For a team with a whole bunch of new pieces, the Bishop Hendricken volleyball team looked perfectly comfortable in its season opener on Friday night.
The Hawks, with only four of the players on their 11-man roster holding any varsity experience, hit the ground running, sweeping La Salle 3-0 in dominant fashion. Hendricken won each game by at least 10 points, as it cruised 25-12, 25-15 and 25-15.
The Rams, with a young squad of their own, couldn’t keep up.
“We looked pretty good,” Hendricken head coach Mike Harrington said. “We can do everything pretty well in stretches, we just need to build on our consistency in all phases. We have some less-experienced guys getting some meaningful minutes, as compared to teams in the past. It’s going to be a learning process for us.”
One player who is no stranger to the big stage is senior Jahari Ford, and he led the Hawks offensively with 13 kills, many of which were emphatic and easily flew over La Salle blockers.
A player like Ford is a nice luxury to have while everybody else continues to progress, and his abilities were on full display on Friday.
At one point, in the middle of the second game with the score close at 14-12, Ford pounded two kills in a row to give the Hawks some momentum. That began an 11-3 Hendricken run to finish the game.
“Phenomenal athlete, phenomenal volleyball player,” Harrington said of Ford. “He wants that role. So we will lean on him a lot. I believe him to be a clutch player too, so I think when the game’s on the line he’s going to be just as effective.”
Hendricken wasted no time starting out on the right foot, racing out to a 19-8 advantage in game one on the strength of consistent serving, a few big hits from Ford and a number of La Salle errors. That continued in the tail end of the game, as the Rams committed four service errors and a hitting error to help the Hawks jump out to the 1-0 lead in games.
In the early going of game two, Hendricken got three kills from Ford, a scrambling play by libero Derek Vadnais that set up a La Salle error and a block by freshman Donny Baker, but the Rams held tough. Two aces by Eric Fortier and two kills by Andrew LaCroix paved the way for La Salle’s best volleyball of the night, and they remained close until the 14-12 mark when Ford took over.
After those two kills that gave the Hawks control, Vadnais had a strong serve and Mason Cote followed that up with a kill. A hitting error by La Salle came next, giving Hendricken a 19-12 lead. The Hawks easily finished out the game, picking up the final point of a 25-15 win on a La Salle service error.
“Everyone here, including the rookies have the same goal as the leaders on the team,” Ford said. “We just want to work hard.”
Heading in to game three, holding a 2-0 lead and looking well in control, Hendricken didn’t ease off the gas pedal. It battled for the early part of the game once again, before soaring in the middle.
With the Hawks ahead only 11-10, La Salle committed a service error and Mario McClain picked up a block. A hitting error by the Rams and an ace by Adam Gautreau extended the lead, and two strong serves by Trent Medeiros and a kill by Ford on a perfect set by captain Matt Medeiros really opened things up. Quickly, Hendricken had a 20-12 lead.
“You’ve got to play at one level, one speed no matter who you’re playing, what’s the score,” Harrington said. “We talked about that, and I thought we did that pretty well.”
A La Salle timeout did nothing to halt Hendricken’s run, as Ford added another kill and a block, and three consecutive La Salle errors ended the game and the match.
It was a loud way to begin the season.
“It is convincing,” Harrington said. “They start some young guys on that side, and they’re going to be a better opponent next time through. They made a lot of unforced errors and they’ll clean that stuff up. We didn’t play tremendously well, but I thought we did well.”
Hendricken – which improved to 1-0 in Division I-North – will play twice this week, as it travels to Mount today for a 6:30 p.m. match before hosting East Providence on Thursday at 6:30.
The Hawks will look to build on the strong start.
“Our coach told us from the jump not to settle,” Ford said. “If you remember, last year in the championship game that’s why we lost. We were clearly the best team all season and we just settled. That’s why we lost. As the seniors on the team, we realized that was our tragic flaw last year. We don’t want that to happen again.”