The Warwick Vets girls’ volleyball team hasn’t gotten off to the greatest start this season, but that’s not a huge concern for head coach Jean McGarry.
With this group, it’s all about progress, and the latter part of the ’Canes schedule will be the true indicator of whether or not the team is living up to its potential.
Light on experience, Vets is already 0-2 but is hoping to grow throughout the season. It has talent, and a lot of new faces who are looking to take a big step forward and erase the memory of last year’s 3-15 campaign.
“The skill is there,” said McGarry, the team’s head coach. “Last year we were still working on skill. I feel like we’re a little further along and we’ve got a little more to work with this year, which is great.”
The ’Canes played well in a 3-0 loss to East Greenwich – one of Division II’s top teams – on Tuesday, but then struggled on Thursday in another 3-0 loss to West Warwick.
It may be a little bit of a roller coaster as everything comes together, but McGarry is confident that at some point, it will.
“My expectations from them have been met to the n-th degree,” McGarry said. “They’re working hard, they’re trying to learn everything in two and a half weeks. I’m pleased with their progress and I’m pleased with how some of the girls are helping them with that progress.”
Easing the blow of trying to break in so many inexperienced players are a few veterans, who will all play prominent roles.
Leading the way is senior Alyssa McCracken, a middle hitter who has been a varsity player for four years. She missed some time in the preseason because of injuries, but is back and now playing all-around.
Joining her in the middle and also playing all-around is junior Jess Tyree. On the outside, Vets is using junior Liz Iadevaia and senior Rebecca Beer, two others who have plenty of varsity experience.
“We’re a young team,” McGarry said. “The good part about what we have on the court is that I do have some seniors going out there with some leadership, showing these other girls what to do and how to play.”
At the setter positions in the 6-2 formation Vets uses, junior Shelby Mahoney and sophomore Sam Beaufort are stepping in. Mahoney saw some time last year, but the ’Canes used one setter the majority of the time. Beaufort has played on JV, but is a first-year varsity player.
Their inexperience has shown at times, but so has their potential.
“It’s making it difficult for our offense, but they’re getting there,” McGarry said. “I like the progress, and I hope they continue to work as hard as they’re working because they’re moving at a nice rate of speed to improve.”
Freshman Arianna Pafume has broken into the rotation, and she holds down a back row spot and enters the court to serve. Back-side players including first-year sophomore Mariana Brawn, tall freshman Shannon McCarthy and junior Ali DaSilva.
Again, it’s not a very experienced bunch, yet its one that McGarry is enjoying coaching thus far.
“The kids that I do have, they’re young, they’re new, they’re anxious and they’re hungry,” McGarry said. “They want to play, they want to learn and they work so hard to learn.”
It adds up to a lot of uncertainty. While Vets may not be quite ready to play with the top teams in the division, it thinks it can play with just about anybody else.
Had it played as well against West Warwick – where it lost 25-14, 25-19 and 25-15 – as it did against East Greenwich, that match may have been different. As it is, the ’Canes will be trying to break into the win column for the first time today, when they host Cranston East at 6 p.m.
Then on Thursday, they travel to rival Pilgrim at 6:30 p.m.
And every step of the way, Vets is gaining experience that should benefit the team in the long run.
“I’m reasonably expecting to make playoffs this year,” McGarry said. “We’re going to push. We’re probably going to be in the 7-7 area, but that’s okay. I want to see these kids make it and extend their season out and get the taste of what it’s like to be on the other side of being successful.”