In order to keep its playoff hopes alive, the Pilgrim boys’ volleyball team needed to put together its best week of the season.
The Pats took care of business.
Playing La Salle and Cranston East, Pilgrim lost just one game on its way to a 2-0 week. It beat the Rams 3-0 on Tuesday and then came back to beat the ’Bolts 3-1 on Thursday.
With the season halfway over, and the team sitting at 3-5 in Division I, Pilgrim is still on the outside of the playoff picture, but not by much. And with a strong second half of the year, the Pats could find themselves in the right spot.
“It’s tough to get these guys when they’re on vacation to really stay focused on what they’ve got to do, especially because we came into the week 1-5,” said Pilgrim head coach Mike McGiveron. “But we knew we had to win both of these to stay in the race, and we did a good job.”
The Pats were coming off a tough 3-2 loss to East Providence on April 17 – their second five-game loss of the season – but they showed no ill effects against La Salle. Pilgrim won by scores of 25-16, 26-24 and 25-19 to earn the sweep. Blake Doelling had nine kills and 15 digs and Tyler Maintain had six kills to set the pace.
“We played really well against La Salle on Tuesday,” McGiveron said. “We really played a complete game for the first time all season.”
Against East, Pilgrim picked up where it left off. It won the first game 25-16 and took game two 25-17. It had a slight letdown in a 25-23 game three loss, yet it played its best volleyball of the night in game four with a 25-12 win.
“There’s always room to play better,” said senior Phil Nemirow, who finished a strong all-around match with 10 digs, seven kills, two blocks and two aces. “I think we just had the intensity where we needed it.”
Caleb Fournier added 10 kills and two blocks, Doelling had 11 digs and two aces and Rob Quaine chipped in with four kills.
The Pats were clicking right from the start. They never trailed in game one, using a 9-1 run to comfortably take control at 14-5. Nemirow had a pair of kills during the stretch, while Fournier had three.
East – which was missing its setter Eric Halvarson – never got closer than six the rest of the game.
“I knew coming in they were a good team,” said East head coach Tom Ferri. “I felt like without those guys we had to play our best game – which we did for one game.”
Pilgrim trailed only as late as 4-3 in game two. Max Bloom gave the ’Bolts the short-lived lead with a block. Then Doelling took over from the service line
He had two aces during a six-point run, and Quaine and Tyler Mantaian teamed up for a block during the stretch. When Doelling finally stepped off the service line, Pilgrim was up 10-5 and never looked back.
“We have served very well up to this point,” McGiveron said. “I looked at the stats this season and we’re at like 86 percent. And we have three very aggressive serves. I think we’re above where we should be.”
Game three didn’t go as well for the Pats, as it was back-and-forth the whole way until Bloom smashed a kill on game point to give East a 25-23 win and keep it alive.
The ’Bolts then went up 3-0 in game four and clearly had the momentum.
Pilgrim had had enough. It won 15 of the next 20 points to take a 15-8 lead, playing solid volleyball from every position. Mantaian served eight points in a row from behind the line, mixing in a pair of aces.
“Tyler had a nice run with his serve and Blake had a nice run with his serve, and we got out to a lead, which made my life a lot easier,” McGiveron said.
Nemirow had a kill late to set up match point and Fournier’s serve couldn’t be returned on the final play of the day, lifting Pilgrim to its second straight win.
In the second half of the season, the Pats will be looking for much more of that. They host 6-2 Mount St. Charles – which leads D-I-North – today at 6:30 p.m. and then host 1-7 Hendricken on Thursday, also at 6:30.
“We’ve all improved as a team,” Nemirow said. “The hitting has gotten so much better, the passing has gotten a lot better. There’s always room to improve, but I think everyone has gotten so much better from the beginning of the season.”