The Bishop Hendricken volleyball team owns some big wins this season and some tough losses, all while trying to come together in time for a postseason run.
Add Tuesday’s match to the tough losses category.
The Hawks welcomed in unbeaten Coventry and quickly found out why the Oakers haven’t lost yet. Coventry stormed to a 25-14 victory in game one, then held off Hendricken rallies to win the next two games 25-20 and 25-19, completing the 3-0 sweep.
The Oakers are now 7-0 in Division I-South, while Hendricken fell to 4-3 in D-I-North. The Hawks are tied for second in their division, trailing 5-2 East Providence.
“I think we’ve looked better at times, on our own side,” Hendricken head coach Mike Harrington said. “Tonight, for whatever reason we didn’t bring a real high level of intensity to start the night and we just never picked up on it.”
The Hawks have been up-and-down so far, as they’ve also suffered a 3-0 loss to defending state champion South Kingstown and a 3-1 loss to East Providence.
On the other hand, they’ve beaten 5-2 Mount St. Charles and 4-3 Cranston East.
There are signs of progress, and there are nights like Tuesday. By the same token, Hendricken is still remaining calm – and confident – as the year goes on, even if this season has been a little more difficult than the past two, in which the team lost a combined one league match.
“I thought our match against South we played at a good level all the way through,” Harrington said. “Every year is so new. It’s a new group of guys. I think the guys and myself are pretty good at evaluating match to match, year to year. I don’t feel that way, and I don’t sense that the guys feel like, ‘Oh man, we don’t know how to handle this not winning every match.’”
Coventry looked plenty confident in its own right. Playing without one of its best players, Frank Field, who was benched for game one for disciplinary reasons, the Oakers had no issue getting off to a dominant start.
With the score tied at three, Coventry rattled off 10 of the next 12 points behind a block and a kill from Sean Roles, a kill from Devin Paiva and an ace from Kyle Kirkland.
“I like to think I’ve been promoting confidence every year since I’ve been here,” Coventry head coach Jonathan Bartlett said. “If you walk into a match expecting that you’re going to lose, well then chances are that you’re going to lose.”
Hendricken closed the gap with a hard hit from freshman Donny Baker and a block by Trent Medeiros, and got as close as 14-10 on an emphatic kill by Jahari Ford.
But the Oakers took off from there, winning three of the next four points to go up 17-11, and then extending that out to 20-13. A kill and a block by Paiva brought Coventry to game point, and a Hawks’ hitting error gave the Oakers the 1-0 lead.
“The intensity caught me off guard a little bit, knowing that we had an undefeated team coming in,” Harrington said.
In the second game, Coventry looked poised to run away again, as Field came on and made his impact felt immediately with two kills in the first 10 points.
Ford added a block and a hard hit off a blocker to keep things close, but three straight Hendricken hitting errors and a kill by Roles made it 10-4 Oakers.
As the Hawks tried to get back in the game, they struggled with their serve-receive, oftentimes making a poor initial pass that left them without much of a chance to get a hard hit.
Against a team like Coventry, that was tough to overcome.
“I would like to see more offense come out of our middle,” Harrington said. “We lack experience at that position, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be effective. Our serve-receive was so sub-par that it takes those middle guys out of the play.”
Coventry stayed steadily out in front, going up 20-14 on a kill by Joe Hanrahan before losing the next point.
That’s when Matt Rich stepped behind the service line for the Hawks and got them rolling. He served five consecutive points, picking up an ace in the process. Baker had a kill, as did Mario McClain, and suddenly the game was tied at 20.
But Hendricken still didn’t seem to have that extra gear.
“The truth is, I didn’t even feel like our side was fired up about the comeback,” Harrington said. “I think a spark was missing tonight.”
A service error gave the Oakers a 21-20 lead, and a hitting error made it 22-20. Tom Campbell hit a ball off Hendricken blockers to make it 23-20, a net violation on the Hawks brought up game point and an ace by Field ended game two.
“I told the guys straight forward, ‘If we don’t pass well, we’re not going to win the match,’” Bartlett said. “That’s what it comes down to. If we pass well, we have three, maybe four options hitting-wise. If we don’t pass well, we have maybe one or two, tops. That kind of dictates the game, your serve-receive.”
Again, the Hawks stayed tight in the very early going before a Coventry run in the middle of the game helped it get an edge. A 5-4 Coventry lead ballooned to 10-5 and eventually 17-11. At 20-14, Hendricken tried to make another comeback. An Oakers’ service error made it 20-15, a hitting error made it 20-16 and Ford picked up a block to make it 20-17. Coventry, though, was too strong. Roles had a kill, Field placed a touch shot over Hendricken’s block and Paiva bombed another kill to complete the sweep.
“After we go down 0-2, the goal is to win a game,” Harrington said. “I try to focus on that, but still we didn’t come out with enough to beat a good team like Coventry.”
Paiva had 13 kills, 10 digs and two blocks for Coventry, while Field had 10 kills, eight digs and two blocks. For Hendricken, Ford led the way with 11 kills, and Baker added eight. Matt Medeiros had six digs.
The Hawks’ next game is today, at 2-4 Chariho at 6:30 p.m.
From there, Hendricken will set out to prove it can compete with the best teams in the state, with an eye on the playoffs in a few weeks.
“I definitely believe it,” Harrington said. “I think the guys believe it, too. You’ve got a guy like Jahari – who is as good as there is in the league – and he’s on our side. We should be able to compete and potentially beat any team in the league with Jahari, if our ball control gets a little better.”