The Warwick Vets volleyball team did a lot of things it needs to do in order to be successful Monday night – putting up a good block, digging big hits and playing the scrappy brand of volleyball that will have to be a trademark.
It didn’t lead to success Monday as unbeaten East Greenwich swept to a 3-0 win, but the Hurricanes hope they can replicate their performance as they try to get hot in the second half of the season.
“There were a few plays tonight where I thought ‘We’ve got no shot at that’ and digs were happening, blocks were happening, keeping the ball in play,” said Vets head coach Brendan Friel. “That’s the tough part of the game – sticking with it. I think they really wanted to come out today and give those guys a run for their money. I’m hoping that this carries over.”
The ’Canes could use it. After a 2-0 start to the year, but have won just once since then, a 3-0 victory over Mt. Hope on April 23. They’ve hung tough against good teams, falling 3-1 to both Shea and Central, they’ve had a tough time against the best squads like East Greenwich, and they’ve had a few disappointing performances that allowed winnable games to get away.
The results have been predictable, but after a shaky performance in a loss to Westerly on Friday, the match against East Greenwich gives Vets something to build on.
“We’ve been fluctuating,” Friel said. “We lost a couple of kids, so we’re trying to solidify the lineup. We had a disappointing game against Central. Shea and Tolman are two really tough teams. I’ve been seeing progress as we’ve gone along. Looking at the schedule in the second half of the year I told them, ‘There’s a lot of teams that are right there that are winnable games.’ We’ve got to play those teams the way we played today.”
Vets hung with East Greenwich in every game, only to run out of steam each time. In the first game of the night, an ace by Mike Riccitelli and a block by Justin Batista sparked a run of six straight points that put Vets up 10-8. East Greenwich won seven of the next nine points to take a three-point lead before Vets got within one. Key plays by Pepe Phanhsena and Riccitelli kept balls alive in one of the longest points of the night as Vets made it 16-14. Jon Hunt followed with an ace.
But it was tough going from there. After the teams traded points, East Greenwich won five in a row to take control and went on to a 25-19 win.
“When we’re going against an offensive powerhouse like East Greenwich, the weaknesses that we have are eventually going to play into their strengths,” Friel said. “And they did.”
Hunt had two aces as Vets took a 5-4 lead in game two, but East Greenwich got a kill from John Condon that started a 5-0 run. Vets never got closer than three the rest of the way and watched East Greenwich win the final four points for a 25-15 win.
In game three, Vets led 6-5 before the Avengers started imposing their will again. Vets did force a timeout with three straight points that made it 12-10, but East Greenwich answered with seven straight points and never looked back in the 25-18 win.
“I would definitely say that’s the best team we’ve played so far,” Friel said. “Besides some minor things, they played well tonight and they’re catching onto the game quick.”
The ’Canes will face more challenges this week. They were set to play Cranston West on Wednesday and West Warwick on Friday. Both are contenders.
But the ’Canes at least will head into those games feeling that they’re on a better track.
“We didn’t have a good performance on Friday against Westerly,” Friel said. “That’s a team that’s on our level and I thought we should have done a lot better. They didn’t come out like they played today. You can’t pick and choose. You’ve got to come out with that high level of intensity all the time. As long as they continue to do that, they’ll be in good shape. Hopefully we can come out on top in some of these winnable games and get our record to where I want it to be at the end of the year.”