By Tim Yean, TSM President
(NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I.) –
“A battle of Yin and Yang”.
Credit JV boys’ volleyball member/varsity volleyball analyst Tapha Ndoye on that one.
And, an elite one if the Thunderbolts were able to do the unthinkable and beat North Kingstown again. Unfortunately, while a great effort was played, the ‘Bolts simply couldn’t keep up with NK, and were downed in four sets.
The Thunderbolts headed into the match with a three-match losing streak, which followed a four-match winning streak, which followed a four-match losing streak to start the season.
Another win against the top team in the state would help them get back on track, and restore morale from that three-match losing streak.
Lineup changes were made; most notably, Larry Yin returned to setter, the position he opened with to start the season, and Kurtis Kong made his debut at libero. Caleb Xum was on the bench to start the night.
The Thunderbolts were without their head coach, Jhamal Diggs for the night, so as a result, assistant coach Nick Chea took on the reins for the position tonight as acting head coach.
Despite their undefeated record lost to the ‘Bolts in a five-set upset, North Kingstown rebounded and rode high entering the rematch. Their last match sweep versus Classical has now brought them to four straight wins, hoisting a 10-1 record that tops the rest of Division One.
The Skippers returned to this matchup at full strength, with both Ryan Harrington and Ryan Murphy back. They join setter and senior captain Tyler Yang, who has been dominant in his career at North Kingstown, racking up over 1,000 assists. Headlining the Skipper attack is Cody Tow, who even with the loss to East, still had a strong 21-kill performance.
The Skippers led early in the first set, but East remained steady, only behind by a few points at a time. They stretched out the lead later on in the set, with the Skippers up 17-8 by the first timeout. They showed dominance up front, and made good efforts to make sure the ball was kept in the air.
The dominance continued from there, and while East tried to pull off a comeback down big, they were nevertheless outmatched, and lost the first set 25-16. With such dominance brought from a healthy Skipper squad this time, it would be a tough challenge that they would have to overcome.
Xum entered the second set as the libero for Kong as the Bolts attempted to find something new that could work for the young squad.
North Kingstown opened up the second set with a quick 2-0 lead, which expanded into 5-1 before a back-and-forth affair ended up with East having won, with Charles Pincince back at serve. The Thunderbolts rallied back, bringing it to a tie set following a nasty block against an NK outside hitter.
The Skippers looked faulty after a strong start, as they were unable to receive properly, and put their hits out of bounds. They continued to stay in, though, and kept it back-and-forth for a decent chunk of the set.
At a 13-10 Skippers lead, play was stopped when Xum took a tough one to the eye, and was seen bleeding from that area afterwards. He was taken out of the game, but with all smiles.
East remained strong following the injury, and remained in a competitive pace, a vast improvement from the first set. Tied 18-18, they lost their groove at a crucial moment, and the Skippers took advantage, and scored three straight.
Once East got the point back, Xum returned to the game, bandaid on face. Turns out that was when East got their heads back in the game and returned, and forced a Skipper timeout at 22-21, with NK still leading.
The timeout gave North Kingstown the time to regroup and insert themselves back in, and got the set into match point. Cranston East didn’t give up though, they tied things up at 24 following a series of plays after an improbable dig by Larry Yin. The next two points, Hunter Maloney closed it out with the exact same moveset: a slammed ball down the middle, and evened the match out at one set apiece.
East opened up the third set with newfound momentum, but as seems to often pop up in this match, the other team stayed competitive. After an early back-and-forth, North Kingstown grinded out a 10-6 lead, which quickly turned back into a tie set again at 11-11, in which NK then scored five straight to force East’s second timeout of the match.
The third set ended like the first set; Skipper dominance to end it. A few errors from at the net only helped North Kingstown, as they took back the set lead with dominance, and won 25-16. While the Thunderbolts kept themselves alive, the lead was just too much to overcome.
North Kingstown stood away from the thunder by a healthy margin throughout the fourth set, and another timeout was taken by East as they were down 16-8. While East kept it closer after the timeout, it again wasn’t enough to overcome the large deficit, and lost the final set 25-20.
Jackson Rennick and Pincince each had nine kills, with Rennick adding 3 blocks. Yin returned to setter with a 29-assist performance. Xum and Kayto Kompradith combined for 23 digs.
Quinlan Fahy led the Skippers in kills with nine, and led the blocking effort with four of them. Tow notched up eight digs. Tyler Yang added another 34 assists to his strong resume.
In the end, Cranston East ran out of gas, and they didn’t have enough gas money to refill. They stayed competitive early for all of the sets, but couldn’t get to the finish line. For the Thunderbolts, it’s nothing to be angry about, as they still played at a high level, and the new lineup shows promise.
North Kingstown revved it up when needed and came out as the better team overall, and avenged their five-set loss to the Green and White earlier in the season. Their frontcourt, with the help of Tyler Yang, remains the most dominant in the state, and they remain favorites for the D-I championship.
Both teams will have their next match on Tuesday, when Cranston East returns home to face Classical, whom they lost to in four sets earlier in the season. The Skippers will travel to a winless Coventry. Both matches start at 6:30.
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