EAST GREENWICH — Only one team beat South Kingstown in the girls volleyball regular season, and that team was waiting in the finals.
As the Rebels sought a rematch, the list of teams to beat them grew.
No. 3 La Salle topped No. 2 South Kingstown 25-22, 25-21, 25-23 for a semifinal sweep Thursday night at East Greenwich High School, denying the Rebels a chance for another rematch with top-seeded North Kingstown in the title round.
“We were just flat tonight,” South Kingstown head coach Jackie Elmer said. “I could kind of feel it coming in. We really hadn’t been playing that well, and it was close the last time we played them.”
The Rebels went 14-2 in the regular season, the second-best mark in D-I behind North Kingstown’s unblemished record. If the Rebels had earned a title shot against their rivals, it would have been their first trip to the championship since 2005.
While the Skippers were the only team to best the Rebels in the regular season, doing so twice, La Salle had played them close in an early-season match that went to five sets. The Rams had won nine of their last 10 heading into the playoffs.
“The last time we played them, they didn’t pass well, but some of that is probably that we were serving great,” Elmer said. “We served OK tonight. I thought they played well, I thought their libero was solid, and Jayla Wilson played better than the last time we played them.”
The Rebels started strong, jumping to a 4-1 lead in the opening set on a pair of aces by Carly Tomlinson, a kill by Courtney Essex and a service error by the Rams. They remained in front or tied until La Salle broke a 15-15 deadlock with two straight points. The Rebels responded with two of their own but La Salle reeled off six straight to take control at 23-17. Two aces by Chloe Greene and a kill by Hannah Brock brought the Rebels back to 23-22, but a service error on the Rebels and a kill by La Salle’s Kelly Gallagher gave the set to the Rams.
South Kingstown dropped into a deep hole in the second set, falling behind 7-0. They responded by winning 10 of the next 11 points, keyed by three Brock aces, but momentum faded. La Salle came back with six straight points and led the rest of the way.
“We came back and then we would back off,” Elmer said. “We couldn’t sustain it. And then we would get a little momentum, someone would make a great dig, but we’d send the ball out of bounds. That’s uncharacteristic.”
The Rebels had to dig out of another hole in the third set after slipping behind 5-0. Two aces by Madison Iemma powered a quick burst of four straight but the Rebels never got the lead. Down the stretch, they made a final push, staving off four game points to turn a 24-19 hole into a 24-23 deficit. But the Rams won the next point to hold the Rebels off.
“We fought there at the end,” Elmer said. “My seniors Hannah and Maddie both really fought to the last point. They were obviously the better team tonight.”
La Salle went on to the title match, where it was swept by North Kingstown. The Rebels will lose five seniors as they head into next season, but the bulk of the starting lineup is slated to return. And this year was a breakthrough, even if it didn’t have the ending the Rebels were looking for. The 14 regular-season wins are the most since 2005.
“Semifinals – still a strong season,” Elmer said. “We had a good run.”