PAWTUCKET — St. Raphael junior Victoria Adegboyega thought it was going to take a few weeks before she worked off the rust after not spiking a volleyball in competition for nearly 17 months.
Those worries were quickly assuaged because on the first day of practice at Alumni Hall, Adegboyega took a set from senior Maddie Nault and smashed the ball onto the opposing 10-foot line for a thunderous kill.
“All my teammates said ‘You said you were going to be rusty,’ and I just said ‘I don’t know where that came from,’” Adegboyega said. “I just kept working hard with Maddie and working on new plays, but I never expected to have a season like this.”
In a school year where even getting on the court to play one game wasn’t a guarantee, the talented junior, who lives just a volleyball spike away from the school on Walcott Street, has made the most of every possible opportunity.
After playing a supporting role to All-Stater Amaya Dowdy on the state championship girls basketball team, Adegboyega switched roles with Dowdy on the volleyball court.
After the Saints lost their opening match of the season to Central Falls, they dominated the rest of the regular season and repeated as Division III champions with a four-game win over 2018 champion Rogers. Adegboyega is the 2021 Call/Times Girls Volleyball MVP after delivering a team-high 124 kills and 22 blocks to go along with 25 aces.
“This year has been a lot of fun,” Adegboyega said. “Yes, we want to win a championship and that’s always on our mind, but we were just happy to get on the floor and be with our friends and teammates because we didn’t get to do that for nearly a year. Winning the title has been fun, though, because you get to bask in the glory and get a lot of attention, too.”
Adegboyega, who said she watched video of Mexican national team star and former USC standout Samantha Bricio to learn how to play the sport, showed why she’s the Call/Times MVP in the Division III championship match against the talented Vikings. The junior didn’t get a touch on the ball in the first game, as the Saints had just two kills in a 25-15 defeat.
Rogers kept the middle from becoming a factor until the middle of the second game when she finally got a kill that started a run of seven straight terminations. Whenever the Saints needed a point that Saturday evening at Rhode Island College, they turned to their talented junior middle hitter.
“In the game of volleyball there’s no mystery of where the ball’s going because you have time to adjust to where it’s being set,” SRA coach Cory Linhares said. “It’s just a matter of if you can pick it up. But with her, she’s a go-to hitter and we know we’re going to get a point. If we don’t get a point, we know a team isn’t going to be in system, so they can’t set outside for a good swing.”
Coming through in big situations has been Adegboyega’s hallmark since the day she stepped foot in Alumni Hall. Even though she only learned the sport in the summer of her freshman season, Adegboyega was immediately installed in the starting lineup and helped the Saints reach the Division III final. After playing for over two hours, the Saints found themselves trailing Rogers 15-14 in the fifth game of the title game when Nault set Adegboyega. The freshman smashed the ball into the net and Rogers walked off with the win.
That defeat was tough for Adegboyega to accept, but she learned a valuable lesson – sports aren’t life or death, you just do your best and learn from the result.
“If my team needs me I just try to pull through,” Adegboyega said. “I try to clear my mind because I tend to over think things. I just try to remember that everything will be fine and it is just a game, but there is still some pressure. I try to clear my mind and just make sure I get a good set and deliver a good swing. That’s what happens.”
Adegboyega delivered the match-winning kill in the 2020 Division III final against Block Island to earn the Saints their first title in program history. She was even more dominant this season and now her goal is to play volleyball in college. First, however, she will lead the Saints against Division II foes next season.
Follow Branden Mello on Twitter @Branden_Mello