The Toll Gate boys’ volleyball team has already improved on its winless campaign from a season ago, thanks to victories over Classical and Mt. Hope. Adding more victories proved difficult last week as the Titans faced Tolman and Cranston West, two of the best teams in Division II, but the resulting 3-0 sweeps were a reminder of what it’ll take to stay on the upward trajectory.
“They’re hungry for more success,” said head coach Ryan Garno, “but we’ve got to clean some things up before that happens.”
The Titans are now 2-6 and sitting in third place in Division II-West, ahead of 1-7 Classical.
Their win over the Purple on April 9 was the first taste of success for the team since the 2012 season. The next week, they swept Mt. Hope for win No. 2.
“It was good to get those,” Garno said.
The Titans haven’t won since but they hung tough against Shea and Tolman. Friday against Cranston West, they hit a setback, falling 25-16, 25-16 and 25-15 against the 7-1 Falcons.
“Tonight was not our best night, but a lot of that is Cranston West,” Garno said. “They’re very good. We’re doing some things we shouldn’t be doing at this point. There have been some matches we’ve lost that I walked away fine with because they are starting to pick it up. This wasn’t one of them.”
The Titans cut an eight-point deficit to two in game one, sparked by a pair of aces by Wendell Thao and a kill by Jacob Johnson. But with the score 16-14, the Falcons won the next seven points to regain control and had no troubled finishing it off from there.
In game two, Toll Gate went from down 5-4 to up 6-5 on a kill and an ace by Johnson, but West surged again, opening up a six-point lead with seven straight points. The Titans never got closer than five.
West’s surge was even bigger in game three. The Falcons opened up a 9-3 lead then pushed it to 17-3 before the Titans could get their feet under them. Toll Gate did get within nine at 22-13 but couldn’t get a bigger comeback off the ground.
Cranston West star Nareg Mkrtschjan led the charge with 14 kills.
West head coach Roger Tow had encouraging words for Garno and the Titans after the match. In his first year as the West coach, the Falcons went 0-18. Seven years later, they’re a perennial D-II contender, with double-digit win totals each of the last three years.
“I’ve known coach Garno for a few years,” Tow said. “I told him, ‘I’ve been there.’ I already see improvement and that’s the key. In a couple of years, maybe even next year, they’re going to be knocking on everybody’s door. It just takes some time.”
The Titans will look for continued improvement with three matches this week against Westerly, West Warwick and East Greenwich.