So, that went by fast.
The only thing quicker than the spring high school sports season is the 100-yard dash champion at the state meet every June. It feels like I was at La Salle softball’s home opener, wondering if we’d ever see warm weather again, against Pilgrim last week, not on the last day of March. Now here we are — summer.
What will I remember from this spring? Plenty (and I’ll explain at a later date), but getting to witness some terrific stories firsthand or reading Bill Koch’s accounts of greatness certainly made for an unforgettable season.
There are countless moments from which to pick, but the following 10 are the ones that stood out the most to me this season and that I won’t forget any time soon.
10) Westerly boys lacrosse
A Division III lacrosse title usually doesn’t make a list like this, but I think this one is going to be historic. Why? This is the championship that will change lacrosse in Westerly.
Ten years ago, a bunch of 7- and 8-year-olds picked up lacrosse sticks and started playing in the town’s new youth league. Fast-forward to 2023 and they were juniors and seniors on a team that went undefeated and owned Division III all spring.
This is how champions are made. Westerly Area Youth Lacrosse made an impact in the community and don’t expect the town’s feeder system to slow down. Westerly might be a football town but football players tend to be excellent lacrosse players and I’d expect to see more success at a higher level coming for the Bulldogs soon.
9) La Salle boys tennis three-peats
This title wasn’t supposed to happen. Before the season even started, the Rams’ No. 1 player decided he wasn’t going to play this spring and, after the ladder matches were done, two singles players decided they didn’t like their spot and quit the team.
In an instant, the Rams went from favorite to underdog. Every match, from No. 1 singles to No. 3 doubles, mattered. La Salle finished third in the standings but was playing its best tennis when it mattered most.
The Rams defeated Hendricken in the semifinals then downed No. 1 Barrington on a cold, wet and windy day at Slater Park. La Salle succeeded because, in a sport that’s individualistic, it played as a team.
8) Lincoln boys volleyball wins Division II title
The Lions’ loss in the 2022 Division III semifinals will remain one of the biggest collapses you’ll see, but what they did this season will end up as one of the best moments in Rhode Island volleyball history.
While the undefeated Division III champion stayed in D-III, Lincoln was moved up to Division II and coach Lyndsey Sweeney went about turning her basketball players into volleyball players who also played basketball.
It wasn’t easy. It was a little ugly at times. But because she believed in them, they believed. By the end of the season, Lincoln was playing its best. Beating top-seeded Barrington was a surprise, but how they beat No. 2 Cranston West for the title proved how important good coaching is and that if they’re not playing a spring sport, and AAU doesn’t count, basketball players need to try volleyball.
7) The Rise of the Phoenyx
Make no mistake about it — Phoenyx Silva doesn’t need to play high school softball. Her play on her travel team is why she has the attention of the best Division I college programs in the country. In terms of college recruitment, high school softball doesn’t matter.
But it does to Silva.
She had a travel softball commitment the weekend of the state championship game, but flew back early because she didn’t want to miss the experience she would get playing at home. That’s how Silva has always been — you can see how much she loves the game and loves playing with her La Salle teammates, who came together to win the state title this spring.
The best part? We’ve got two more years to see her play.
6) The Eaton Family
I don’t know how they did it.
Adriana Eaton coming in as a freshman and winning the Girls Golf Championship was impressive, but it’s how the family handled the circumstances that, as the father of two girls, stood out to me.
This was supposed to be older sister Kylie’s tournament, but when Adriana posted her psycho-scorecard, featuring seven birdies, a quadruple bogey and a double bogey, a title for Kylie didn’t seem likely.
Adriana went on to win the title, but the parenting that went on was impressive and Kylie’s ability to both hate and love what happened at Cranston Country Club will always stick with me.
“Obviously, if it were between me and her, I would have loved to win,” Kylie said. “But if it’s between her and anyone else, blood is thicker than water.”
5) The Laquerre sisters
The most emotional moment of the spring (again, I’m the father of two girls) happened at the Division IV girls lacrosse title game.
Sophomore Ava Laquerre was having a heck of a game helping Mount St. Charles cut the deficit to one with just over two minutes left. Suddenly, she was hit in the head by an opponent’s stick and started to bleed.
Leah Laquerre, her older sister, rushed to be by her side and comfort Ava in a moment that, fortunately, looked worse than it was. Leah helped Ava off the field, then tried to refocus to finish the game.
What a finish it was. Mount tied the game and, in overtime, Leah had the game-winning goal, giving us a story Hollywood wouldn’t dare tell.
4) The endings that weren’t
What makes sports great is when the expected never happened.
If you would have told me in March that both Hendricken’s Alex Clemmey and Pilgrim’s Alyssa Twomey — Rhode Island’s best pitchers in baseball and softball — wouldn’t pitch in the state finals, I would have laughed at the notion.
It would have made for a perfect swan song. While I had the opportunity to see both Clemmey and Twomey play in what was their last game as high school athletes, it would have been even more magical if they had that one final chance to see two of the best at their sport compete for that final time on the state’s biggest stage.
Clemmey and Twomey are two fierce competitors and their talent is what will stick with me. I just wanted to see their greatness one more time, but sports got in the way.
3. Cumberland baseball
In most years, this would have been the clear-cut No. 1. What the Clippers did this spring was astounding, especially since everyone on Twitter says a public school doesn’t have a chance.
What made Cumberland different? It was the perfect blend of talent, terrific coaching and a community that supported the players as they developed from Little Leaguers to state champs.
Contrary to popular belief, public schools can regularly contend and win titles. They just have to do what Cumberland did and not be afraid to embrace the challenge.
2. A Raye of Sunshine
The photo taken of the West Warwick girls track team getting their state championship trophy was the most absurd shot taken this spring.
Sisters Lisa and Xenia Raye were holding the trophy after they amassed 64 of the team’s 67 points that led the Wizards to the program’s first title.
This will happen in large states in classified championships every now and then. It’s not supposed to happen here as three girls, the Rayes and Shanna Correia, were better teams than schools that had enough kids to run a relay event.
It wrapped up the breakout season for Lisa Raye. The freshman won four golds and looks more than capable of taking over for Moses Brown superstar Sophia Gorriaran, who heads to Harvard in the fall.
1. Alex Clemmey
We won’t see a pitcher like Alex Clemmey again.
The Hendricken senior entered the season with ridiculous expectations and, somehow, with major league scouts and everyone in the Rhode Island baseball world watching, surpassed those expectations with flying colors.
Getting the opportunity to watch a kid throw 96 mph was amazing. It remained just as great the second time I went to see him pitch. I was hoping for one more chance to see Clemmey befuddle a high school lineup, but Cumberland had other ideas.
It was fun while it lasted, but the fun will resume when Clemmey hears his name called during the MLB Draft and will begin his career on a path that will hopefully lead to a professional baseball career.
And when that day arrives, I’ll be just as excited to watch him pitch as I was when he faced North Kingstown in late May.