EPHS girls’ spikers start 2019 in a better spot

A much more experienced group of Townies takes to the floor this fall

By Mike Rego
Posted 9/3/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence High School girls’ volleyball program, now in its 10th season under the direction of head coach Alex Butler, met its annual goal of at least reaching the …

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EPHS girls’ spikers start 2019 in a better spot

A much more experienced group of Townies takes to the floor this fall

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence High School girls’ volleyball program, now in its 10th season under the direction of head coach Alex Butler, met its annual goal of at least reaching the Division I state tournament a year ago, but did so just barely. The Townies went 6-10 and earned the last available playoff spot.

As the 2019 season begins this week, EPHS as always will be seeking another postseason bid, but likely starts that pursuit in a much better place with more experienced players taking the floor.

Despite graduating “All-Everything” hitter Emma DaSilva, who helped the Townies defeat Cumberland then take eventual state champ North Kingstown to four games before losing in the playoffs last year, East Providence returns its five other starters and key contributors.

“We got into the playoffs last year. We eeked it out in the end. We played a pretty good match against North Kingstown. It wasn’t for lack of effort. The kids worked hard all season, but we had kids who had never played a minute of varsity before. They have that experience now. Our starting point this year is definitely different,” said Butler, who is actually in his 17th season with the program and who is assisted again this fall by long-time aide Dan Cabral.

Senior setter Paige Messier is back for her second season directing the E.P. 5-1 attack. As 2019 begins, she is one of the few Townies whose position in the formation is firm.

“Last year was a new experience for Paige, taking over the program having to be involved in everything,” Butler said. “But she battled, she fought through it and I’m expecting a good season from her this year.”

The coach said while he has an inkling of who will play at the beginning of the year, he’s “not completely settled on the lineup and where people will hit positionally.”

“We’re still trying to figure out who’s on floor and when,” he added.

Senior Paige Francis, who missed the end of last season with a concussion, gets first crack at the defensive-minded “libero” position. Classmate Madisyn Gomes opens as an outside side hitter and another senior Emma Tellier starts as one of the middle hitters. Junior Kianna Hepburn is the other middle hitter with classmate Skylah Chakouian as the other outside hitter.

Of the prospective starters at the moment, Butler said, “Paige started to come on before she missed the last few matches… Madisyn has the opportunity to earn the position… Emma has been pretty effective so far… Kianna started the last third of the season for us last year. I’m more impressed with her blocking. She had knee surgery in the offseason, so she’s now rounding back into form… Skylah moves to the outside after playing about three-quarters of the season on the right side. She’s very stoic. She works hard.”

The rest of the players expected to contribute include junior defensive specialist Aileen Charron, sophomore defensive specialist Hayley Lonergan, junior right side hitter Abigail Caldeira, junior defensive specialist Hailey Martins, sophomore outside hitter Sophie Patterson, sophomore setter Katherine Whitaker and sophomore right side hitter Bree Riel.

Butler spoke highly of his entire roster and said, “No matter what class you’re in, if you work hard to get in the lineup, you’ll play, so be it.”

“Right now, the way I look at it, last year we started the season with one player who had seen a minute of varsity action. This year, we have seven or eight who have seen varsity time,” Butler continued. “We’re in a different position from where we started last year. And I’m encouraged by their attitude. They’re not looking for others to do something. They’re saying, ‘It’s my turn to step up and get the job done.’”

For the season as a whole, Butler said his aims and those of his team are always the same: get better throughout and make the state tournament.

“I look at us being a team that should be competitive in every match. We should be a playoff team looking around the league, seeing how it stacks up,” he added. “It’s all about how well we pass and serve at the start and then how quickly our offense finds a consistent rhythm to score points. That’s what it’s going to come down to…We’re not the tallest team. We’re not going ‘wow’ anybody with our size. But we have length. We’ve got athleticism. We have the talent to be a good team.”

The Townies were slated to begin their D-I schedule Tuesday night, Sept. 3, at Cranston West. They head back to Cranston to play East on Monday night, Sept. 9. E.P. plays its first home match Wednesday night, Sept. 11, against Mount St. Charles. Each varsity contest starts at 6:30 p.m.

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