NORTH SMITHFIELD — Tolman High had just dropped the first game of an important, early-season, Division II-North clash against North Smithfield when head coach Roger Tow huddled his girls for a talk.
It consisted of several statements, the lowlights being the Tigers’ committing too many unforced errors, missing serves, not playing their positions and a failure to communicate.
“They listened; they’re a very coachable group,” Tow said.
In the end, it showed. Senior setter and captain Jackie Aguilera recorded a “triple-double” with 14 kills, 12 aces and 11 digs (with four aces) and classmate Patty Santos posted 10 kills and four blocks as Tolman exited Lovett Memorial Gym with a satisfying 3-1 triumph over the mistake-prone Northmen.
During the 22-25, 25-14, 25-22, 25-16 verdict, sophomore Angelis (pronounced ang-a-LEE) Perez chipped in 18 digs and seven aces; junior setter Monita Minea 19 assists, 14 digs and four kills; and junior Iyaelyn Angel 10 digs for the Tigers, who improved to 2-1.
North Smithfield, on the other hand, fell to 1-2 after what was its least favorable outing of the still-young campaign.
According to Northmen head coach Jillian Bitee, the lone highlight came from senior libero (defensive specialist) Jessica Tremblay, who managed 17 digs on the evening.
“We just beat ourselves,” Bitee sighed after the match. “We made a lot of errors. I mean, 20 service errors is inexcusable. We also had a total lack of focus.”
In the initial game, no more than four points separated the combatants, the last at 20-16 after Aguilera pounded a kill. The Northmen, however, responded in style after a Tiger unforced miscue. Junior Hannah Leclerc ripped three consecutive aces to tie it at 20-20, and – after one more deadlock at 21-21 – Tolman committed two more unforced errors.
The Northmen returned the favor, but Aguilera’s wide serve allowed the hosts to claim a 25-22 triumph.
The second game remained close at 10-7, that after N.S. was called for four hits. Perez them served up eight straight points, giving Tolman an 18-7 cushion.
North Smithfield (1-2) eventually sliced that deficit to 22-13, but sophomore Fenda Konte’s dink and an unforced mistake made it 24-13. Angel poked her serve into the cord, and yet another unforced error sealed the game for the Tigers.
As for Game 3, the visitors started strong once more, jumping out to a 5-1 lead. Tolman had to fight back from a 12-9 deficit after stellar serving from senior Rachel Manzi, and Perez provided the punch at the service stripe. Thanks to Santos’ soft kill, the Tigers regained the lead at 13-12 and didn’t trail again.
All told, Perez mustered five straight points, though – again – Bitee’s bunch retaliated to knot it once more at 19-19. Not long after, with the score at 23-22, junior Kylie Wortz’ serve caromed off the net and the Northmen committed their 12th unforced miscue of the set to fall, 25-22.
From the outset of the fourth and final game, Tolman cruised; in fact, Perez drilled an ace to start it, and that momentum carried it to a 4-2 early advantage.
On Santos’ serve, Aguilera roped a kill and the Tigers gained two more points en route to a 9-4 cushion.
Thanks to Angel’s two aces on a four-point service, the visitors snared a 13-6 lead, and eventually pulled away to make it 20-7 on yet another self-inflicted mistake by North Smithfield. It did cut it to 21-13 after an impressive kill by Manzi, but an Aguilera ace made it 24-15 before – with Wortz serving – the Northmen’s senior Angela Barber sent a soft set at the net cord.
When it trickled off, Tolman’s crew celebrated the triumph.
In the final two games, North Smithfield made an uncharacteristic 25 unforced errors.
“I’m pleased by this,” Tow explained afterward. “I thought we started off a little nervous, and eventually gave away the first game. Once we got past that – all the unforced errors and not communicating – we played pretty well. We’re rather young, and we have a lot of young girls who are being asked to step up and do things they’re not accustomed to, but they’re doing it.
“I thought Angelis’s serve in Game 2 was huge; once we got that lead, we relaxed, and we were able to win more of the rallies,” he added. “Still, I thought we played better against Burrillville. Then again, we made too many service errors against them, too, so that’s something we’ve got to clean up.”