Portsmouth unified volleyball team wins Division 3 state title

‘I’ve earned this,’ says one of the special needs athletes

By Jim McGaw
Posted 11/3/19

PORTSMOUTH — Tommy Silveria collapsed into the arms of his mother, Sheli, inside the Johnson and Wales University’s Wildcat Center Sunday afternoon.

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Portsmouth unified volleyball team wins Division 3 state title

‘I’ve earned this,’ says one of the special needs athletes

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — Tommy Silveria collapsed into the arms of his mother, Sheli, inside the Johnson and Wales University’s Wildcat Center Sunday afternoon.

The tired teenager was hot and sweaty, his complexion ruddy. He also had a headache and was “starving,” he told his mom.

He was also a state champion.

Tommy and his teammates on the Portsmouth High School unified volleyball team had just trounced Cumberland for the Division 3 state title, two games to none.

For Tommy, one of the 13 players with special needs on the team, the win really meant something.

“I’ve earned this,” he said. “Because all the other awards I’ve gotten in the past, I haven’t earned them; they were just handed to everyone.”

For sure, no one just handed this championship to the Patriots.

After making easy work of the Clippers in the first game, 25-9, the Patriots quickly found themselves down 8-0 in the second game. The Cumberland players were playing much sharper, patiently setting up their shots, while the Patriots were suddenly misfiring and making atypical errors.

Then the big comeback began. The Patriots started by trading points back and forth with the Clippers, and then simply overwhelmed them.

In one stretch of the game, the Patriots reeled off 11 straight points — beginning with Cumberland ahead, 15-6, and ending with Portsmouth up, 17-15.

Among the highlights were Nick Costa’s right-handed punch to end a long rally, and team captain Zach Pierce’s spike to cut Cumberland’s lead to four points in the middle of the Patriots’ comeback.

Zach ended things by serving up an ace to win the game, 25-18, bringing home the championship to Portsmouth.

“It feels awesome,” said Stephen Trezvant, PHS athletic director. “These kids really deserve it. They’ve worked hard over the past year and I’m really proud of them.”

For Ms. Silveria, unified sports has been a blessing.

“This program warms my heart incredibly,” said Ms. Silveria, a member of the Portsmouth Special Education Local Advisory Committee. 

“Tommy has such anxiety,” she said. “To get him on the court is so difficult because of that. But when he’s on the court, he’s so involved and so excited, and he dances around in his rainbow Crocs. It’s just so beautiful to see all the kids high-five each other and everyone in this whole building. The Special Olympics program is exceptional.”

Who’s on the team

Here are the athletes on the winning PHS unified basketball team: Emily Colicci, Lauren Conley, Nick Costa, Kendall Ferris, Patrick Kiely, Gabby Leureault, Maura McKinnan, Caroline Mitchell, Addie Page, Zach Pierce, Hailey Pratt, Tommy Silveria and Ellen Stack.

The practice players — alternatively known as the helpers, or partners — are Mikayla Hoover, Kaylee LeFrance, Josey Robbins, Amy Solomon and Marisa Waycullis.

Donna Ricci is the head coach and Nat Perry and Sarah Murphy are assistant coaches.

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