North Kingstown's continued dominance and South Kingstown's hot streak have set the stage for a historic matchup.
For the first time in the history of Rhode Island high school girls volleyball, the South County rivals will meet in the championship match. It's scheduled for Saturday at 5 p.m., at Rhode Island College.
North Kingstown will be making its 21st appearance in the title match, including its sixth in a row, and is seeking its fourth consecutive championship. South Kingstown is making its fourth trip and its first since 2005. The Rebels have never won a girls volleyball title.
A championship matchup for the rivals looked like a strong possibility in the fall of 2019, when the Skippers were unbeaten and the Rebels went 14-2, becoming the only team to take a set from the Skippers along the way. But La Salle beat the Rebels in the semifinals.
For much of this season, the possibility seemed much more slim. Set back by a COVID pause in the preseason, the Rebels started the season 0-5, while the Skippers were up to their usual tricks. North Kingstown swept the regular season meeting between the teams 25-18, 25-21, 25-18.
Six days later, the Rebels started their ride. North Kingstown wasn't surprised.
“I know they had a rough start with COVID issues and practice time,” North Kingstown coach Brian Garrepy said. “But we thought they were the best team we had seen when we played them. They've got a lot of really good players.”
The Rebels ended the season with four straight wins, then beat East Providence in the preliminary round of the playoffs. The victories came mostly against teams in the bottom half of the standings, but a step up proved to be no problem. The Rebels upset No. 2 Cranston East in the quarterfinals and emphatically swept past No. 3 La Salle in the semifinals. Both teams hadn't beaten the Rebels in their 0-5 start.
Will there be one more stop on the revenge tour? North Kingstown won't make it easy. The Skippers have won 72 consecutive matches. The latest was against another South County rival. Prout took the first set of Thursday's semifinal match, but the Skippers settled in and won the next three to clinch another trip to the finals.
The rivalry between North and South has added a layer in recent years with the advent of the South County Juniors club program, which draws players from both high school teams. They're friends – but very competitive friends.
And now they'll meet for the top prize.