WARWICK --- Right now, it appears the road to the Division I championship goes through Bishop Hendricken, and on Monday night, the Hawks proved to Mount St. Charles that they may indeed be the team to beat.
Hard-hitting junior John Kane unloaded 15 kills to lead the defending champs to a 3-1 victory over the visiting Mounties and help keep their record perfect at 12-0.
The Mounties, who fell to 10-3 and remain in third place, 1½ games behind second-place South Kingstown (11-1), battled back from a 25-17 loss in the first game to win the second by a 25-22 score, marking just the third time this year that the Hawks have lost a set.
But the Hawks regrouped in the final two games, and thanks to some late runs in each of them, pulled out 25-20 and 25-18 victories to ice the verdict.
“They’re a little bit better than us at this point of the season,” Mounties coach Josh D’Abate remarked about the Hawks. “They have a team full of veterans, and when it came down to making plays, those guys made (the plays), and we just didn’t make some plays that we normally would make.”
The Mounties made plenty of plays to win the second set and end the Hawks’ five-match shutout streak.
They also stepped up their defense and scored five of the final seven points to even the match at 1-1.
“We made plays in that game and we sold out on defense,” offered D’Abate. “We dug balls and passed the ball well, but (the key) was that we made plays and we didn’t hesitate, and there’s your difference in Game 2.”
Despite the defeat, the Mounties received their share of solid efforts, starting with senior Matt Boni, who belted 14 kills and added six digs.
“Honestly, I thought everybody played pretty well, but (Boni) played solid all the way around, his usual, consistent game,” added D’Abate. “Nothing flashy -- he made plays, played good defense, and hit the ball well.”
Setter Ryan Durand dished out 37 assists, and Matt Koback (nine kills, four blocks), Pat McCarthy (nine kills), and Dan Cahaly (seven kills, five blocks), also played well at the net. Chris Dugas also contributed 16 digs, and Durand and McCarthy each had seven.
Surprisingly, with less than two weeks left in the regular season, this was the first meeting between the Mounties and Hawks. They will meet again on the Mounties’ ‘Senior Night’ a week from Thursday.
Prior to next week’s rematch, the Mounties also have a difficult test the night before at home against fourth-place La Salle Academy.
“Hendricken is clearly the best team in the division right now,” D‘Abate said. “The fact that we play them (almost) back-to-back right at the end of the year shows us, ‘OK, here’s where we are today, let’s see where we can get to next week, and let’s see what happens when we get to the state tournament.’ ”