September 19, 2014
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Pilgrim sweeps past Vets
AT THE NET: Vets’ Alyssa McCracken puts up a block.

After picking up its first victory of the season last Tuesday, the Pilgrim volleyball team welcomed Warwick Vets on Thursday and promptly fell into a big deficit in the first game of the night.

But the Patriots had no trouble rediscovering the momentum.

Trailing 13-9, they won 12 points in a row on their way to a 25-16 game-one win. They held off a charge to win game two 25-17 then coasted to a 25-16 victory in game three and a sweep of their cross-town rivals.

“It was a great match and a terrific overall effort by all of the girls on our team,” said Pilgrim head coach Kelly Harrington. “We served tough, kept the ball in. Our passing was key. We just played with an aggressive attitude the whole night.”

The Pats started the year 0-2 but they’ve now won two straight. They swept West Warwick on Tuesday before the victory over Vets. The Hurricanes dropped to 0-4.

In the early going Thursday, it looked like the ’Canes might find a way into the win column. Tough serves by Elizabeth Iadevaia plus a block and a kill from Alyssa McCracken powered a six-point surge and a 9-4 lead in game one.

Pilgrim called a timeout – and from that point on, it was a different match. The Pats stopped the tide with two straight points. Vets remained in front and took a 13-9 advantage on a Shannon McCarthy kill, but on the next point, Colleen Conti landed a kill for Pilgrim. Jessica Russo stepped to the service line, and by the time she left, Pilgrim was in front 21-13.

“We took a timeout and we regrouped,” Harrington said. “They went out there and worked together as a team. We knew it would be a battle every single point. We put in our best effort.”

Several Vets errors kept Pilgrim’s run going, while Megan St. Jacques slammed down a pair of kills.

Russo set the stage for it all with steady serves.

“Jessica served tough,” Harrington said. “She was very consistent. She kept the ball in play when she had to so that we could play together as a team.”

Vets eventually stopped the surge but won just three more points the rest of the way, all on Pilgrim errors. A tip over the block by St. Jacques gave Pilgrim the 25-16 win.

The big run highlighted a problem that has hurt Vets all year.

“It’s not a lack of skill – it’s a lack of confidence about their skills,” said head coach Jean McGarry. “It’s hard to tell them ‘Look at what you did the first nine points. You did what you needed to do.’ But they’re high school girls and things take over. I think it’s a matter of confidence right now.”

The ’Canes were at their best in the heat of the moment and they kept several long rallies going with blocks, digs and diving saves. But any time the Pats got momentum, they ran with it.

Trailing 3-3 in game two, Pilgrim got a kill and an ace from St. Jacques. Kalia Thao landed a kill and Michelle Asels served up an ace to put Pilgrim in front 5-4. After Vets tied it, the Pats got a kill and three aces from Thao to go up 10-5.

Pilgrim never trailed again, and another surge late in the game propelled them to the win. Alexa Annotti had a kill, Thao had two and St. Jacques put in an ace to power a five-point run that made it 21-14. Vets got back within four, but Pilgrim won the final four points – two on aces by Asels – to seal the game-two victory.

“I think you can see from our effort that we’re improving,” Harrington said. “Their attitude and intensity was up the whole night.”

In game three, for the third time in the match, Vets took an early lead. But a 4-2 cushion quickly evaporated as Pilgrim won 11 of the next 14 points. An ace by Sara Dacey plus a kill by Conti capped the run.

Pilgrim then played its best volleyball of the night to put the game on ice. Leading 13-10, they won the next eight points without getting a single point from a Vets error. St. Jacques had four kills and a block, Thao had two kills and Conti served an ace. The Pats finished off the sweep with kills from Annotti and Thao.

“Intensity and talking are the biggest things we need, and we did it tonight,” St. Jacques said. “Everyone has improved so much.”

St. Jacques and Thao both notched double-digit kills, while Conti, Annotti and Russo were solid at the net. Asels handled the setting duties.

The Pats committed three service errors the whole night.

“I think as the season goes on, our confidence will build,” Harrington said. “They’re communicating, working hard, having some success. It’s all coming together, little by little.”

The ’Canes can feel a similar wave of improvement, but it hasn’t yet led to a victory. There were plenty of signs Thursday that it won’t be far off.

“They played a great game,” McGarry said. “I think if they can just learn to sustain that level of play a little bit longer, then we’ll like the results. We’ve come a long way in a few weeks. We’re hopefully going to get ourselves in there, get that first win to get them over that hump.”


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