WOONSOCKET -- It’s been a rather dismal experience for Mount St. Charles head coach Josh D’Abate over the past two weeks.
The Mounties had suffered three straight Division I crossover losses, and they weren’t pretty. After dropping a 3-1 verdict to South Kingstown, they were dealt two shutouts by Coventry and North Kingstown.
“I just thought it was experience,” or lack of it, D’Abate stated. “We graduated six starters last year, and we brought some athletics girls back, but they didn’t have the amount of playing time the (seniors) did.”
As for the reasons behind the MSC slump, the mentor indicated it resulted from a combination of physical and mental miscues.
“We don’t care about the physical mistakes; those I can deal with, like a bad dig or attack,” he noted. “We were making too many of what I call ‘volleyball-IQ’ errors. We were playing too many balls out of bounds, or trying to attack when the body isn’t in its proper position, things that are not a trademark of Mountie volleyball.”
D’Abate and his bunch had spent a great deal of time working on such issues, and it more than showed in Mount St. Charles’ 3-1 victory over Toll Gate on Monday night.
He saw more discipline from his front-liners at the net, more explosive serves and not as many unforced errors.
During the 25-17, 25-20, 23-25, 25-13 triumph, junior setter Berandette Charland paced the troops with 27 assists, while sophomore Julia Rein recorded 10 kils and six digs; senior Marissa Lahousse six digs and three digs; classmate Amy Schmitt eight kills and three aces; and junior Katherine Machione four kills, four digs and four aces.
Fellow junior Kara Dore helped out with a match-leading six blocks and four kills as the Mounties improved to 5-4.
“You may have noticed we substituted liberally (Monday), and that’s because we’ve been focusing more on volleyball IQ in practice,” D’Abate explained. “If someone made a mistake – going after a ball out of bounds, or out of position at the net – I’d give another girl an opportunity.
“Physical mistakes are going to come, but if someone is standing at the end line and jumping three feet to return it, no,” he continued. “I’m all for effort, but we were making things more difficult than they had to be … We eliminated a ton of those miscues in this one. I can count off the top of my head only six or seven balls we played
that we shouldn’t have (Monday). We were watching the ball travel out, not playing it.”
The Titans dropped to 1-9, despite junior Jamie Hopgood’s 14 digs, six kills and five aces and classmate Courtney Marsh’s five kills and four aces.
Another junior, libero Sydni Charette, mustered 10 digs, while senior Lexi Hassell posted a pair of aces.
The Mounties had little problem securing the win in the opening game, as it was only tied twice (the last at 3-3) before Machione managed five points off her serve – and with the aid of consecutive kills from Schmitt and Charland. By the time her serve ended, the hosts held a 9-3 advantage, one it extended with a Dore ace and a bevy of Toll Gate unforced errors.
The visitors did forge a comeback, knifing the deficit to 22-14 on a Hopgood kill, but Schmitt ended it at 25-17 on her service and a return into the netting.
As for the second game, it remained close for most of it before sophomore Samantha Baker took the stripe with the Titans trailing just 17-15. She opened with an ace, watched officials call Toll Gate for a carry and then ripped another ace. Two points later, Mount held a 22-15 cushion.
Ahead 24-17, Marsh delivered three straight points, but Dore redirected a block with her right hand and calmly pushed it to the floor to register the 25-20 verdict.
In the third, the Mounties held a 21-18 lead, but watched as Toll Gate fought back to tie it for the ninth time at 23-23. Junior Kelsey Kurbiec’s dink gave it the 24-23 advantage before Lahousse fired a spike into the net (that after a remarkable save of a free ball in the Titans’ zone).
MSC closed the match in fine, disciplined fashion. Ahead just 5-3 early on, Machione served up five straight points, one via an ace, and Rein mustered four more, courtesy of an ace sandwiched between Lahousse’s aggressive spikes off of opposing blocks.
That gave the Mounties a 15-5 cushion, and – with Lahousse at the stripe -- she turned a 21-11 lead into a 24-11 pasting. Three points later, Rein canned a kill of the net cord to seal the match at 25-13.
“In that fourth game, I thought we passed the ball better,” offered TG head coach Anthony Bevilacqua. “When we pass well, we get better sets and better attacks. We can do more with the ball, but I thought they dug the ball extremely well. Those kids were all over the court, and they kept our (spikes) alive.”
Mentioned D’Abate: “I thought Bernie (Charland), our setter, played really well. Our matches had been predicated on getting the ball to the middle and the right side, but that’s not our style. She did a great job of showing confidence pushing the ball to the left side; that way we wouldn’t be so predictable. Maybe, after this, we’ll start moving in the right direction.”