The Toll Gate volleyball team exceeded expectations this season, finishing with five wins after starting the year with barely enough players to field a team.
On Tuesday night, the Titans had a chance to take their surprising season to another level but couldn’t get over the hump in a 3-0 playoff loss to North Smithfield.
“We played a good game,” said head coach Claire Baggesen. “But we did not play our best game.”
The Titans were the sixth and final team into the playoffs from Division II-Central. They clinched the spot by winning three of their last four matches, including the season finale against East Greenwich, who finished one game back of the Titans.
Their playoff draw sent them to North Smithfield, the No. 3 seed from Division II-North. Because teams don’t play crossover games in D-II, Baggesen didn’t know what to expect from the Northmen, but in the early going Tuesday, she thought her team had a good chance to come away with a win.
Unfortunately for the Titans, it didn’t happen.
North Smithfield won 25-19, 25-20 and 25-13 to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals opposite Cranston West.
“We never get to see North Smithfield,” Baggesen said. “I wouldn’t say they were tough, but they were competitive. Had we played our best game, I think we could have taken them. But again, we just had a tough time getting ourselves going and finding our momentum. Hats off to North Smithfield. They’re moving on.”
The Northmen held off Toll Gate for a six-point victory in game one. Game two represented Toll Gate’s best chance for a win as the Titans led for much of the way. But North Smithfield again came through late and won 25-20.
“The second game was our best,” Baggesen said. “We had the lead but for some reason, we made some mental errors and that cost us.”
Armed with a commanding lead and plenty of momentum, North Smithfield rolled to its most lopsided victory of the night in game three, winning 25-13 to seal the match.
Despite the ending, Baggesen had nothing but positive feelings about the year her team delivered. When the season began, there was a question of whether the Titans would even have enough players to have a team.
“For a team that wasn’t supposed to be here and didn’t plan on even making the playoffs, it was a great season,” Baggesen said. “It shows something about these guys. They made it happen.”
And they made their coach proud.
“Sometimes, we get caught up in instant gratification, and when it’s not there, you give up,” Baggesen said. “These kids decided they wanted to stick with something even when they knew there wouldn’t be any immediate gratification. What else can a coach say? I’m very proud of them.”