St. Raphael Girls Hoops Champs Set To Serve Up Volleyball Challenge

St. Ray's Volleyball
(L-R) junior Victoria Adegboyega, senior Tatyana Vicente, senior Liz Bruno, senior Amaya Dowdy, junior Ra’nyah Delves-Cooper – Photo: Brendan McGair

Amaya Dowdy saw plenty of familiar faces when she walked into St. Raphael’s gym last Wednesday for volleyball – fellow state champions from the recently-concluded girls’ basketball season.

The rims that served as sources of countless good fortune during Dowdy’s standout four-year varsity hoop career had been rolled out of harm’s way. Shooting the ball through the net was not supposed to be on the itinerary, yet some habits are hard to break. After all, Dowdy was still standing on the hardwood.

“I was dribbling the volleyball,” she said in a playful tone.

Dowdy has arrived at the “as one door closes, another opens” portion of her basketball journey. Her basketball stay at St. Raphael can now be referenced in past terms. From team success to individual accolades, she leaves behind an impressive legacy. Later this year, Dowdy will turn the page when she heads to UMass-Lowell as a freshman hoopster on full scholarship.

 

 

For a change of pace, Dowdy’s springtime itinerary doesn’t include traveling here and there in conjunction with AAU commitments. Sports-wise, she has some free time that she’s elected to fill by joining forces with another St. Raphael girls’ program that embarked on a championship journey the last time there was an R.I. girls’ volleyball season.

She might be learning the ropes of a sport that’s being offered as part of the R.I. Interscholastic League’s “Fall II” landscape, yet Dowdy has proven to be a quick study when it comes to one important technical difference between volleyball and basketball. Now, you’re supposed to spike the ball over the net instead of through it.

St. Ray's Volleyball
Kneeling (L-R): senior Tatyana Vicente, senior Liz Bruno. Standing (L-R) junior Victoria Adegboyega, senior Amaya Dowdy, junior Ra’nyah Delves-Cooper – Photo: Brendan McGair

“It was really different,” said Dowdy. I thought it was going to be easy, but it’s not.”

In Dowdy’s eyes, the chance to join a number of her basketball cohorts in the volleyball trenches outweighs any apprehension or reservations she has about branching out to something that’s brand new.

“Honestly, it’s about having fun … getting out of the house and being with all my teammates from basketball,” said Dowdy.

When Dowdy says teammates, she means four additional volleyball players who happen to be fresh off one championship season and are hoping the good times can extend through this current high school season. In St. Raphael’s volleyball sector, the neophyte (Dowdy) joins fellow seniors Liz Bruno and Tatyana Vicente, and juniors Victoria Adegboyega and Ra’nyah Delves-Cooper.

“Having that number of kids is great for the program. Plus, they’re all great kids,” said Corey Linhares, the head coach of girls and boys volleyball at St. Raphael.

 

 

The glow from the basketball championship still strongly resonates, as it should. On March 7, the Saints capped off a perfect season (11-0) with an overtime win over Barrington in the Division I finals. Eleven days after proudly standing atop the RIIL girls’ basketball mountain, the band was back together.

The sport may have changed, yet the mission remains the same.

“We won last year and I want to win again,” said Bruno, referring to the Division III girls’ volleyball championship that SRA captured back in the fall of 2019.

Added Linhares, “The sky’s the limit. They want to win, but they also want to be with their friends. That’s super important.”

The current edition of SRA volleyball features a few links to the 2019 squad. Vicente is a four-year starter while Adegboyega was a key force as a sophomore. Bruno played sparingly as a junior but has made vast improvements to her game.

With Dowdy entering the volleyball picture, Linhares went back in time to the 2019 season when another St. Raphael female athlete more known for her basketball accomplishments expressed a desire to try her luck at volleyball. Her name was Paige O’Brien. Like Dowdy, O’Brien was starting completely from scratch.

In no time, O’Brien picked up enough volleyball skills to emerge as a valuable piece. The hope is that Dowdy can author a similar tale.

 

 

“In one day, I was blown away by how fast and athletic [Dowdy] was,” said Linhares. “It’s only a matter of time before she contributes for us. It’s going to take a little while for her to pick up the speed of the game. Once she does, I’ll be very excited to see what the future holds for her and the team. She’s a big part of our plans.”

With one high school championship to her credit, Dowdy wants to be known as a multi-champion – a claim shared by Bruno, Vicente, and Adegboyega.

“She asked if [volleyball] was fun. Of course, I said yes,” said Bruno.

In non-COVID times, girls’ volleyball season leads directly into girls’ basketball season. This time, the opposite is occurring. Linhares noted that he’s talked with St. Raphael girls’ basketball head coach Tammy Drape about the idea of fostering an overlap between the sports.

“When they’re done playing volleyball for me or basketball for Coach Drape … we don’t want them to specialize. Be an athlete and be actively involved in the school. Ultimately as an athletic department, you want to see success across the board,” said Linhares. “It’s about promoting girls’ sports in the school.”

For one particular St. Raphael female athlete, life as a volleyball rookie isn’t so daunting – not when she’s surrounded by several teammates who, like her, have fond memories of what they recently accomplished in a basketball setting.

“It’s nice to be around them for one final time before graduating,” said Dowdy.