PROVIDENCE — Last year, Mount St. Charles rattled off 15 straight victories, the first 14 good for an undefeated regular-season mark and the Division I-North championship, before falling to Ponaganset in a crushing state tournament semifinal.
The Mounties, hoping for a repeat of that success in 2011, opened this campaign in rather impressive fashion, posting a rather easy 3-0 triumph over Division I-North foe Classical at the Al Morro Athletic Complex gymnasium on Wednesday night.
Head coach Josh D'Abate admitted afterward he had been looking for more consistency with the serve, but wasn't about to complain with his club's overall effort.
“A win is a win, and we'll take it,” he offered following the Mounties' 25-18, 25-21, 25-15 victory. “I always say the first two games of the opener are just throwaways, the reason being you don't who's going to play well or who may struggle. The first game or two, there's a feeling-out process going on.
“Like I said, it's great to get the win, but you can't really base a first match on anything,” he added. “Still, the numbers in my head are all the service errors. We had 14 total, with five in the first game, seven in the second and just two in the third. The second game was our closest (with Classical), and the third was our widest margin of victory.
“Our goal is always to try to put as much pressure as possible on the opposing offense, and we just didn't do that in Game 2. The third, naturally, was better, but the serve needs to improve, and so does our communication. There are still a lot of things we need to work on.”
Senior hitter Meaghan Walsh led MSC with seven kills and a whopping eight aces, while classmate Erin Potter mustered six kills and two aces and junior Marissa Lahousse five spikes.
Other key contributions came from seniors Kelsey Gainor (four kills, team-high six blocks), setter Carissa Gould (20 assists), libero (or back-row specialist) Lindsey Morin (11 digs) and Kim D'Alessandro (five digs, kill, block).
“I thought Kelsey and Erin played fantastic at their new positions,” D'Abate noted. “They're transitions from last year; Erin was more of a defensive specialist, and this is Kelsey's fourth position in the last four years, so that shows you the kind of athletic versatility she has, and the desire to switch spots to help the team.
“I thought they both played really well in their first time in a match.”
For the Purple (0-1), six-foot junior tri-captain and middle blocker Odina Ellis manufactured five kills and two blocks, and fellow junior tri-captain Audrey Chisholm another five kills. Another 11th grader, libero Alexandra Tentoco, closed with 10 digs.
In the initial game, Classical jumped out to an 8-5 lead, but D'Alessandro served up three straight points following a Purple double-hit to give the Mounties their first lead at 9-8. D'Alessandro's serve into the net tied the game for the fifth time at 9-9, but a Gainor kill sparked a four-point flurry.
Classical closed the gap to 14-12, but Walsh racked up four straight points with her service (credit Potter with a monster spike) before Gould's dink on a wild rally ended the tilt, 25-18.
Several serving errors on both sides opened the middle game, which was knotted for the fifth time at 5-5, but Morin's serve gave MSC a 9-5 advantage. D'Abate's bunch actually cushioned its leads to 17-9 (on a Purple unforced miscue) and 21-14 before Classical roared back.
Chisholm registered a wicked spike and senior Jaylin Eaves a kill off a block before Tentoco rattled off four consecutive service points to close the gap to 22-21. Classical did so on a tremendous rally, one that ended on an Ellis block.
Tentoco, however, poked her service just wide left. On Potter's serve, Walsh ripped a kill off the cord and Ellis banged a spike into the net to conclude the second game, 25-21.
The Mounties started the third with three straight points, the last on Gould's ace, but senior Aline Saysithidath managed one of her own to slice the deficit to 3-2.
Minutes later, on Walsh's hard, leaping service (with one ace), MSC led, 11-3. The Purple fought back to cut it to 18-12, but a Walsh kill and Gould ace redirected the Mount. Two of Classical's nine unforced errors in that third game, and a decisive Walsh ace, ended the match at 25-15.
“I thought we played great considering we were facing a team that last year went unbeaten during the regular season, and they had six returning starting seniors,” said head coach John Polinick after the defeat. “We seemingly were playing catch-up with our juniors; we're not as experienced as they are.
“But, for the first game and the first night, I thought we played OK. It was a better outing than the score indicated.”