Warriors simply perfect ... again
on 11-16-2009 02:37
By BRENDAN McGAIR
KINGSTON — Good morning. Good afternoon. Good night.
Just 55 minutes was all that Central Falls needed
in making sure the Division III championship remains planted on Summer
Street for another year. Those admirers who flocked to Keaney Gym Saturday
afternoon were witnesses to the second consecutive coronation for C.F.
a jubilant scene that proved fitting for a program that has gone unscathed
over the last two campaigns, a 32-0 stretch.
Sometimes the last step is perceived as the hardest.
Apparently somebody failed to inform the Warriors that the quest for a
championship is never supposed to be a cakewalk. There were no perilous
moments on the URI campus, Central Falls vanquishing its closest competition,
Shea, in three games by scores of 25-13, 25-9, 25-21.
The Warriors, now champions for the fifth time this
decade, put on a clinic, displaying strong hitting, precision passing and
aggressive play at the net, all the key ingredients needed to earn a volleyball
title. Senior Alba Vargas capped off a brilliant career with the Alice
Sullivan Award, bestowed upon the game’s MVP. Vargas, who is being courted
by Mitchell College in Connecticut, finished with five kills – two of which
were of the thunderous variety, occurring in the closing stages in each
of the first two games.
“Give (the Warriors) their due,” said a gracious Chris
Daily, Shea’s head coach. “They came ready to play and deserve to win.”
The common theme in all three games was the ability
on Central Falls’ part to storm out to commanding leads. After a long rally
was needed to obtain the initial point of the match, the Warriors tacked
on nine straight. The streak was halted when an error occurred at the net,
resulting in the Raiders serving for the first time and trailing 10-0.
The strong starts for the Warriors were present again
in the second game (12-1) and the third (9-2). Eventually the Raiders were
able to get off the canvas, but in the wake of such enlarged deficits,
the rallies proved to arrive too little, too late.
“That’s luck in many ways because in this game, [momentum
can switch sides] so fast,” said C.F. head coach Richard Sousa. “The fact
we got off to such big leads, it takes all the pressure off. If we don’t
open like that, it’s neck-to-neck in all those games.”
The third game wound up being the most competitive
one of the match. Shea slowly chipped away, eventually crawling to within
22-21. Central Falls was certainly on high alert, for the last thing Sousa
wanted to see was the Raiders have life and extend the match further. The
Warriors responded to the rare wakeup call by nailing down the three remaining
points, all in a row, needed to seal up another impeccable campaign.
“The thing is that if you lose that third game, what
does (Shea) do now? It gives total life to the other team,” pondered Sousa
about a scenario that didn’t come to fruition. “I’m just glad we won that
third game because I would have been nervous.”
“You never know what could happen,” echoed Vargas.
The Raiders, forced to endure a runner-up finish for
the second straight year, had hoped the confidence that sprung in last
month’s five-set setback against the Warriors would carryover on a neutral
court. Instead Central Falls’ serving aspect befuddled Shea, resulting
in numerous “free” points for its opponent.
“We’ve had trouble with returning their serves every
time we played them,” said Daily “Some members of our boys team came by
to help them, but we just didn’t come ready to play.”
While Vargas received her proper due, she wasn’t the
sole factor in the Warriors’ title-worthy camp. Senior Maria Budzyna notched
four kills while Natalia Szulc handed out 13 assists. Sofia Silva and Kayla
Camara enjoyed strong games from the service line, playing instrumental
roles in the Warriors achieving, respectively, 20 and 14 points.
“Everyone was covering for one another,” said a beaming
Vargas, clutching flowers and the MVP plaque while the championship medal
dangling around her neck.
Then there’s what sophomore Anna Rodriguez brought
to the table – the element of surprise. As a freshman Rodriguez played
a key role in the Warriors hoisting up the D-III girls basketball banner,
earning MVP honors. On Saturday Rodriguez (17 kills) added to her big game
legend, this time with her tenacity around the net as the Raiders simply
did not have an answer.
The ironic thing is that Rodriguez is only a recent
addition to the varsity squad.
“I wanted to let her play with the JV all year long,
and once their [postseason] tournament was over, I was quickly going to
bring her up,” explained Sousa. “I knew she would help us out. We were
winning without her, but it was close.
“I needed some surprise,” added Sousa about Rodriguez,
who faced Shea for the first time Saturday. “I didn’t want to come out
with the same rotation. I wanted a different look and I wanted what I thought
was going to be the strongest look. We went with it and it worked.”
“She was big at the net,” summoned up Vargas about
the contribution of Rodriguez.
So too were the rest of the Warriors on an afternoon
in which perfection resulted with the players barely working up a sweat.