The Pilgrim boys’ volleyball team will be missing out on the playoffs for just the second time since 1999, but the Pats knew that was a possibility when they made the decision to move up to Division I this season.
They don’t regret a thing.
On Thursday, Pilgrim closed out its season with a 3-1 loss to playoff-bound Chariho. The Pats finished the season 3-13, tied for ninth in D-I. The Chargers finished 6-10.
Records aside, though, Pilgrim was happy with what it accomplished this season. After winning the Division II championship last year but then graduating its two best players, the Pats were in for quite a challenge moving up. They faced it head on.
“We didn’t fix some things that we should have,” Pilgrim head coach Mike McGiveron said. “I’ve been preaching it. But these guys gave me everything they had all year long. I have no disappointments. They nurtured the younger guys and held their own.”
And despite the team’s sub-par record, Pilgrim was actually competitive for much of the year. In its 13 losses, it was only swept six times. Four of those sweeps were to unbeaten Coventry and second-place South Kingstown. The other two were to perennial contenders Bishop Hendricken and North Kingstown.
Against Chariho, it was the same story. The Pats lost the first game 25-18 and lost the second one 25-12. Rather then packing it in, though, they rallied for a 25-23 victory in game three to extend the match. They did lose 25-18 in game four, but simply winning that third game was snapshot of the team’s resolve.
“Moving up, these guys accepted opportunity to go play in this division,” McGiveron said. “That’s a testament. Short-term, that third game just shows you what it’s about. These seniors don’t have any shame in what they’re doing.”
In game one, the Pats fell behind 12-7 and took a timeout, but then were competitive from there. They came all the way back to take a 14-13 lead before Chariho turned on the jets. It got a kill from Zach Wilcox and a block from Robbie Toth, spearheading a 5-0 run that gave the Chargers control once again.
A kill by Dan Colabella – who led Pilgrim with seven of them – made it 18-15, but Chariho stayed comfortably in front until a hit by Toth ended the game.
The second game was the Pats’ worst of the night, as they were tied at 10 on a strike by Josh Salinger, only to lose 15 of the next 17 points. Most of the points were on Chariho hits as opposed to Pilgrim errors, but there was one glaring problem – serving. The Pats committed 20 service errors on the day, including six in the second game.
“That’s been our motto all year, just giving people points,” McGiveron said. “Some of these guys don’t understand that once you give away that many points – whether it be hitting errors, service errors – you’re digging yourself a hole right from the beginning.”
Then came the third game, where Pilgrim fought back. It went ahead 9-4 to open the game, forcing Chariho into a timeout, and it later opened up a 17-12 lead when Chris Fitta registered a kill. Six points later, a Chargers’ service error made it 20-15 and forced them into another timeout.
“I don’t care about physical errors, mental errors,” McGiveron said. “Just give me your best, 110-percent effort and I’m good with it.”
Chariho mounted a comeback after the break in play, getting to within 22-20 before the Pats used a timeout. Two points after that, Colabella picked up a block to make it 24-20. The Chargers were able to score the next three points to get within one, but Colabella slammed down a kill on the final point to give Pilgrim the game victory.
Unfortunately for the Pats, they couldn’t keep it up in game four. Chariho took a 12-11 lead on a Pilgrim service error and led the rest of the way. It outscored Pilgrim 14-7 over the final 21 points.
“You’ve got your teams that are good, and they’re fast,” McGiveron said. “The difference is passing. It’s passing efficiency and just service level. We didn’t reach that service level I always wanted. Some of these teams are really good.”
After the match was over, Pilgrim got a standing ovation from its fans.
“Every single one of those guys accomplished something, whether it be last year, whatever,” McGiveron said. “That’s all I can ask for.”
The Pats will say goodbye to seniors Colabella, Fitta, Salinger, Chris Thao and Christian White.
Everybody else will be back in the fold, as Pilgrim will try to take a step forward in D-I.
“They were here for a lot of the good times,” McGiveron said. “They can leave with their heads high.”