The Pilgrim girls’ volleyball team has been competitive with the top teams in Division II for most of the year, and they weren’t disappointed with how they played on Monday against third-place Cranston West.
But this time, the results just weren’t there.
The Patriots fell 3-0 to the Falcons for their second consecutive loss, dropping them to 8-8 in Division II-South. They lost games of 25-9, 25-16 and 25-16.
“I’m proud of the way the girls played tonight,” Pilgrim head coach Kelly Harrington said. “We could have done a few things a little better. Cranston West served really tough at us. We struggled with that at times. But I think we did overall a good job.”
Pilgrim is in line for a D-II playoff berth, as it is in sixth place in the division and could jump over fifth-place Cranston East before the season is done. The top six teams in each division qualify for the postseason.
With two games remaining against opponents below them in the standings, the Pats have a very realistic chance of finishing 10-8 and ending the season above .500 for just the second time since 2004.
“I feel happy with the season. I think we’ve had some success,” Harrington said. “Hopefully we finish out with a winning record.”
Monday’s match just wasn’t to be. The Falcons – led by senior Courtney Lambrese – came out on fire in the first game and never looked back.
West won the first seven points of the game. Lambrese started it off with a kill, and then teamed up with Lauren Salisbury for a block on the second point. Kristen Traficante registered an ace, and Lambrese had another block during the run. It wasn’t until a service error that Pilgrim finally got on the board. A few points later, Kalia Thao ripped a shot off a West block, but that only made it 8-2 and the Pats never got closer.
“The first game was our best,” West head coach Tom Ferri said. “Solid hitting, I thought we blocked well tonight. Overall, that was the best game.”
West kept the pressure on after the early surge, going up 14-3 with Isabella Diaz serving four consecutive points, including two aces.
“Every now and then we get stuck in a certain rotation and give up a few points and then work our way back,” Harrington said. “We want to be competitive throughout the whole match.”
Pilgrim never made a game of it, as it never got closer than nine the rest of the way. Consecutive kills from Diaz finished off the game.
The Falcons took a 4-1 lead in game two, but then Pilgrim played its best volleyball of the night. It won 12 of the next 16 points, taking a five-point lead at 13-8. It got kills from Nancy Alvarez, Alexa Annotti and Thao, and Jessica Russo had two aces.
“We started out a little slow and that happens when you win by a big margin in the first,” Ferri said. “I usually remind them, though, that just because you won by that much in the first you can’t come out sluggish. You have to play hard from the start. We didn’t play hard from the start.”
Ferri took a timeout at 11-8, and shortly afterwards the Falcons started to take off. Cassie Manni had two aces, and Lambrese had four kills in a six-point span. West won five straight points to tie the match at 13, fell behind 14-3 and never trailed again. At 15-15, West won five more points in a row, lost one more and then closed it out with five more.
Game three was tied as late as 7-7, but West had no intention of being forced to a fourth game. It won six consecutive points to go up 13-8, and never looked back. After the Falcons were up 16-11, Pilgrim never got within five points again.
Lambrese led the way for West with 18 kills and two blocks.
“(Lambrese) is a really strong hitter,” Harrington said. “We did our best to put up a block. These girls are doing their best on defense, trying to keep the ball in play.”
With that loss in the rearview mirror, Pilgrim will focus on finishing up the regular season strong. It hosts 3-13 Westerly on Friday at 6:30 p.m., and then ends with a home game against 1-13 Scituate on Monday at 6:30 p.m.
The preliminary round of the playoffs begins on Nov. 1, and the Pats will likely play Central Falls or Tolman. The quarterfinals are on Nov. 4.
“It’s disappointing with Cranston West to lose in three tonight, having played them early in the season,” Harrington said. “I think all the teams in the middle are pretty equal, and if we could just keep our intensity up and make less mistakes, we’d be more successful.”