It still isn’t showing up in the win column, but the Warwick Vets boys’ volleyball team is improving just about every time it takes the court.
The ’Canes lost 3-0 to Scituate on Thursday, dropping their record to 0-12 on they year. Scituate improved to 7-5.
But the first time the two teams played, on April 17, the Spartans won 3-0 in dominating fashion, with game scores of 25-13, 25-13, 25-17.
This time, Vets hung in closer, falling 25-18, 25-18, 25-12.
That’s been a common theme the second time through the schedule for the ’Canes, who, despite still being winless, have been much more competitive as of late.
“Every game we’ve played besides Pilgrim and West Warwick, we’ve improved against the teams,” Vets head coach Brendan Friel said. “That’s good for me, because the other teams have to improve to. So if we’re getting it closer, we’re improving and narrowing the gap. That tells me that it is working.”
The best results to date came on May 8, against East Greenwich. The ’Canes lost 3-1 to the Avengers, but nearly pulled off the win. Vets lost game one 27-25, won game two by the same score, then dropped games three and four 25-22 and 25-19.
That match was the biggest sign thus far for Friel that his team is significantly better than it was when it opened the season on April 3.
“To be quite honest, I think we should have beaten East Greenwich,” Friel said. “All four games were really close. We took one, everything else was 25-23. It could have gone either way.”
Against Scituate, Vets had trouble with the Spartans’ hitters, but still remained close.
Scituate took an early 8-2 lead in game one, but Vets battled all the way back to get within two at 11-9. Over that span, while the team didn’t register any kills, it played solid, mistake-free defense.
But the Spartans finally hit their stride, as Christopher Maiello stepped behind the service line with his team up 12-9 and he didn’t leave until it was 18-9.
Ryan Hoppe had a kill and a block, Maiello had an ace and Shawn Mulso had two kills for Scituate during the run.
“It’s just that we’re not there yet,” Friel said. “We go over a lot of stuff in practice, we have moments of brilliance and then we seem to forget what we’re doing out there some of the time.”
The ’Canes came back to 21-15 on an ace by Kajohnsac Phanhsena, but Scituate rolled from there to the 25-18 win.
In the second game, Vets controlled the action early on. It led 8-6, getting kills from Phanhsena and Jacob McLinden to pace the offense. The ’Canes went down 10-9, but a kill from Slawamir Hermanowski tied it up.
“Our hitting is a little bit better,” Friel said. “Our offense is picking up, and we’re getting a little bit better picking up digs and keeping it in play.”
Yet, slowly but surely, Scituate pulled away. Mulso and Melvin Omolo registered kills, as did Dean Pieranunzi to extend the lead to 17-12. Vets called a timeout down 21-14, and Max Andrade made it 21-15 on a big hit right out of the break. Scituate followed that with two hitting errors to make it 21-17, but it won four of the final five points – including back-to-back kills from Mulso – to finish off the game.
“Against these guys, they destroyed us the first time we played them,” Friel said. “It wasn’t even a match. It was 25-10 I think in three straight sets. Are we where I thought we were going to be yet? No. But are we getting better? Yes.”
The third game wasn’t quite as encouraging for the ’Canes, as Scituate ran out to a 10-4 lead, and led by as many as 12 at 17-5. Vets never got back within single digits, and consecutive aces from Derrik Gouveia ended the match.
But while Scituate is playoff bound, and a match victory for Vets would have been a huge upset, there are some legitimate chances for the ’Canes to pick up a win as the schedule winds down.
They were scheduled to host 11-1 Cranston West on Monday, with the results unavailable at press time, before playing three consecutive winnable matches.
First, they’ll host 2-10 Westerly on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The next day, they’ll host 2-10 Toll Gate. Finally, the following Tuesday, Vets will end its season on the road at Westerly.
And Friel has high hopes for the home stretch.
“I’m stressing the fact that we hung with Toll Gate the first time we played, and they hung with Westerly,” Friel said. “Basically, I’m saying, ‘Hey let’s go out there and let’s do it.
“I’m hoping we can take at least two out of those three.”