After two straight winless seasons, it’s pretty clear at this point that Division I might not be the best fit for the Toll Gate girls’ volleyball team. The Titans will have at least this season alongside the state’s best before a possible realignment, but as new head coach Andrew Bevilacqua found out, they aren’t dwelling on the negative side of that fact.
“It’s very encouraging,” Bevilacqua said. “I didn’t know what to expect coming into the gym. They haven’t won a game in two years. They’re very motivated. They tell me they’ve got nothing to lose so they leave it all on the court for me. Practices are great – high energy. I’m very proud of them. They’re an awesome group of girls.”
That’s a good starting point as the Titans try to take a step forward this year.
Bevilacqua comes to Toll Gate from Bishop Hendricken, where he’s been an assistant for several years with the Hawks’ championship-caliber boys’ teams. He takes over the Toll Gate job from Kelly Harrington, who made the move to Pilgrim over the summer.
Bevilacqua has been impressed with what he’s seen from his new team.
“They’re willing to come in and be receptive and test my ways,” Bevilacqua said. “They’ve been great.”
The Titans lost a few players to graduation from last year’s team but they have a nucleus in the fold that’s ready for good things.
Senior Kelsey Kurbiec and junior Jamie Hopgood return as the team’s top threats at the net. Senior Danielle Anderson will play right-side hitter opposite them and is also capable.
“Kelsey and Jamie are phenomenal,” Bevilacqua said. “They can keep the ball in. Danielle is playing on the right and she does a good job. If we stick the pass and get the set up, I think we’ll be alright.”
Sophomore Ashley Chin is assuming the duties at the setter position. Juniors Brooke Casacalenda and Courtney Marsh bring some height and athleticism to the middle. Seniors Lexi Hassell and Arielle Frank and junior Sydni Charette are also in the mix.
So far, the Titans have seen some positive signs. In Thursday’s season opener against Chariho, they lost the first game by just three points. The second game was also close, but the Chargers won by five. Game three was more lopsided, but the first two were reasons to be optimistic.
“The first game today, we had a couple of mental lapses, a couple of nets at the end of the game. Game two, same thing. Close games. The third game, I just think we were drained mentally As the year goes on, I think it’s encouraging to them to know we were in this game.”
Gym renovations at Toll Gate are an added complication – the Titans won’t play a home match until next Friday – but they aren’t dwelling on that either.
The Titans are ready for some success.
“Our goal right now is to win a match,” Bevilacqua said. “They haven’t won in two years, so I’m just trying to motivate the girls and never quit.”
The Titans were scheduled to play Prout on Monday, with results unavailable at press time. They’ll visit two-time defending state champion Coventry on Wednesday.
“The teams get tougher,” Bevilacqua said. “Prout Monday, North Kingstown next week. But they’ll go out there and battle.”