WOONSOCKET – There haven’t been too many occasions where Mount St. Charles has been tested this season, let alone pushed to a deciding fifth game. Thursday night against red-hot Ponaganset wound up being the exception.
In the end, the Mounties proved to be a little tougher, grabbing a 15-12 thriller in the clinching game to come away with an exciting 3-2 victory over the Chieftains, who coming in had won seven straight in league play and eight in a row overall.
The victory, Mount’s 24th consecutive dating back to last season, wrapped up the Division I-North title and the top seed in next month’s state tournament.
Unlike many of those previous wins, the Mounties had to endure a nailbiter with the upstart Chieftains, who were swept by last night’s opponent back on Sept. 22.
Ponaganset showed that it meant business early, staying with MSC throughout the opening game before succumbing by a 26-24 score. The visitors came back to grab two of the next three games by identical 25-23 scores, the latter performance pushing the match to a fifth and decisive game.
“We knew it would be a great match. Give (Ponaganset) credit, they played really well,” praised MSC head coach Josh D’Abate. “You can’t take anything away from them.”
Chieftains head coach Sue Stevens had a hard time finding any fault with the hard work her girls put forth. Still, Stevens admitted it was hard pillow to swallow because the match was there for Ponaganset’s taking.
“We have been building momentum, so we felt we had a good chance coming in,” said Stevens, noting her squad’s sweep of perennial Div. I power East Providence earlier this week. “We wished the outcome would have been a little bit different, but I have a very talented team that’s looking forward to the playoffs.”
Both teams had several players put up strong numbers. For the winning Mounties, sophomore Carissa Gould handed out a whopping 58 assist to go along 10 digs, while junior Kelsey Lace collected 22 kills and 9 digs. Senior captain Tessa Jacobs contributed several big points on her way to racking up 12 kills and 5 digs while fellow captain Maria Saia added 15 kills and 7 digs.
The following Chieftains enjoyed productive outings: junior Noelle Mioza (25 digs, 2 aces), senior Shelby Danilowicz (6 kills, 3 blocks) and sophomore Taylor Stevens (31 assists, 6 aces, 2 blocks).
If there’s one area that D’Abate was “a little disappointed” in, it’s that the Mounties were guilty of 48 errors. “We would put ourselves in position on broken plays to make a good play, but this isn’t how we normally play.”
Still, the MSC coach was comforted by his team’s ability to grind out the win. “I know that even if we don’t play to our best that we’ll come out with the victory,” said D’Abate. “If definitely nice to have one of those nights when we didn’t play our best and were able to come up with points when we needed them most. We can’t do that in the playoffs, however.”
The fifth game had everyone seated in the Mounties’ gym on the edge of their seats. Ponaganset broke out to an early 3-1 lead, but kills by Saia and Jaobs helped put MSC up 9-5. A serving error by the Mounties pulled the Chieftains to within 14-12 before a miscue on the Ponaganset’s part allowed MSC to add another ‘W’ to the win column.
Said D’Abate about the tie-breaking game: “We got out to a nice lead early and I was pretty confident once we got out there that we would be smart and not make the same mistakes we did in the first four games.”
As far as the other side of the equation, Stevens said, “(MSC) has some strong passers and hitters and utilized all of them.”
The fact the Chieftains won both of their games on the same side of the floor was not lost on Stevens. Needing to win in order to keep the match going, Ponaganset ripped off four straight points, highlighted by a block by junior Erica Blais to pull ahead, 21-20, in the fourth game. MSC Tara Murray later came up with a block of her own to make it 24-23 Ponaganset before a net error by the home team paved the way for the Chieftains to even the match at two wins apiece.
“The floor was a little bit slippery, which was a little bit of an adjustment for us,” said Stevens.