The No. 3 Pilgrim High School boys volleyball team grinded out a 3-1 win over host No. 2 North Smithfield last Thursday to advance to the Division II semifinals.
The Patriots would take three straight sets after dropping the first one 25-20 to hold off the Northmen.
The turning point in the match came in the second set when Pilgrim blew a 20-16 lead and fell behind 21-20. However, the Patriots would rebound and gut out a tough 28-26 win, then would go on to win the third and fourth games 25-18 and 25-17, respectively.
“This year has been kind of weird, we always start off so bad. We just didn’t pass well in the first game, the first two games really. Then we kind of started to get our attacks a little more consistently, we were getting to the net, that was the difference. To (North Smithfield’s) credit they played very well, they got around our blocks. They were just finding spots,” said Pilgrim coach Mike McGiveron after the win.
Another factor in the game was height, as the Northmen had a sizeable advantage up front. McGiveron has been happy with his team’s ability to counter clubs with more height like North Smithfield.
“This year is one of my smallest groups, last year we had a couple of 6-foot-4 guys. This year’s group is smaller but we do a lot of things well to compensate,” said McGiveron. “Our back row really tries to keep balls up, keep balls alive which is just as good as a block sometimes. The point of contact is important where you hit it, if you’re a blocker and you get your hands up and over the net to penetrate and get that going, height really doesn’t matter.”
Dave D’Andrea led the Patriots with 12 kills while Ben Hunt added 10 and Ethan Laramee seven. Nick Jaggi racked up four aces as well.
The Patriots will move on to the semifinals against top-seeded East Greenwich tonight. McGiveron hopes his team will put its best foot forward, and has more success closing out sets.
“That’s going to be big in the semifinals. When we get a lead we’re going to have to hold on to it and stretch it out as far as we can. In game 2 we had a big lead and they scored five straight points to tie it and I came close to calling a timeout but it ended up being alright. It’s something we’ve got to work on,” said McGiveron. “You can’t underestimate teams. You’ve got to push. We didn’t really get off the bus and let them take advantage of it. We weren’t really sure how it was going to go but my guys responded, made a couple of adjustments.”