On paper, Monday and Tuesday were more of the same for the Toll Gate volleyball team. The Titans lost to Chariho and South Kingstown, dropping to 0-9 on the season.
But on the court, it sure seems like the Titans are getting closer.
Toll Gate took Monday’s match against Chariho to five games and lost by just two points in the fifth game. Tuesday’s match against South Kingstown wasn’t as much of a nailbiter – Toll Gate was swept – but the Titans hung tough against the third-place Rebels.
It’s enough to keep the Titans feeling hopeful as they continue shooting for their first victory.
“We are playing so close with these teams,” said head coach Kelly Harrington. “We’ve played a lot of tight games where the score goes back and forth. I’m proud of our efforts and I keep telling the girls to stay aggressive and keep swinging.”
It just hasn’t quite paid off yet.
On Monday, the Titans were as close to a victory as they’ve been all season. After dropping game one to Chariho, Toll Gate came back to win the next two. The Chargers forced a game five, though, and held on for a 15-13 win.
If the Titans were frustrated with that result, they didn’t show it when they returned to the court on Tuesday in South Kingstown. The Rebels came in with a 6-2 record, but Toll Gate was undeterred.
Three errors gave Toll Gate a 3-0 lead in game one, and the breathing room allowed the Titans to make their own charge. A bump by Pattie Turner that somehow got through the roof rafters and landed in an open spot gave Toll Gate a 4-1 lead. After the teams traded service errors, Tori Porter logged two kills to put the Titans up 8-3.
With the lead at 9-4 after alternating service errors, the Rebels finally found their groove. A kill and a block by Alexis Cobb made it 9-7 and when a Toll Gate tip landed out, the Rebels were suddenly within one. Anisah McGillivray tied the game with an ace on the next point and Olivia Mattyasovszky followed with a kill for the 10-9 lead.
From there, the game went back and forth. Even though the Rebels had the momentum, the Titans wouldn’t be buried. A kill by Porter and two South errors put the Titans back on top 12-11. After South pulled in front, Toll Gate got a kill by Turner and a tip by Jessica Brosnahan to knot the score at 15-15. Turner later gave Toll Gate the 17-16 lead with a kill.
In the end, though, the Rebels had too much. A kill by McGillivray ended a long rally and put the Rebels up 18-17 and they never trailed again. Toll Gate’s Jamie Lavoie stopped a run of four straight with a kill, and the Titans later got within one at 22-21 on an error. But South won the next three points, clinching the 25-21 win with a Mattyasovszky ace.
Though they lost, the Titans were hoping to build on their game-one performance. Instead, they went in the other direction.
South Kingstown won seven of the first eight points in game two. After Turner stopped the surge with a tip to make it 7-2, the Rebels won seven more points in a row to jump on top 14-2. This time, there was no coming back for the Titans, who went on to lose the game 25-7.
Serves proved to be a game-changer for the Rebels, who landed seven aces and saw dozens of other serves lead to Titan errors.
“I think we just got stuck in a couple of serve-receives that we just couldn’t get out of,” Harrington said. “We struggled trying to pull back together and make a good pass. The score just got ahead of us.”
In perhaps the best sign of the night, though, the Titans shook off their game-two struggles. A perfect pass-set sequence led to a kill by Turner to start game three, and the Titans continued to execute well. Turner and Porter had kills, and Toll Gate took advantage of some Rebel miscues to jump on top 8-7.
Throughout that stretch, the Titans shined when they were playing defense. Lavoie, Turner and Monique Lima led the back row effort.
“We focus on defense and try to make that commitment to go for every ball,” Harrington said. “We try to play with the mentality where no ball drops.
The Titans continued to play well in game three, taking an 11-7 lead on a kill by Porter and a tip and an ace from Lavoie. After making two errors, the Titans won five of the next six points, including an emphatic kill by Turner. Trailing 16-10, South Kingstown took a timeout.
“I’m glad that we turned it around and gave the same effort we gave in game one,” Harrington said.
Unfortunately for the Titans, the good effort didn’t lead to a victory. Out of the timeout, South Kingstown won four straight points. Toll Gate answered with a push by Turner and an ace from Rachel Gilbert, but the Rebels pulled even by winning four more points in a row.
Toll Gate took the lead back on a hitting error and an ace by Turner, but again the Rebels had an answer. They won the next six points to go up 24-20.
One more time, though, Toll Gate came back. Lavoie landed a tip to make it 24-21, the Rebels were whistled for a carry on a tough Toll Gate serve and Brosnahan put in an ace to make it 24-23.
The final point turned into the longest rally of the night, with the teams going back and forth until South Kingstown finally ended it on a McGillivray kill.
The fact that the last point yielded the longest rally was a testament to Toll Gate’s attitude.
“I’m just proud of the way that we’re playing and the effort,” Harrington said. “The girls really play their hearts out.”
Turner, one of the team’s only veterans, has been leading the charge in that department. Lavoie, a junior, has become a vocal leader and a sparkplug.
The Titans are just hoping that, at some point, all the positives translate to a positive result.
“That’s what we’re working towards – just playing at our best level,” Harrington said. “I think with every game we’re improving. Those tight games that we’ve been playing, we’ve been forced to play scrappy defense and forced to go for every ball, and I think that’s been good for us. We definitely are improving. When we work together as a team, we can play well.”
The Titans were scheduled to play Westerly on Wednesday, with results unavailable at press time. The team visits East Greenwich next Tuesday.