court, not just in games, but also in our training sessions,” Garrepy said. “But the holistic element of Gatorade, it’s really a well-rounded award. The volleyball end of it, she’s earned every bit of it. And for the things that go unseen, she’s earned all of our respect. I think it’s a well-deserved award for a player that has achieved every bit of it.”

Ryno’s emergence began in the spring season, which was rescheduled from the fall of 2020 due to the pandemic. She posted a big kills number in an early-season showdown with La Salle. With a deep and experienced lineup, Ryno was just one piece of the puzzle, but her abilities stood out.

“We had a rotation of about 10 players who could excel at a really high level,” Garrepy said. “We tried to manage that roster as best we could. On any given night, I had a couple of player,s including Abby, who could have played every serve. She had nights that she proved that and in practice, it was the same way.”

With much of the experience graduating in the spring, Ryno and fellow senior Cassidy Cole took on much bigger roles in the fall season, and they shined in leading the Skippers to another undefeated regular season. Ryno racked up 304 kills, 274 digs, 37 service aces and 23 assists in a spectacular all-around season.

“Abby is a weapon from the back row, from the left side, from the right and from the service line,” Coventry head coach Jonathan Bartlett said. “She is a dominant player.”

Her leadership was also crucial for the young Skippers, who saw their historic win streak come to an end in the Division I semifinals at the hands of eventual state champ South Kingstown.

Ryno is also a strong student who carries a 3.99 GPA. She has volunteered with Sail Newport and the Village House Nursing Home in Newport, as well as serving as a youth volleyball coach.

Ryno will play volleyball in college, but she’s on a different path than most. She will play beach volleyball at Division I Louisiana-Monroe. The sport was sanctioned by the NCAA in 2016.

The beach game will suit her skillset well. As Rhode Island just saw from its newly crowned Gatorade winner, she can do it all.

“I think Abby loves playing with all her tools. I don’t think being relegated to a pin player or a setter or a defensive specialist is necessarily enough. She wants to put all her tools to the test and I think she really enjoys the atmosphere around the outdoor game,” Garrepy said. “I think it’s pretty cool. I think some kids might be interested in it but would bail out, especially because it means you’re going to have to travel. You’ve got to be OK with being away from home. She’s excited to get down to Louisiana. She feels comfortable. I think that she is heading in the right direction and she’s confident about it.”

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