There aren’t many teams in the state that can stand up to the Hendricken volleyball team’s offensive firepower, but East Providence made life difficult all night last Friday for the Hawks’ big hitters.
Yet, Hendricken kept swinging, and the Townies couldn’t quite block them all. The Hawks had to work hard in all three games, but they stayed undefeated with a 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-22) victory.
Hendricken is now 7-0, a game in front of second-place South Kingstown, which is 6-1. East Providence, which was 4-0 entering the week, suffered its third straight loss to drop to 4-3.
“They defend the ball better than any team in the league, I think,” Hendricken senior John Kane said. “They blocked amazingly. Me and Brendan (Baker) and Jahari (Ford), we usually don’t get blocked that much, and they had us locked down tonight.”
East Providence senior Victor Adewusi was at the center of the Townies defensive effort, setting the pace with six blocks. Corey Agin added two blocks, and the Hawks were visibly frustrated at times when their heavy hits would come right back over the net.
Still, though, they found a way to get it done in a less than ideal situation, and that could be beneficial down the road.
“They really were incredible blocking,” Hendricken head coach Mike Harrington said. “We haven’t seen a team that can block like that, especially No. 8, Victor, on their side. And then they made some great digs. It was good that our team had to go through that frustration, to take some good swings and not get points out of it.”
And it’s not like the Hawks never landed their kills. Kane still managed to put 13 of them on the board, while Ford added 10.
Those aren’t the typical gaudy numbers that Hendricken puts up – especially for Kane – but they weren’t bad considering the circumstances.
“We still have some really good players that are going to find ways to get some points, but that was a good learning experience for me as a coach and the team,” Harrington said. “We need to find ways to bring a different style of offense or run our offense a little differently against this team next time.”
Hendricken trailed late in both game one and game three, but caught fire both times to come from behind and get wins.
In game one, East Providence led 18-15 after a big hit by Eric Towne, and the Townies looked firmly in control of the momentum battle.
But Hendricken got right back in it on a hard hit and a block by Baker on consecutive points, and eventually tied the game at 19 on a Kane kill.
Trent Medeiros followed that with a tough hit, and another Kane kill gave the Hawks a sudden two-point lead at 21-19.
Agin landed a block on the next play for East Providence, but Hendricken kept coming.
Rilwan Ilumoka had a block of his own to make it 22-20, and Ford bombed a ball for a three-point advantage. The Townies got back within 24-23 a few points later, but Ford had another hit that rocketed off an East Providence player to finish the game.
“That’s something coach talks about all the time – mental toughness,” Kane said. “He also drills in practice about serving, tough situations, and his goal is that every time both teams are in the 20’s, we get the win. That’s stayed true this season.”
Shaken from losing the important first game, East Providence came out flat in game two and Hendricken took advantage.
It ground out points and benefited from five service errors and four hitting errors en route to an 18-11 lead. Kane had two kills, Baker had a kill and Matt Medeiros landed an ace.
But East Providence wasn’t done just yet. The Townies’ defense came to life, as Hendricken was forced into a hitting error, and Jarrod DiCarlo followed that up with a block. The Hawks were whistled for a carry on the next point, and it was quickly an 18-14 game.
Two quick points, courtesy of a hit from Ilumoka and a good serve by Matt Medeiros, upped the lead to 20-14, but East Providence won the next three points on an Adewusi kill, a hitting error and a net violation.
The Hawks got a kill from Kane to get back on track, but Agin had a kill for the Townies, and a Hendricken hitting error made it 21-19.
But East Providence never got closer. Once more, at 22-20, the Townies got within two again, but Hendricken won three of the final four points to halt the rally and take a 2-0 lead.
“It makes us feel good to know that we don’t have to play our best and we still win a game,” Kane said.
The third game went back and forth early until East Providence tried to assert itself at the net. A block from Jacob Beford gave the Townies a 15-14 lead, and Adewusi followed that up with an emphatic block of his own.
After Hendricken picked up a point, Adewusi had yet another block, as did Ryan Carmone.
Once more, though, down late, the Hawks rallied. A block from Shane Davidson and two hard serves, plus an East Providence hitting error, tied the game at 19, and Baker had a kill to put Hendricken in front. A violation on the Townies made it 21-19, and East Providence never recovered.
The Townies twice got back within a point, but Hendricken used a timeout at 23-22 to induce an East Providence service error on the ensuing point, and Kane wrapped up the match with a big strike.
“I really like that about this team,” Harrington said. “We’ve done that several times throughout the year, playing all our tough competition – North, South, Coventry. When the game gets tight, we always find a way to rally through that.”
Hendricken has two matches this week, beginning on Wednesday at Mount St. Charles at 6:30 p.m. The Hawks will then play at La Salle on Friday, also at 6:30 p.m.