In a quest to determine if the Pilgrim boys’ volleyball team had ever made it to a state championship game, I flipped through the Beacon archives on Tuesday morning. We eventually found out from head coach Mike McGiveron that the Pats had in fact never been to a title game. It was good that he knew, because my search was fruitless, apart from ink on my fingers and a few laughs at 80’s hair.
But I did find one interesting item. It was a column in 1987 about Warwick’s athletic prowess. The city was winning championships left and right, from Little League to Babe Ruth to every high school sport you can think of. Break up Warwick was the theme of the column.
Twenty-five years from now, someone flipping through the archive won’t read that kind of column in these pages. Aside from Hendricken, Warwick no longer wins championships left and right, especially at the high-school level. Times are tough now.
It’s not the end of the world, of course. High school sports aren’t all about success. Kids are still having fun, still competing. There’s no shame in not being a powerhouse.
But when public school teams do win in Warwick’s current landscape, it’s that much more compelling.
That brings us back to Pilgrim volleyball, the team that prompted my foray into the archives in the first place.
Nobody wins more than the Patriots.
They haven’t had a losing season since 1999. That’s 13 years. Thirteen years that have seen a lot of powerhouse programs in the city fall on hard times.
There have been no hard times for the Pats. Their worst seasons in that stretch were a pair of 7-7 campaigns. At their best, they’ve regularly been one of the premier programs in Division II.
I thought about that as I flipped through the archives. It’s an impressive feat to build a consistent winner at a public high school. It’s beyond impressive to do it in a school system with shrinking enrollment and in a sport without feeder programs.
But that’s exactly what the Pats have done. Against the odds, they’ve built a tradition. It’s a tribute to all the players who have come through the program, and to the coaches. Jim Dubois, Pete San Giovanni and now McGiveron have maintained the tradition every step of the way.
And now the Pats have a shot at their greatest achievement yet. Despite all the success, the program has never won a championship and, as we learned, hasn’t even been to the finals. This year, the Pats went 16-0 in the regular season, won a tough quarterfinal game against Central then surged past defending D-II champ Tolman in Monday’s semifinals.
Now the Pats are where they’ve always wanted to be. They’re in the finals, and they’ll take on Barrington, another undefeated team.
Whatever happens, it’s been quite a run. The 2012 Pats have out-done every team that came before.
But they aren’t settling for that. They want the title.
Break up Warwick? Maybe not. But if things go like the Pats hope tonight, we might be able to tweak that a little bit.
Break up Pilgrim.
William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and email@example.com.