EAST PROVIDENCE â€” After three straight years of bringing home the hardware in Division II and posting a combined 56-2 overall mark during that span, Mount St. Charles Academy has moved up to the stateâ€™s top division this season.
Head coach Josh Dâ€™Abate is looking forward to the challenge where his squad will compete against the likes of defending state champion Bishop Hendricken and other powers such as North and South Kingstown.
â€śIâ€™m excited about the opportunity to play them,â€ť said Dâ€™Abate, now in his 10th year at MSC. â€śWe have a nice group of kids with some experience. With some hard work, a little luck and a great effort, you never know what can happen.â€ť
The Mounties got their first taste of Division I action Thursday night with a pair of non-league Injury Fund matches against East Providence and Hendricken at the Towniesâ€™ gymnasium. Mount swept E.P. 3-0 and dropped an identical score to the Hawks in the second match of the night.
â€śI thought we played good, but I donâ€™t think we played with urgency,â€ť said Dâ€™Abate, about the Hawksâ€™ match. â€śI think that will come as the games go on.â€ť
The Mounties had five varsity players graduate from last yearâ€™s squad that went a perfect 16-0 in Div. II-North and coasted through the postseason, including a 3-0 win over II-South leader Cranston East in the state finals at URIâ€™s Keaney Gymnasium.
While the Mounties lost some valuable starters, including all-state teammates Mark McKenna and Colin Russell, there are several worthy candidates that will be on the court. Mountâ€™s roster is loaded with upperclassmen with six seniors and a half-dozen more juniors.
Dâ€™Abate is counting on senior captains Matt Boni and Matt Koback to lead the way.
â€śLast year they played a big part in our success,â€ť Dâ€™Abate said. â€śThey know what it takes to win. We need them to carry the other guys along and take them to the next level.â€ť
Pat McCarthy and Joe Murphy, two other seniors, will be a pair of key outside hitters for the Mounties. Like Boni and Koback, McCarthy and Koback have experience.â€™
â€śThey alternated starting multiple games last year,â€ť Dâ€™Abate said. â€śThey are two guys weâ€™re looking at to step it up.â€ť
Sophomore Ryan Durand and junior Patrick Kennedy are battling for the setter position and senior Chris Dugas will be the Mountiesâ€™ libero.
â€śHonestly, I think heâ€™s one of the best liberos in the state when heâ€™s focused,â€ť Dâ€™Abate said. â€śI think a lot of our success is how he does in games.â€ť
Mount begins its league season next Wednesday when it welcomes state runner-up Chariho to its gymnasium. Dâ€™Abate considers Hendricken the team to beat and also lists the Skippers and Rebels as worthy contenders.
â€śAfter that,â€ť he said, â€śyou never know who is going to come out of the pack.â€ť