EAST PROVIDENCE — 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 state’s top division this season.
Head coach Josh D’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.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to play them,” said D’Abate, now in his 10th year at MSC. “We 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.”
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 Townies’ gymnasium. Mount swept E.P. 3-0 and dropped an identical score to the Hawks in the second match of the night.
“I thought we played good, but I don’t think we played with urgency,” said D’Abate, about the Hawks’ match. “I think that will come as the games go on.”
The Mounties had five varsity players graduate from last year’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 URI’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. Mount’s roster is loaded with upperclassmen with six seniors and a half-dozen more juniors.
D’Abate is counting on senior captains Matt Boni and Matt Koback to lead the way.
“Last year they played a big part in our success,” D’Abate said. “They know what it takes to win. We need them to carry the other guys along and take them to the next level.”
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.’
“They alternated starting multiple games last year,” D’Abate said. “They are two guys we’re looking at to step it up.”
Sophomore Ryan Durand and junior Patrick Kennedy are battling for the setter position and senior Chris Dugas will be the Mounties’ libero.
“Honestly, I think he’s one of the best liberos in the state when he’s focused,” D’Abate said. “I think a lot of our success is how he does in games.”
Mount begins its league season next Wednesday when it welcomes state runner-up Chariho to its gymnasium. D’Abate considers Hendricken the team to beat and also lists the Skippers and Rebels as worthy contenders.
“After that,” he said, “you never know who is going to come out of the pack.”