Volleyball season ends in nail-biter

Fri, 05/07/2021 - 1:00pm
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Tears flowed following a heartbreaking edge-of-your seat, state semifinal volleyball game that was universally praised as a dilly of a match-up between Rogers High School of Newport and Block Island’s Hurricanes, with the host ‘Canes, losing out in the final two points of the marathon match on Saturday, May 1.
At one point Rogers Athletic Director Jim Cawley turned to supporters with a huge grin and said: “Isn’t this terrific, these teams are just leaving their hearts on the floor. What an effort.”
In fact, over the course of the five-set match, the Rogers bench did not sit down once on the sideline as emotions on both teams were palpable. Everyone knew what was at stake with every nerve racking serve.
One point alone lasted over 40 back-and-forth touches, featuring blistering kills, diving saves inches from the floor, backwards saves that left both teams’ fans with see-sawing back and forth gasps of emotion. On one kill during the match, the volleyball actually exploded, surely a first for almost everyone in the gym.
The Roger’s team included last year’s first team All State star, Sophie Breitenbach and the ‘Canes matched her talent with Rhode Island’s player of the year, Savannah Brown, with both players delivering tremendous performances.
But as with all ‘final’ matches, there can be only one team that moves ahead and this year it was Rogers as they won the five-set marathon, 25-21, 21-25, 17-25, 25-17, and 15-12.
Rogers serving in the end won the match for them as they consistently hammered bullet serves deep into the Hurricanes’ back court allowing them to continually attack on offense. Block Island would not back down however and through great teamwork took a 2-1 lead in sets. Rogers then regrouped during several time-outs to decisively win the fourth set 25-17 setting up the final set of the match.
And what an emotional final set it was with the lead going back and forth with ties at 4-4, 6-6, 8-8. The island’s gym became an echo house of yelling, clapping fans on both sides, with many now standing stomping on the bleacher-tops in an effort to will their team over the top. Due to Covid restrictions, fans even peered through narrow windows on all the exit doors to watch the match.
The ball ricocheted between the evenly matched teams until Breitenbach of Rogers changed from her normal net front kill to a soft tap at the net deftly directed to an empty spot, and that one point allowed Rogers to move ahead to 12 points, and they maintained the lead until it was over.
The finality of a last point whistle is often followed by a frozen moment of unplanned silence as both teams digest what just happened. Then the emotions pour out, and the seniors of the Block Island team huddled in tears, their storybook high school volleyball careers over in an instant. Assistant Coach Jamie Newell huddled with the team and stared each player in the eyes, emotionally telling them “how proud coach Rob and I are of your effort. Great stuff, hold your heads high and be proud of yourselves and the team.”
And with that, the players turned and began to slowly shuffle away.
Rogers went on to play in the Division III final at Rhode Island College later that evening. (Boat cancellations the previous day meant that the semi- and championship games were played on the same day.) The team went up against the St. Raphael Academy Saints, losing 3 to 1.