EAST PROVIDENCE — The second season of play came to an end recently for the East Providence High School entrant into the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s Unified Volleyball program, the group of Townie students from the general population matched with their peers who have special needs.
The returning players this fall were James Cullerton, Kyle Soares, Alisha Pacheco, Cameron Chabot, Vilette Babbit and Christiana Rebollo. Newcomers to the team were Alexis Masse, Suehaiti Riveira, Ethan Conley, Kelsey Gouveia, Lauren Periera and Frederick Carabello.
“We had a much improved second season. Our record didn’t show it. We ended up 1-6. However we had a tough division playing powerhouses such as Portsmouth and East Greenwich,” said EPHS head coach Brandyn Chace, who also completed his second year at the helm.
“We had two partners return from last year's team, Christiana Rebollo, who was named team captain, and Vilette Babbit, who are both juniors,” Chace continued. “We also had new partners this season, Alexis Masse and Suehaiti Riveira, who brought energy and enthusiasm to this year’s team.”
The league is operated in conjunction between the RIIL and Rhode Island Special Olympics, which funds the program on a state-wide basis. It is the autumn sports option for special needs students, book-ending it with the Unified Basketball program available in the spring. The "partners," as the general ed students are known, cannot be active participants in volleyball, which at the varsity level for the girls takes place in the fall and boys in the spring, to be eligible to participate in the program.
“We had new athletes this season, Ethan Conley, Frederick Caraballo, Lauren Pereira and Kelsey Gouveia, all of whom had a positive impact on our team,” Chace, a Special Education teacher at Martin Middle School, added. “Lauren Pereira was our only graduating senior so hopefully everyone returns for next season.
“The biggest skill improvement for the team was serving, our serving kept us in many games. Our biggest struggle continues to be serve-receive and getting out two and three hits before returning the ball.”
All teams qualified for the playoffs. E.P. beat Cumberland 2-0 in the Division 4 semifinals. In the final, the Townies suffered a 2-1 loss to North Smithfield. E.P. lost the first game, 12-25, won the second game, 25-22, but lost the third game, 29-27.
“The third game was the best game of the day,” Chace said. “We were up 15-5, but our serve receive struggles let North Smithfield back into the game and we went back and forth until they beat us. It was a heartbreaking way to lose, however it should provide us with momentum going forward into next year.”