The Bishop Hendricken volleyball team didn’t play its best in Thursday’s match against Coventry and, as a result, the Hawks found themselves in an unfamiliar spot. For the first time all season, they went to a fifth game.
Once there, though, the Hawks delivered a familiar performance.
Hendricken played its best volleyball of the night in the fifth game, racing to a 6-2 lead on its way to a 15-10 victory. Of the 15 points, 10 came on kills.
While the first-place Hawks weren’t thrilled with their overall performance, they were happy to turn it on in game five and come away with a victory.
“Obviously, I like to see my team respond and play well at that point,” said Hendricken head coach Mike Harrington. “The first four games were kind of up for grabs and nobody seemed to want to take control. But game five was good. I was happy with that effort right away.”
The Hawks improved to 10-1. While Coventry came into Thursday’s match with five losses, the Hawks weren’t surprised to get a challenge. As the season winds down, it’s becoming increasingly clear that parity reigns in Division I. The Hawks suffered their first loss of the season on May 4, and it came to a La Salle team that was 4-4 at the time.
A few days later, Coventry beat second-place South Kingstown.
“That’s what the league is looking like this year,” Harrington said. “Coventry has six losses now and they could win the state championship. La Salle has five or six losses and could win the state championship. Everybody’s very close. Any advantage you have – it’s tough to carry through on a given night. I don’t even know what team is the clear favorite. I don’t think there is a clear favorite.”
The Hawks just want to put themselves in position to succeed. When it comes to the playoffs, getting a bye in the first round would go a long way. In a tightly-packed division, that makes every match a big one.
On Thursday, Coventry was clearly thinking the same thing.
The Oakers came out fired up and jumped to an 11-2 lead in game one, leaving the Hawks a little shell-shocked.
Hendricken came back and even took a one-point lead at 16-15, but Coventry won the next five points and went on to a 25-19 victory.
“We came out really slow in game one,” Harrington said. “We closed the gap a little bit, but overall, I don’t think we brought our best effort. We did some things well, we made a couple of good scrappy plays. But for some reason, that wasn’t really full-speed for us.”
The Hawks didn’t really hit full speed right away, but they found a way to keep playing. Rilwan Ilumoka had two blocks and Brendan Baker had two kills as Hendricken quickly took a 6-1 lead in game two. Coventry rallied to make it 8-5, but the Hawks won the next four points on kills by John Kane and Jahari Ford, an ace by Nick Moreau and a Coventry error. After the Oakers got within four, Derek Vadnais came off the bench and served up three aces to lead the Hawks to an 18-9 lead. They went on to a 25-14 victory.
In game three, neither team could duplicate its early efforts. They went back-and-forth the whole way before Coventry broke a 20-20 tie by winning four straight points. Hendricken staved off three game points, but the Oakers won the next one on a Jake Colvin kill for the 25-23 victory.
Once again, though, the Hawks responded. On the strength of a seven-point surge, they ran to an 11-2 lead in game four. The Oakers got it back within, four but never any closer. Baker, Ford and Kane finished off a 25-13 victory with kills.
“We knew Coventry was tough and a scrappy team,” Kane said. “We beat them 3-1 the first time but even those games were all in the 20’s for both teams. We have to grind it out. Coventry is great. Mental toughness is big for us.”
The game four victory sent the Hawks to their first game five of the year, but they made themselves right at home. Coventry won two of the first three points before two kills by Kane sparked a run of five straight for the Hawks. Baker finished the surge with two kills of his own, giving the Hawks a 6-2 lead.
Coventry won three of the next four points to make it 7-5, but the Hawks caught fire again, getting two kills by Baker and an emphatic kill from Kane to take a 10-5 lead. An error on the Oakers made it 11-5.
The Oakers picked up the next two points on a kill and a tip, making it a four-point game, but they would never get closer. Kane had two kills to get the Hawks to game point. After Coventry won the next two points, Ford finished off the 15-10 victory with a kill.
“We’ve never been to a game five this year,” Kane said. “But we knew we had to come out strong and we did that.”
Kane powered the Hawks with 23 kills and 23 digs. Baker added 20 kills, and Matt Medeiros had 52 assists to go with 10 digs.
“Every win for us is huge because it keeps us in that one or two spot with a bye in the first round so we wouldn’t have to face Coventry and La Salle,” Harrington said.
In the meantime, the Hawks would like to start playing their best volleyball of the season as they head into the stretch run. They were scheduled to play North Kingstown on Monday, with results unavailable at press time, before visiting third-place East Providence tonight at 6:30 p.m.