WOONSOCKET â What is an appropriate slogan for the 2011 Mount St. Charles girlsâ volleyball teams?
âKeep the good times rollingâ seems applicable, given that the Mounties under the careful watch and observation of head coach Josh DâAbate have blossomed into a perennial championship contender. Standing at 13-0 in Division I-North with one regular season game remaining â tonight at home vs. La Salle â this Mount team is following in the footsteps of its decorated predecessors (MSC has posted a whopping 65-10 regular-season record since 2007, winning the Div. II championship in 2009).
Upon close examination, âGive me a chance, coachâ or âMy time is nowâ seem to fall in line with whatâs taking place atop the hill on Logee Street these days. The Mounties are in the midst of yet another title run due to a host of fresh faces entrusted with replacing a core that was instrumental in MSCâs rise to the top.
DâAbate knows heâs coaching from a position of strength. Not every high school program, be it public or private, can handle losing five key players due to graduation âamong the notables being Maria Saia and Tessa Jacobs â and move forward like nothing happened. Yet while the newcomers might be new to the varsity way of life, by no means are they complete strangers to their coach.
At this time last season, the Mounties were on their way to capturing the junior varsity states. Starring on that team were Kim DâAlessandro, Lindsey Morin, Erin Potter, Meaghan Walsh and Kelsey Gainor, all of whom were sophomores. Now theyâre all juniors and taking full advantage of the opportunity presented to them.
In other words, the Mounties arenât skipping a beat.
âAs sophomores those girls could have played on a lot of varsity teams. Last year, we just happened to have a good group of seniors and juniors so there wasnât any room for them to play,â said DâAbate about his programâs ability to stockpile talent. âOnce given the opportunity, they have really risen to that challenge and saying âOK, weâre a good team. Weâre good players, so lets put it all together.â
âItâs been fun to watch them compete,â DâAbate went on. âThey play without any fear, which is really uncommon for a group of underclassmen. Usually underclassmen donât want to make mistakes because they donât want to upset the seniors, coaches or parents.â
Of the aforementioned group, DâAbate has been most pleased with the rapid development of DâAlessandro, who was asked to replace Saia at middle blocker.
âKim is a very quiet player so I wasnât sure how she would handle playing against bigger competition, but sheâs been a real pleasant surprise,â the coach pointed out. âSheâs done a lot of nice things and has come a long way from where she was last year to become one of our starters this year.â
The fresh faces joined a core that includes six-footers Kelsey Lace and Danielle Lippacher, both seniors. Junior Carissa Gould is also a year wiser after seeing significant time as a sophomore.
âKelsey and Danielle are usually the first two girls to walk into the gym. You get that reaction that âWow, theyâve got a big team,ââ DâAbate said. âTo have that luxury of two players who control the net and kind of do what they want, it makes it easier for our team to say, âOK, lets pass the ball and give them a chance.ââ
After tonight the Mounties, who have dropped only four games this season, will set their sights on the playoffs. Their reward for winning the division is a bye in the preliminaries. Mount will host a quarterfinal-round contest on Friday, Nov. 4. Should DâAbateâs club take care of business, itâs then off to URIâs Keaney Gymnasium for the semifinals, on tap for Tuesday, Nov. 8. Mountâs season came to an abrupt in the semis a year ago, dropping a five-set heartbreaker to The Prout School, which went on to defeat Coventry to capture the championship for a second straight season.
The finals are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 12, also at Keaney.
Asked to provide a synopsis of the Division I playoff field, DâAbate offered, âWe played [fellow unbeaten] Coventry in a non-leaguer a week ago. Given that both teams were 11-0 at the time, it was kind of an important game. Obviously I liked the way we played against them [Mount won three games to none], but theyâre a team you need to look out for. Then you look at Prout. Theyâre young and solid just like us. East Providence and Ponaganset have challenged us a lot all year.â
That said, DâAbate is more interested in seeing how his team fares more than anything. For many, this represents their first playoff rodeo on the varsity stage.
âThis team has so much fun that I donât even know if they realize where they are in the season. I think they understand that theyâre a good team and have a goal of winning a championship, but I donât know if our past success really dictates what they do,â said DâAbate. â[The playoffs] are going to be interesting and Iâm looking forward to see our team progress to the next level.â
The Mounties will conduct âSenior Dayâ festivities following Thursdayâs match. Among those recognized will be Lace, Lippacher, Jessie Connaughton and Meghan Reilly.