Between a small roster and a season full of road games, the Toll Gate volleyball team doesn’t have things easy. On Friday against Cranston West, one of the best teams the Titans have played so far, it didn’t get easier.
The Falcons cruised to a sweep with 25-10, 25-6 and 25-7 victories, dropping the Titans to 0-4.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Toll Gate head coach Claire Baggesen. “I have a young team and a small team. We’re going to deal with what we’ve got.”
Contending is proving difficult for the Titans, especially against front-running teams like Cranston West and Central. With such a small roster – and only three players carrying any experience – struggles were to be expected.
The Titans are handling it as best they can – working to improve and remaining enthusiastic in the process.
“These kids are to be given a lot of credit for sticking with it – for enjoying every game and playing hard every game,” Baggesen said. “To keep up and to continue their desire to play, I don’t want to diminish that.”
The Titans started Friday’s game with an ace from Jose Javier but the 1-0 advantage turned out to be their only lead of the night. The Falcons, who were coming off an impressive win over East Greenwich, won the next seven points in game one. After an error stopped the run, West started another, winning seven in a row again.
This time, it was West’s offense that flexed its muscle. Standout middle blocker Mike Rainone landed three kills in a four-point stretch, and Nareg Mkrtschjan added a big kill.
“The last few years, we really lived on defense,” said West head coach Roger Tow. “This year, our defense is getting better, but we’re not quite as experienced. We’ve got to change our mindset and be more of an offensive team.”
The Titans found their footing for a brief stretch midway through game one. A hitting error made it 14-3, and George Greenhalgh followed with an ace. After a West point, a service error and a push to an open spot by Greenhalgh made it 15-6.
But the Titans couldn’t get closer. Two errors put West back in control, and Mike Igoe delivered three straight aces. The Falcons went on to a 25-10 victory.
In game two, the Titans fell into a big hole. Tyler Fann started at the serving line and didn’t leave until it was 13-0. Along the way, he landed three aces. The Falcons also got their offense into its highest gear yet, with Rainone posting five kills and three blocks.
“We try to run everything through Rainone,” Tow said. “He’s our top option.”
After the 13-0 start, the Titans won five of the next 10 points thanks in part to blocks by Greenhalgh and Lenny Weisensee. Later, Matt Davis delivered a kill, but that was the only point for the Titans over the final eight. West won game two 25-6.
Game three was more of the same, with West racing to a 12-1 lead. Davis and Greenhalgh had kills late in the game, but the Falcons coasted to the 25-7 win.
The Titans were scheduled to be back in action Monday against Classical, with results unavailable at press time. They’ll visit East Greenwich on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
Baggesen is hoping for continued improvement – and for the enthusiasm to remain.
“That cannot be diminished,” Baggesen said. “It needs to be enhanced upon. They’re a great group of guys who really do enjoy the game. Their moment will come.”