WOONSOCKET — For a team in search of some confidence and an identity, the end of Thursday’s second set against rival Mount St. Charles was the perfect elixir for the winless Cumberland girls volleyball team.
After easily winning the opening set against the improving Mounties, the Clippers dipped back into the bad habits that plagued them in their first three defeats. After the Clippers killed off Mount’s first set point, junior Gianna Santangelo went to the service line with her team trailing 24-20.
With each Santangelo serve, the Clippers grew in confidence. The Clipper made it 24-22 with an ace and then talented setter Kat Cardoso produced back-to-back kills to tie the set. Cumberland then won the next two points to clinch the set on their way to a 25-19, 26-24, 25-19 Division I victory over the Mounties.
“When we were down, we were just saying the same thing we always say to each other,” senior libero Makayla Chandler said. “We get so intense and we seem to get a lot closer as a group when we fall behind. Our communication really helped us a lot because that’s what brought us close. We got louder and we really like that.”
“We’re in the growing process and we’re getting better each and every game,” said Cumberland co-coach David Dejesus, who is sharing the coaching duties with former URI standout Cate Seman after Ruth Plante stepped down following last season. “We started off trying to learn from each other and the girls are trying to learn from the new coaches. We’re seeing improvement from each match that we’ve played.”
Mount St. Charles (1-3 Division I) experienced winning its first match the previous night when the young Mounties defeated East Providence in five sets. Coach Josh D’Abate rolled out a different system in that match where his outside hitters, namely Alli Melynchuk, hit on the outside in the front row and set in the back row.
The approach didn’t pay off Thursday night because the Mounties, outside of a stretch where they went on a 12-2 run in the second set, appeared out of sorts.
“This all starts with me because I need to figure out which buttons to push with the team,” D’Abate said. “It’s not [assistant coach] Paul [Gould] and it’s not the girls, it’s me. I need to figure out what button to push to get these girls in the right direction. Going back-to-back nights, maybe we’re just not there conditioning-wise, I don’t know. We have to figure it out.”
Cumberland (1-3 Division I) received 40 assists and eight kills from Cardoso, while outside hitter Remy McDermott delivered nine kills. Chandler led the defense with 18 digs. The Clippers, who were coming off a four-set loss to Cranston West, fell behind 4-3 early in the opening set, but quickly took a lead they would never relinquish.
Chandler delivered an ace during a 4-0 run to stretch the lead out to 13-7 before McDermott and her front-row teammates went to work. The Clippers led by as many as eight points before winning by six.
“The kids are really starting to understand what we call volley-IQ,” Seman said. “They have good skills, but they haven’t always understood the strategy of the game and the ways to utilize those skills. They’re starting to understand the smarts of the game and that’s starting to show in the matches.”
The Clippers built a 17-13 advantage in the second set after a block by Cardoso, but Melnychuk, Marissa Tessier and Isabella Giofre led the hosts on their best run in the match. The Mounties quickly battled back to earn a 24-19 advantage.
Cumberland called a timeout and Melnychuk hit her next serve into the net to give the ball to Santangelo. Cumberland scored the next six points to win the set.
“The end of that set was kind of indicative of our night tonight,” D’Abate said. “We’d do some good things and then we’d shoot ourselves in the foot. That starts with me, though, I need to figure out which buttons to push.”
Mount’s last lead in the match came at 10-9 in the third set. Cumberland immediately responded with an 8-3 run to build a cushion that the Mounties never found a way to reduce.
Life doesn’t get any easier for Cumberland because they’ve got last season’s state finalists – Barrington and North Kingstown – on the schedule coming up along with undefeated Coventry.
“This was our big breakthrough and hopefully we won’t take any steps backwards,” Chandler said. “[Plante] was old school and intense and I think these two coaches have brought us more competition with ourselves. They’re trying to get us to be the best we want to be.”
LIONS MAKE COMEBACK
WARWICK — Libero Neveah Chito had 17 digs, while setter Haily Gagnon chipped in with 14 assists, eight aces and seven digs to lead the Lincoln girls volleyball team to a 15-25, 25-9, 25-18, 25-22 Division II road victory Thursday night.
The Lions, who were playing without three starters, also received five kills, five blocks, three aces and 13 digs from right-side hitter Hannah Schermerhorn. Lincoln (3-1 Division II) hosts defending Division II East Greenwich Monday night in a rematch of last season’s title match.