KINGSTON — The Coventry High School girls' volleyball team captured its second consecutive state championship Saturday, Nov. 10, doing so at the expense of East Providence as the Knotty Oakers swept the Townies, 3-0, in the Division I title match played at the University of Rhode Island's venerable Keaney Gymnasium.
Earlier in the regular season, East Providence had ended Coventry's long unbeaten stretch. Unfortunately for the locals, however, they offered little in opposition Saturday as the Oakers won by the scores of 25-23, 25-12 and 25-13.
Coventry finished its fall with a 17-2 overall record in D-I matches while the Townies wound up with a 15-4 mark. For the Oakers, the championship was the second in school history. East Providence was seeking its eighth title and first since 2005. The Townies have now lost in their last four appearances in the final.
"During this (match) if I had 10 timeouts I could have called 10 and it wouldn't have mattered. If you can't control the ball and pass the ball and go back there and serve it with confidence then your giving them easy free balls and their running offense and it's like an avalanche, once it starts going get out of the way," said EPHS head coach Alex Butler.
Butler said his team didn't pass well and that there were too many service errors, which deflated his side.
"There were too many service errors and too many net calls, and then from there it was just like the air just let out of us. We couldn't pass and we couldn't serve. It was like I wasn't watching my team," Coach Butler explained.
He continued, "It's tough because these kids have fought hard to get here and have given me everything that they have. some nights you come out and you try to play and it just doesn't work."
In the first set the Townies went down 5-0 early and looked a little nervous. However, they were able to fight back and bring it to a 24-23 score with Coventry serving. But the Oakers finished it off with a kill for the two-point win.
The second set was a different story with Coventry getting an early 4-0 lead, the difference being the Oakers never looked back as they cruised to the 13-point victory.
"You can't get down 5-0, and then you come back serve two or three in the net and then never be able to get into a consistent rhythm and it kills you," Coach Butler said.
Heading into the third set the Townies knew this was all or nothing and they had to win this match to keep their championship hopes alive. Unfortunately for the locals, though, it was much like the second with E.P. giving up the early lead and struggling to get back into the match. The Oakers finished off the match with a service ace, leaving the Townies stunned.
"Coventry played smart, they kept the ball in the court, they had control of the ball, made very few errors and we were never able to put the pressure on them by getting ahead. And that is huge because they have younger players so you want them to feel the pressure and it just didn't happen tonight," Coach Butler said.
Despite the loss, the coach said he was pleased with the progress this group made throughout the season and in reaching the championship match.
''Our teams always get better. We wanted it bad because it's the championship but we also wanted it bad because we have a great group of kids. I wanted them to experience this, I wanted them to be able to put a banner up on them wall but we weren't able to do it. But I love those kids and I would do anything for them," Coach Butler said.
He added, "They are great kids with tremendous character. they gave me everything they possibly could. I'm not upset with them for tonight because it's not just about them. the experiences I have had with them will last with me forever."
The Townies have a lot of talented underclassmen coming up to the varsity team next year, a group that will need to learn on the fly.
"Our program really runs as a family. The seniors really take the younger kids under their wing and really show them how it's done. How we do things, how we practice, how we preform, all of that. The next group to come up has a lot to learn but they have a lot of experience there. It's going to take them some time but come next year we'll get to work," said Coach Butler.
Nicole Strik had 5 kills to lead the locals. Setter Izzy Newton had 13 assists and Mary Monagle added four kills. The Townies had a total of 15 kills and 15 hitting errors.