Teams from the two subdivisions in D-II volleyball don’t play each other during the regular season, so Pilgrim and Central Falls didn’t know what to make of Friday’s playoff match-up.
What they got was a nail-biter.
Pilgrim, who went 10-8 in the regular season and earned a fifth seed, gave the fourth-seeded Warriors all they could handle before ultimately falling in five games. Central Falls won the decisive fifth game 15-10 to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals.
“It was a fantastic match,” said Pilgrim head coach Kelly Harrington. “Two pretty evenly-matched teams. We played our best but we just didn’t get that last game.”
The season was still a success for the Pats, who made a six-win improvement in Harrington’s first year at the helm and won 10 matches for just the second time in the last 10 seasons.
Still, they were hoping for more, especially after game one Friday night. The Warriors had handed II-North leader Barrington its only loss of the year the week before, but the Pats took control out of the gates on Friday, winning the first game 25-22.
“We came out strong,” Harrington said. “We didn’t know what to expect but we were hoping to go back-and-fourth, four or five games.”
The Pats were within striking distance of a 2-0 lead, but four consecutive missed serves in game two led to a 25-20 Warriors victory.
“I think that really cost us,” Harrington said.
Game three was equally close, but Central Falls prevailed in 25-21 to get to the brink of a victory. Instead, Pilgrim forced a fifth game with a 25-18 victory.
“It was a battle,” Harrington said. “We came out strong and we played well in game four.”
In the fifth game, the Pats had an early lead but watched the Warriors flex their muscles from there in the 15-10 win.
“We kind of let them score a few in a row, and we just didn’t recover,” Harrington said.
In general, the Pats played a solid game but might have been moving on had they been able to get their offense into gear.
“We just had trouble putting the ball away,” Harrington said. “They didn’t serve tough so we passed well. But we just didn’t hit on top of the ball and score with kills. It seemed like they dug every hit. The match was more about who made fewer mistakes and it wasn’t us.”
Central Falls moved into the quarterfinals, where it will take on Narragansett, the top seed from II-South. Pilgrim will bid farewell to seniors Michelle Asels, Sara Dacey, Gabrielle Demers, Jessica Russo and Kalia Thao. Despite the playoff loss, that group helped lay the foundation for years to come.
“Overall it was a great season,” Harrington said. “I think we went beyond some of the girls’ expectations. We gave it our all. It would have been nice to move on and go down to Narragansett but I’m proud of the girls and the work they put in all year.”