WOONSOCKET — Beating one-loss Providence Country Day was already a tough enough task for the undefeated Woonsocket girls volleyball team, but for long stretches of Thursday night’s Division IV home match, the Villa Novans had to contend with another opponent – themselves.
“Our energy wasn’t always consistent and we weren’t trusting each other,” sophomore libero Nevaeh Caro said. “That’s something we need to work on because we don’t believe in ourselves enough. As soon as we make one mistake, we lose our energy. We need to keep communicating and make it easier for our setter, Bella [Mencarini].”
The Novans were completely outplayed for the entire second game, the end of the third game and almost all of the fourth game. The visiting Knights built a 21-13 lead in the fourth game and were just four points from victory when the Novans started to believe in themselves and started to play inspired volleyball.
Caro, who hadn’t served all match, stepped to the service line with her team trailing 23-19 and served out the game to force a deciding fifth game. Woonsocket built a three-point lead late in the game, but Ava Kooloian, Morgan Rivard and the Knights escaped town with a 23-25, 25-10, 25-23, 23-25, 15-13 victory at Savaria Gymnasium.
“I’m proud of the kids,” Woonsocket coach Wayne Poitras said. “This is a feisty group of kids.
“I try to tell them they need to communicate more because when they get down on themselves, there’s no communication on the floor and they start pointing fingers. I tell them they’re a team and there isn’t one superstar on the floor, but when they work together, they’re one superstar.”
Woonsocket (3-1 Division IV) had no trouble winning its first three matches, but the Novans found themselves in deep trouble in the fourth game when Jillian Archer served her team out to a 21-13 advantage. Poitras used his final timeout at 18-13, but the tactic couldn’t slow down the rampant Knights.
The Novans eventually forced Archer off of the service line and Caro started serving hard, flat lefthanded serves that flummoxed the Knights’ passers. Caro served the game’s final six points to force a fifth game.
“Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about the crowd or the score, I was just in my own zone,” Caro said. “I just focused on getting the ball over the net and scoring the next point.”
Woonsocket jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the final game, but PCD took advantage of a few serve-receive errors to score four of the next five points. The Novans answered with a 6-1 run later in the game to build a three-point advantage, but two costly service errors allowed the Knights to wrestle away control of the match and secure the win.
“I’m absolutely encouraged by what I saw and we’re going to be in the playoffs - that’s a guarantee,” Poitras said. “I know I said a week ago that I wanted to go undefeated, but I hadn’t seen all the Rhode Island teams. I hope we get to see them again in the playoffs and we’ll make a few adjustments.”
Providence Country Day (7-1 Division IV) had tough time slowing down middles Rylie Forcier and Jahzarah Alexis in the opening game when the Novans managed to pass the ball inside the 10-foot line. Woonsocket won a tight first game before the visitors scored the first nine points of the second game to tie the match at one.
The Novans were on the precipice of taking the lead back after building a 21-13 lead in the third game, but Kooloian’s serving and Rivard’s hitting led the Knights on a 12-1 run to claim the game. PCD led the fourth game 21-13 when the Novans answered with a similar run to send the match to a fifth game.
Woonsocket looks to bounce back from the defeat on Tuesday night in Providence when the Novans take on Hope.
Follow Branden Mello on Twitter @Branden_Mello