Right now, it’s hard to picture anyone even slowing down the Pilgrim volleyball team.
On Tuesday, the Pats continued their dominant regular season with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-17) win over fifth-place Scituate. Pilgrim improved to 13-0 in Division II-South, while the Spartans fell to 7-6.
Scituate, which will be a playoff team and has given other top teams fits this season, was simply no match for the Pats, who are self-admittedly playing at their highest level of the season.
“We’ve just been playing so well,” Pilgrim head coach Mike McGiveron said. “In years past, we’ve kind of just stayed stagnant on our abilities. This year we went from baby steps all the way up. I think now we’re at the point where it’s going to be hard for teams to beat us if we’re playing.”
With a target on his team’s back, McGiveron was a little bit worried headed into the match. While the Pats have convincingly answered every challenge thus far, Scituate’s gym was loud and the Spartans themselves were fired up for the opportunity to knock off the top team in the division.
“These guys know the eye is on them,” McGiveron said. “This was one I kind of worried about. This gym is kind of a loud, small place.”
But any worries that McGiveron had were quickly put to bed by an 11-3 run to begin game one. Sean St. Jacques had two aces over that span, while Dan Colabella and Matt McCabe each added kills.
Just like that, the crowd was out of it.
“At first the crowd was kind of getting to us,” Colabella said. “But we started quieting the crowd and starting getting it together and passing better.”
The early surge wasn’t indicative of the middle part of the game, as Scituate got on a run of its own and actually took an 18-17 lead on back-to-back kills from Christopher Maiello. But Pilgrim was unfazed, as it won the next three points on a hard hit by Colabella, an ace by St. Jacques and a kill by John Zuffoletti.
That forced the Spartans into a timeout, but it did nothing to stem the tide. St. Jacques added another ace right out of the break, and Scituate never got closer than two points the rest of the way. A service error ended the game at 25-21.
“You’ve got to give credit to Pilgrim,” Scituate head coach Ted Tracy said. “They’re a very good team. They’ve got a couple of great players.”
The crowd was re-energized for the start of game two, and Scituate rode the energy to an early lead. It went up 4-2, and then broke a 9-9 tie by winning six of the next eight points to take a 15-11 lead.
McGiveron called a timeout and calmed down his group.
Then, the Pats went to work.
Zuffoletti started the comeback with an emphatic kill, and then he stepped back to the service line with his team down 15-12. Over the next five points, he added two aces, while McCabe had two kills and Scituate committed a hitting error. Once again, the Pats were back in the driver’s seat, ahead 17-15.
“They had a 15-11 lead, or something like that, and we ended up getting it back and just getting ahead,” McGiveron said.
Pilgrim never lost the lead from that point on, as they played seemingly flawless defense and forced the Spartans into crucial errors. The Pats’ lead grew to 19-16 on a Scituate miscue, and even with the Spartans winning the next two points, Pilgrim always seemed comfortably in front. It went up 20-18 on a McCabe kill, then 21-18 on a Scituate hitting error. After a service error made it a two-point game again, the Pats won the final four points to take a commanding 2-0 lead in games.
“We’re playing well,” Colabella said. “The chemistry is getting better and better.”
In game three, the Pats flexed their muscles. They took an 8-2 lead, getting a kill from St. Jacques, a kill and a block from Christian White and two blocks from Colabella to force Scituate into an early timeout.
The Spartans came back to 11-9 on a kill by Derrik Gouveia, but Jason Ferguson set up St. Jacques on the next point and St. Jacques rocketed one of his game-high 18 kills to flip the momentum back in Pilgrim’s favor.
Zuffoletti added a kill on the next point, and St. Jacques came through with another kill two points later to make it 14-10.
After that, starting at 17-14, Colabella had a kill, Ferguson had an ace, Zuffoletti had two kills, St. Jacques had two kills and Tilden Thao had an ace.
“That’s how well-rounded our team is,” McGiveron said. “We spread the ball, and Jay Ferguson does a real good job setting the tone early by spreading the court.
Just like that it was 24-17, and a Scituate service error ended the match.
Besides St. Jacques’s 18 kills, Colabella added nine kills and eight blocks, McCabe had 10 kills and three blocks and Zuffoletti had 11 kills, eight digs and two blocks.
It was a wide-ranging attack, and one that was nearly impossible to stop from a defensive standpoint.
“Your blocking just has to be on and your defense has to be in perfect position,” Tracy said, referring to the recipe to beat Pilgrim. “If you leave them a hole, they will find it. That’s usually what it comes down to.”
The Pats now have three matches left in the regular season. Their biggest one is today, when they host second-place Cranston West at 6:30 p.m. The Falcons’ only blemish on their 12-1 record is a 3-0 loss to Pilgrim on April 24.
A win in that match would clinch first place for the Pats. After that, they’ll take on three-win Toll Gate and two-win Westerly next week.
And then it’s playoff time. The postseason is set to begin on June 6, and the Pats will likely be the co-favorites heading in, along with undefeated Barrington, which is leading D-II-North.
“We just take it one game at a time,” Colabella said. “We don’t really think about (being undefeated). Coach always tells us to relax and just go out there and play volleyball.”