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LINCOLN â€” Will the fifth time be the charm for North Smithfield?
After coming up short in the programâ€™s quest for its first Division III championship from 2004-06 and last season, the Northmen have earned another crack at grabbing that elusive title.
In a semifinal-round match that took just 55 minutes to complete and offered zero drama to the small scattering of fans on hand, the undefeated Northmen cruised to a 4-0 triumph over Exeter/West Greenwich at Lincoln Highâ€™s courts.
The top-seeded Northmen (13-0) will now battle either second-seeded Narragansett (11-1) or third-seeded North Providence (12-1) in Saturdayâ€™s 10 a.m. championship match at Slater Park.
It will be the Northmenâ€™s first trip to the Pawtucket courts since last seasonâ€™s title match against Middletown, which ended in agony for N.S. and saw the Islanders break a 3-3 tie with a three-set victory in third doubles.
â€śIf we donâ€™t win on Saturday, then we repeated last season, which was not the plan at the start of the year,â€ť offered N.S. coach Matt Pavao. â€śThe goal was championship, and now more than ever, it still is championship.â€ť
The Northmen recorded three of their four victories in singles and finished off the fourth-seeded Scarlet Knights (9-4) when the first doubles team of Devan Dube and Keila Strick finished off EWGâ€™s Cole Davidson and Joe Micelli, 6-2, 6-0.
Matt Lachance ruled Mike Galonski in first singles, 6-1, 6-1, Matt Meagher shut out Cory Brackenbury for the second time this year in second singles, 6-0, 6-0, and Ben Degrange was an easy 6-0, 6-1 winner over Pat Corso in fourth singles.
â€śIâ€™m glad it was quick because itâ€™s less stress on my part,â€ť Pavao added with a grin. â€śWe played well, but not well enough where there arenâ€™t some things I can have them work on in practice. When you finish undefeated, you can get a little arrogant, so I think itâ€™s nice to be able to keep everyone grounded going into the finals.
â€śWe lucked out that the match got moved to today, so we have practice on Thursday and Friday as long as it doesnâ€™t rain, so thatâ€™s a plus. Itâ€™s just nice to know that were going (to the finals), and now we have an end game in sight and we know what we need to work on so we can be prepared for (the match).â€ť
The Northmen, who shut out eight of their 12 opponents (including the Scarlet Knights) and dropped just seven sets en route to their first unblemished regular season since 2005, received a run for their money in their matches on the road against the Mariners and the Cougars.
On April 9, N.S. posted a 5-2 victory over Narragansett in a match that was closer than the final score indicated, and on May 6, North Providence went the distance with the Green & Gold before dropping a 4-3 decision.
â€śWhether itâ€™s Narragansett or North Providence, weâ€™re going to be playing a good team,â€ť added Pavao, â€śand weâ€™re going to have to play really well.â€ť