PAWTUCKET – The Donaldson Gymansium was rocking Friday night with droves of Tolman High fans coming out to witness the Tigers’ Division II quarterfinal matchup with Pilgrim.
The host did not disappoint.
Tolman, a No. 2 seed from the II-North at 14-2, overcame a rare loss in the opening game by winning the next three en route to a 3-1 decision over the Patriots.
The win is the first in the postseason for the Tigers since their 2003 championship season. It’s also avenges back-to-back losses to the Patriots, a three seed for II-South, in opening-round matches of the last two playoffs.
“I am happy for our players because we have lost to Pilgrim the previous two years and we had the same group of players this year as we did last year,” Tolman coach Neil Nachbar said. “Last year was one of our most devastating losses in our playoff history because we won the first two games and then we lost the last three. Ever since then, we have had a bitter taste in our mouth since the last season ended. It just so happens that we end up playing the same team in the playoffs. We were not only able to redeem ourselves, but it was even more satisfying that it came against a team that we had a bad memory against.”
Senior Alioune Cissoko finished with 13 kills and senior teammate Elijiah Wiggins added 10 in yesterday’s match. Senior Kevin Coughlin had 38 assists and junior Jeffrey Ramos chipped in with seven kills and seven digs.
The Tigers lost the opener of the series by a slim 25-23 score. Tolman then strung together its three straight wins with scores of 25-16, 25-19 and 25-23. Leading by a score of 24-19 in the final game, Pilgrim scored four straight times to get within a point. Ramos nailed the clincher with his final kill of the night.
Nachbar was pleased with the effort.
“We got down early and we kept our composure,” he said. “We stayed confident even though we were down. We had good practices. We worked on some things that were specific to Pilgrim. We had a chance to see them play in their previous match against Scituate (a 3-2 win on Wednesday). We thought we could take advantage over some of the things that we saw.”
“We just had to hang in there,” he continued. “We didn’t pass well to start the match. I think some of that were just playoff jitters. Once we settled down, I was very pleased with how we played. It was a team effort tonight. All the guys stepped up.”
With its victory, Tolman will now face Cranston West (a 3-0 winner over Mount Pleasant in its quarterfinals last) in a semifinal match Tuesday night at 7:30 at Rhode Island College’s Murray Center.
The Falcons, a No. 1 seed from II-South, posted a 13-1 mark during the league season.
“If we play like we played tonight, we have a good chance of winning,” Nachbar said. “We have to have contributions from everybody. We don’t have any superstars on this team. We feel confident.”