The Warwick Vets volleyball team got frustrated on Thursday night in its preliminary round match with Narragansett, and it couldn’t seem to shake the feeling.
After battling to a close loss in the first game, the ’Canes fell behind early in game two and it only got worse the rest of the way. The Mariners used the strong serving of Gabrielle Leclerc and some powerful play at the net to streak to a 3-0 victory, with scores of 25-19, 25-9 and 25-14.
Narragansett had separate runs of winning five, six and seven straight points in game two, and added a grueling 17-point run in the final game to finish the job.
“Unfortunately, what won tonight after game one was just frustration,” Vets head coach Jean McGarry said. “They couldn’t let it go. I don’t feel like we could have prepared any better, but I kind of feel like that’s the personal side of the game. They need to know, they need to have the confidence, they need to overcome. And those are the kind of things that we struggled with all season long.”
Vets knew it would be a tall task to knock off the Mariners, who were 12-2 in the regular season and grabbed Division II’s No. 5 seed for the playoffs. In contrast, the ’Canes were the final team into the postseason as the No. 12 seed, and finished 7-7 during the season.
The disparity between the two teams showed on Narragansett’s serve, which the ’Canes struggled to return all night long.
Leclerc, specifically, was a nightmare, as she was at the service line for the Mariners’ 17-point outburst in game three. She finished the match with 15 total aces.
“We tried to prepare for it as best we could,” McGarry said. “We knew that serving was going to be their key. We did a lot of serve-receive this week, although it may not have been evident.”
Vets put its best foot forward at the start of the match, as it hung with the high-powered Mariners throughout the first game, only to see it slip away.
After Narragansett fell behind 4-1, it seemed to shake off the playoff jitters and settle down.
It grabbed the lead back and never relinquished it, finishing the ’Canes off with a kill by Madeleine Cote and an ace by Hannah Maymon.
Game two, on the other hand, was never really in doubt.
Narragansett jumped ahead 5-1, getting two aces from Cote in the process, and it went up 9-3 on a kill by Maymon.
Vets called a timeout, but it did nothing to slow down the Mariners. They came out of the break and upped their lead to 15-5, getting strong serving from Taylor Ayotte.
The ’Canes won the next two points on a Narragansett hitting error and a Sarah Farrell tip, but they never drew any closer. The mariners took an 18-8 lead, and then Leclerc served the next six points, picking up five aces in the process. Samantha Sabetti had a kill to finish off the game at 25-9.
“I have to dismiss game two, because it was atrocious,” McGarry said. “I don’t know where their heads were from one bench to the other.”
In game three, the ’Canes took a 3-2 lead on a big hit by Brittany Langlois, but Narragansett tied the game on kill by Leclerc. She then stepped back to the service line, and when she finally committed a service error, the Mariners held a 19-4 lead.
She had 10 aces during the stretch, and Vets only returned the ball back to Narragansett’s side twice during the 17 points.
“I don’t know if she’s ever served that many in a row, but she’s had some games where she’s served a lot,” Narragansett head coach Joni Stern-Lonczak said of Leclerc. “She has a pretty consistent jump serve.”
That run pretty much wrapped up the match, but Vets continued to battle. It actually outscored Narragansett 10-6 for the rest of the game, and it got an ace from Alexa Zinno and a kill from Langlois during that span.
Narragansett eventually finished it off at 25-14, but McGarry wasn’t overly disappointed with her team’s effort in game three. Returning Leclerc’s serves was an obvious problem, but her team hung tough otherwise.
“I said, ‘We had a difficult span with that girl serving, but you girls came back and tried to fight for everything that you had left in you for those last few points,’” McGarry said. “‘I can’t be upset with that.’”
The good news for the ’Canes is that they played a number of underclassmen over the course of the season, which should bode well for the coming years. They do say goodbye to six seniors – Jessica Carlson, Savanaugh Casey, Jessica Dow, Langlois, Miller and Zinno – and that group helped Vets reach the playoffs for the fourth straight year in dramatic fashion.
To even reach the postseason, the ’Canes had to battle back from a 1-0 deficit in their final match of the season against Johnston.
“It came down to our last match against Johnston, and it was do-or-die,” McGarry said. “To come back and win three games after you lost that first one, in that final match, said that they wanted to be here.”
Narragansett advanced to the quarterfinals, where it was scheduled to take on West Warwick on Monday.