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WOONSOCKET â€“ The first game was a nail-biter. The next two, werenâ€™t even close.
Unbeaten Mount St. Charles Academy earned its 10th shutout of the season Friday night, defeating North Kingstown, 26-24, 25-9, 25-11, in a Division I quarterfinal match on its home court.
The victory by Mount, the top seed from the North, improves its overall record to 17-0 for the season and puts it just two more wins from its first team title in the stateâ€™s highest division.
That was something the Mounties came close to achieving last year before their perfect season was ended in the semifinals by the eventual state titlist Prout School. Mount takes its next step to its intended goal on Tuesday when it faces Ponaganset in the semis at URIâ€™s Keaney Gymnasium.
â€śLast year is over. Last year is last year,â€ť said MSC coach Josh Dâ€™Abate, whose squad copped a Div. II crown in 2009. â€śItâ€™s a different group of girls. Itâ€™s a different kind of mentality as a team. Itâ€™s nice to get (to URI), but their goal as a team is to get to (the finals) next Saturday. They want to be the last team standing at the end.â€ť
North Kingstown, a No. 4 seed from the South, was two days removed from a 3-0 win over Classical in a preliminary match. The Skippers took advantage of an abundance of unforced errors by the Mounties to nearly take the first game.
â€śI was talking to (assistant coach Paul Gould) on the sideline and kind of figured that would happen in the first game,â€ť Dâ€™Abate said. â€śIf you look at the numbers, we had 13 errors in Game One and 17 for the night. A bye week, we had some time, thatâ€™s kind of what happened. There was some rust.â€ť
Senior Danielle Lippacher was the story in the middle game. With the Skippers holding a scant 2-1 advantage, Lippacher rattled off 13 straight service points that included half a dozen aces. The Mounties built their lead to 22-6 and scored the final three points to put themselves in the driverâ€™s seat.
â€śWhen she gets on a roll sometimes, she is hard to stop,â€ť said Dâ€™Abate about Lippacher, who finished with four kills and 12 aces for the night. â€śShe was on a roll tonight. We have all been in kind of a funk and havenâ€™t been playing real games that mean something. Our goal is to get to URI and kind of be there in the end. After that first game, we kind of got loose and everybody stepped up and she served great.â€ť
The Mounties never made it questionable on the outcome in the third game, too. Capped by a kill from senior Kelsey Lace (10 kills, three aces), MSC took a quick 10-1 lead and increased its cushion to a high of 13 points with an 18-5 advantage.
Per usual, Mount had contributions from multiple players in the victory. Junior Carissa Gould had 15 assists, senior Jessie Connaughton chipped in five assists, junior Meaghan Walsh added three digs and six kills and junior Erin Potter finished with three digs.
The Mounties will now take the 45-minute bus ride to URI where it will face a Chieftain squad that earned a 3-1 win over South Kingstown on Friday in its quarterfinal match. In both their regular season matches this season, Ponaganset (No. 3 seed, North) had played the Mountiesâ€™ tough, losing by a 3-1 score on Sept. 22 and a 3-2 decision on Oct. 20.
â€śThis is our fourth year in a row going to URI,â€ť Dâ€™Abate said. â€śThatâ€™s kind of a small accomplishment in itself to be able to get down there and be one of those teams thatâ€™s a powerhouse team. Itâ€™s nice, but it only matters if you win.â€ť