Can North Kingstown boys volleyball get better? The rest of the state had better hope not (2024)

NORTH KINGSTOWN — Like every other boys volleyball team, North Kingstown is just trying to improve a little bit every day with the hopes it can be playing its best when the playoffs hit.

Based off of what happened on Wednesday, it’s hard to imagine anyone beating the Skippers if they do just that.

North Kingstown is hardly perfect, as its one-loss record attests, but its ability to minimize its imperfections is what makes it so tough to beat. Cranston East went into Wednesday's game as the hottest team in the state and left after being rolled over by the Skippers. The four sets saw North Kingstown look unstoppable when things were going well and look pretty good even when they weren’t in the 25-17, 20-25, 25-19, 25-17 win over the Thunderbolts.

“It’s discipline — knowing when to hit the right shot at the right time, being smart with the sets,” NK’s Quinlan Fahey said. “We were a young team going into the early season and we’ve just grown from there. It’s been a huge leap from the first game.”

“Every single team is getting better this season,” North Kingstown’s Ryan Harrington said. “The league is just so good this year, any team can beat anyone on a given night and we knew we had to show up [Wednesday].”

More: Who's this week's Providence Journal Boys Volleyball Player of the Week? Vote now.

Can North Kingstown boys volleyball get better? The rest of the state had better hope not (1)

The scariest part about Wednesday's game is that it's only now that North Kingstown is starting to find its form.

It seems a little strange to say that about a team that won its first six matches of the season without dropping a set. The Skippers’ experienced and explosive hitters, namely Harrington and Cody Tow on the outside and Fahey in the middle, still had to develop chemistry with setters Finn Kearney and Evan Shea, who were replacing a three-year starter in graduated All-Stater Tyler Yang.

The chemistry was there against Cranston East. North worked from the middle out and once Fahey got cooking, things opened up outside, and leaving Harrington and Tow single-blocked isn’t a recipe for success.

Harrington finished with 14 kills, Fahey had 13 and Tow was in double digits, ending the match with the loudest. On match points, North ran a stack play with Fahey and Tow, and as Cranston East’s blockers went up with North Kingstown’s middle, Tow came firing from behind and was unblocked. He yelled the second he made contact, much like a basketball player yelling as they're dunking on someone’s head.

“Every win is huge for our team. The guys are so good out there,” North Kingstown middle Quinlan Fahey said. “Just Cody [Tow] bouncing balls, everyone is drawing, everyone is playing together. Every win is electric.”

“We have some new guys coming in and in practice every day, we’re working on new things and they’re connecting with us,” Harrington said. “That’s one of our main goals this season, since we did lose three starting seniors last year.”

Can North Kingstown boys volleyball get better? The rest of the state had better hope not (2)

North Kingstown won the match because it avoided letting mistakes become a repetitive thing. The Skippers weren’t perfect in the second set, but they didn’t hand it to Cranston East. The Thunderbolts have some impressive talent on their side and Dennis Dixon’s play in the middle really helped them take control in the 25-20 win.

There was no emotion on the Skippers' bench after they dropped the set. After losing to North Smithfield two weeks ago, the Skippers discovered they weren’t invincible and applied what they learned from the defeat to Wednesday night.

So, North just went out and played the kind of volleyball it knows its capable of and never gave the Thunderbolts a chance to get back in the match. “After the first set we won, after that you can’t expect another sweep,” Harrington said. “Since the team dropped the first set, they’re going to come back fighting a little more in the second and third or fourth and fifth and we know we have to bring the same exact energy to the second or third set.”

“Our plays were a little predictable sometimes, so a couple of plays here and there can really set us apart,” Fahey said. “Then it’s just timing, getting in time with the setter — you can always improve.”

Can North Kingstown boys volleyball get better? The rest of the state had better hope not (3)

Much like the loss to North Smithfield helped North Kingstown, Wednesday’s defeat should serve as a teaching moment for Cranston East. The Thunderbolts dropped their first two matches of the year — being swept by La Salle and North Kingstown — before ringing off nine straight wins, with eight being league matches, including a sweep of La Salle on Monday night.

“This team really noticed once we all start clicking, we’re a strong team,” Cranston East’s Carlos Lora said. “We just didn’t get that at first. We didn’t have that confidence.

“We’re a good team; we know that and that’s how we’ve been carrying ourselves.”

When things were going well, especially with the play from their middles, Cranston East looked like a team capable of winning a state title.

But the inconsistencies in serve receiving and passing on defense were too much, especially against a team such as North Kingstown that makes teams pay for such errors.

“It’s hard, because in the back of my head, we are a good team,” Lora said. “We’re had that streak and unfortunately we lost it, but we have to fix how we react to those things.

“We can’t let them take advantage of it too much, but unfortunately [Wednesday] it happened.”

Cranston East doesn’t have an easy bounce-back game. The Thunderbolts host North Smithfield on Tuesday, but seem to have an idea of what needs to go right if they want to become a championship-caliber team.

“We needed to learn that things are bound to happen. [North Kingstown is] in first place for a reason,” Lora said. “There were some bad points and we need to fix how we react to those points versus letting those points get to our heads and get hung up on it.

“We’re going to go home, we’re going to realize that and come back harder the next time. The only thing we can say now is, 'We’ll see them in the playoffs.' ”

Can North Kingstown boys volleyball get better? The rest of the state had better hope not (4)

What’s next for North Kingstown almost doesn’t matter.

If this is the peak for the Skippers, they’re very much the favorite to win the state title. But if North Kingstown manages to take what they did on Wednesday and somehow get to another level, the rest of the state is not going to be happy.

Doing just that will be the challenge the Skippers face.

“No team is perfect. We’re always striving to be better,” Fahey said. “We definitely have another gear and we can pick it up.”

“We can definitely improve all the way around,” Harrington said. “We’re not finished, we’re not done. This is not our goal, to go undefeated or anything.

“We’re 9-1 and the goal is to get to the playoffs and get to the state championship.”

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: North Kingstown boys volleyball beats Cranston East on Wednesday night

Can North Kingstown boys volleyball get better? The rest of the state had better hope not (2024)
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