WOONSOCKET — Perfect regular season. Three more wins and it will be the perfect ending.
Mount St. Charles Academy finished up the league portion of its Division I-North slate unbeaten on Thursday night, courtesy of a 3-1 victory over visiting La Salle Academy on Senior Night with scores of 25-20, 25-12, 21-25, 25-20.
Mount concludes it second straight 14-0 league season and now prepares for the quarterfinals as the No. 1 seed in the state tournament next weekend, tentatively scheduled for Friday, Nov. 4, on its home court.
“I just told them 14-0 is great,” said MSC coach Josh D’Abate. “Celebrate it. Have fun with it for a couple of days when you have some time off. But it means Jack Squat come Monday. Everybody is 0-0. There are 12 teams that are qualifying for the championship and we are one of those 12. It’s a whole new season.”
In typical fashion, senior Kelsey Lace turned in a monster effort against the Rams with eight digs and a season-high 27 kills. Senior teammates Jessie Connaughton (46 assists, four digs), Danielle Lippacher (nine kills, seven aces) and Meghan Reilly (five aces, seven digs) also contributed greatly on their special night.
The Mounties’ win comes just two days after a closer-than-it-looks 3-1 decision over a Lincoln team that posted just one victory this season. D’Abate knew his team would show up with its ‘A’ game despite what occurred in their previous match.
“Honestly, I wasn’t very concerned,” he said. “We are ready for the playoffs. We clinched the division two weeks ago. As much as these games are important, we are kind of ready for that next challenge. I wasn’t too concerned with it being Senior Night. I knew our girls would step up and do a good job. I am very happy with the way they played tonight.”
The Mounties found themselves in a quick 0-3 hole to start the first game. But they quickly restored order with five straight points coming off the serving of Lippacher and a pair of kills from Lace. The two teams had their share of streaks in the opener.
But trailing by a score of 18-16, the Mounties were able to notch the game by scoring nine of the last 11 points.
The Mounties dominated in the second game, taking an early 12-4 that was capped by a block from junior Kelsey Gainor. Mount twice built its lead to 13 points to put itself in the driver’s seat.
The third game saw the Mounties leading by two points at 18-16. But after another Lace kill, La Salle (9-5) prevented the Mounties from earning their 10th league shutout of the season with six unanswered points en route to its lone win.
In the final game, Mount enjoyed a 21-11 lead before D’Abate started, one-by-one, taking his senior starters off the court to savor the moment in their final league game of their high school careers.
The Mount coach was satisfied with his team’s effort.
“We have a habit of starting a little slow. We did that in the first game, and the same thing in the third game,” he said. “We are just the type of team that once we get going we are hard to stop. I would just like to see us get off to a better start. Overall, I think the game plan was very good.”
In particular, Lace stood out among her teammates. When the Rams did try to make some runs, she always seemed to be the one that was there to end the rally.
“She’s a momentum killer,” D’Abate said. “She’s a solid all-around player. She hits a heavy ball and the past couple of games she has started to become a lot more aggressive and quicker. She’s going to really frustrate teams offensively in the playoffs.”
Mount has been in this position before. In its first season in Division I since 2005, the Mounties were undefeated last year until losing to the eventual state champion Prout School in the semifinals.
“Five of our seven starters are underclassmen so they were there,” D’Abate said.” They were part of that group that took that loss so they certainly remember it, but it wasn’t their loss. But I think it’s something that the seniors remember and they want to finish up on the right note this year.”
Mount will begin its quest for a state title this upcoming weekend with a quarterfinal tilt. The game is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 4, but that could change.
“It’s up in the air,” D’Abate said. “It’s supposed to be Friday but we have a junior class retreat. Honestly, I don’t know? It could be Thursday. It could be Saturday. I don’t know? But it will be against either North Kingstown or Classical.”
The Mounties posted a pair of 3-0 wins over Classical (5-9 in Div. I-North) this fall and have yet to face North Kingstown (7-7 in Div. I-South). The semifinals are slated for Nov. 8 and the finals for Nov. 12. Both those games will take place at URI’s Keaney Gymnasium.
“North Kingstown has a girl Moira Crocker. She’s a solid athlete,” D’Abate said. “The coaching staff is a good coaching staff. I know (head coach) Vicki (Tefft) will have her girls ready. It’s not something that we can look past and say, ‘Okay, let’s go to URI.’”
The MSC coach doesn’t expect Classical to be an easy matchup if that should happen.
“They are a young team but they are much improved the last time I played them,” D’Abate said. “They got as good coaching staff. That’s another team that we need to be ready for because they are young and athletic. Sometimes all it takes is for something to click in someone’s head and all of a sudden they are not young anymore and now they get it. We got to be ready.”