SOUTH KINGSTOWN — What do you get when a projected contender is knocked off course but finds its way just in time to sneak into the playoffs?
A very dangerous team.
That’s what South Kingstown believes it can be in the Division I girls volleyball playoffs thanks to a win streak that has saved the season. The Rebels made it three in a row with a dominant sweep of East Greenwich on Tuesday night, looking more and more like the team that figured to be one of the best in the league this season.
“The only good thing that came out of this is we are peaking at the absolute best time,” head coach Jackie Elmer said.
The potential was always there, but the path to delivering on it was bumpy. The Rebels returned a good nucleus from a team that went 14-2 last season, but they went into a COVID-19 pause in the preseason and were barely able to practice. The first two games of the season were canceled. Finally back on the court, the Rebels looked like a team playing catch up when they dropped their first five matches.
“We lost to two teams that we shouldn’t have lost to early because we had no practice,” Elmer said. “And then we don’t even play two of the worst teams in the league, so that’s a couple of more games we probably would have won.”
The Rebels did their best to stay positive in the tough start, remembering what they did last year and believing they could do it again.
“Honestly, we just kept telling ourselves that we are a good team,” senior outside hitter Chloe Greene said. “We knew the first few games, we weren’t playing like ourselves. We were just reminding ourselves that we are a good team. We see ourselves in practice every single day. We see how our teammates doing. We know we’re really talented.”
A sweep of Cumberland last week got the Skippers into the win column and provided a significant boost of confidence. The Rebels followed with a 3-1 win over Prout on Saturday and rolled past East Greenwich on Tuesday.
The Avengers had just taken a set from powerhouse North Kingstown on Monday – the first team to do so this season – but they were no match for the resurgent Rebels, who won 25-12, 25-17 and 25-12 for the sweep.
Two kills by Carly Tomlinson and aces by Greene and Courtney Essex led an 8-3 start in the opening set. East Greenwich moved back within a point at 10-9 before the Rebels won 15 of the next 18 points in a surge to the finish. Greene finished off the win with three aces in a span of five points.
Riding momentum, the Rebels sprinted to a 12-2 lead in the second set thanks to kills by Greene and Ava Wentworth, plus aces by Greene and Essex. The Avengers made a run with eight straight points but South Kingstown never lost the lead. Kills by Tomlinson and Wentworth got the Rebels back on track ahead of another big finish. Greene slammed down a kill, then served up two consecutive aces to get to game point. Natalia Maccarone closed it out with a kill.
Another fast start powered the game three win. Two Wentworth aces and kills by Maccarone and Greene sparked a 10-1 lead. The Avengers never got closer than six points, and the Rebels took the final five points to seal the win. Wentworth and Essex started the final run with blocks before an ace by Maccarone, a hitting error on the Avengers and a block by Greene on match point.
“I know that our team is really talented,” Greene said. “We were a little shaky, but it’s good to see us coming out of that. It’s been really exciting.”
Greene had 12 kills, seven aces and three blocks to pace the Rebels. Wentworth added six kills. Ellie Little had three kills and 28 assists. In addition to a load of aces, the Rebels missed only five serves all night.
“You can see we’re a different team,” Elmer said. “I changed my passing lineup, but we really just needed some time in the gym. They’re playing really well together.”
One game remains in the regular season, with the Rebels hoping to keep the good times going when they face winless Barrington. Then it’s on to the playoffs and – potentially – an early chance at an upset.
“Now that we’ve gotten these three wins, we’re ready to go and we’re confident,” Greene said.