WOONSOCKET â€” This type of thing doesnâ€™t happen often to â€“ or at â€“ Mount St. Charles.
Josh Dâ€™Abateâ€™s varsity volleyball squad ran into a combination steamroller/race car in experienced North Kingstown High foe on Thursday night, and it suffered the consequences with a 3-1 loss.
The unbeaten Skippers played at the net with reckless abandon, blocked most of the Mountiesâ€™ kill tries, served well and bused away from the MSC gym with a most satisfying 25-20, 25-15, 25-11 Division I crossover sweep.
Senior outside hitter James Oâ€™Donnell paced the onslaught with a match-high 18 kills and six aces, while classmate/middle hitter Grant Lewandowski registered eight kills (on eight sets) and the caroms and fellow senior Garrett Bucklin 36 assists and three more blocks.
Senior co-captains Ben Shola (six kills) and Alex Quarella also made significant contributions as the Skippers improved to 9-0.
â€śYou canâ€™t hang your heads; you just have to regroup, go back to practice and try to get better,â€ť stated Dâ€™Abate after his crew dropped to 6-4 in I-North. â€śWeâ€™re not mad, weâ€™re not disappointed; we just have to improve. They were just better on this night.â€ť
Senior Pat Bennett finished with 22 assists and three digs for the Mounties, while junior Chris Lepine recorded seven kills and three aces and classmate Steve Ward six kills and a block. Frosh Jared Tessier chipped in three digs.
Thanks to Sholaâ€™s five straight service points, with plenty of help from Oâ€™Donnellâ€™s consecutive block and spike, North Kingstown jumped out to a 5-0 advantage in Game 1. And, after Tessier had been called in the net and Oâ€™Donnell drilled an ace, the Skippers gained an 11-3 lead.
MSC, however, roared back, finally tying it at 14-14 after a visiting hitter clipped the net. It did so via a couple of NK unforced errors, a Lepine ace and Tessierâ€™s solid serving.
The Mounties knotted it four times after, the last time at 18-all when Oâ€™Donnell crushed a long serve. In the end, senior defensive specialist Connor Pyne served up three consecutive points to gain a 23-19 advantage, and â€“ after Tessierâ€™s ace attempt sailed wide â€“ Oâ€™Donnell ripped a spike to end it at 25-20.
The middle game witnessed just two ties, both early on, and NK took the lead for good at 3-2 when Bennettâ€™s service went awry. Donnell extended the lead to 8-4 with a pair of near aces, and Pyne had one of his own to make it 13-6.
An Owen Murphy kill stuck a pin into the visitorsâ€™ cushion (17-9), but the Skippers pulled away, most notably on a pair of stifling spikes and a carom from Quarella and a combo block by Lewandowski and Bucklin to end it at 25-15.
MSC was never in the final set, as Shola mustered four more points on his serve to make it 5-1, then chipped in another four as NK took a 19-8 cushion.
With the score 21-10, head coach Joanne Fittsâ€™ bunch utilized kills from Shola and Bucklin, not to mention another combination block from Preston Lind and Quarella, to shut down the Mount.
â€śWe were clicking on offense,â€ť noted NK assistant Brian Hesford. â€śIt was a good night for us. I donâ€™t want to overstate it, I donâ€™t want to understate it; just a good night.â€ť
Stated Dâ€™Abate: â€śWhen we were down in that first game, we came back; thatâ€™s the level weâ€™re capable of playing at all the time. We were controlling what we do best, playing our game. We canâ€™t control the referees, or what the other team does. We can only play our style.
â€śWhat went wrong? I really canâ€™t pinpoint it. We dug ourselves a hole in the first two, and sometimes when you dig that deep, you expend so much energy trying to come back, you donâ€™t have enough to finish.
â€śThe difference, I think, was their experience,â€ť he added. â€śTheyâ€™re loaded with seniors, and five of their six starters play together all year. They have a ton of floor time, and they know how to play together.â€ť