As the Narragansett girls volleyball team can certainly attest, the road to the Division II Championship goes through Exeter-West Greenwich.
The Knights soundly beat the Mariners 25-12, 25-11, 25-10 in the quarterfinals last season en route to their third D-II title in a row and should once again be the team to beat with one the state’s best hitters in Jennifer Donnelly back this season.
It’s a new season with a new coach for the Mariners though, and they’re hoping with the fresh start comes better results.
Things have gone well so far according to new coach Abby Hummel and a handful of players but as expected there has been a lot experimenting with lineups and positions so far this season.
“It’s still a little crazy only because I‘ve never met the girls before so I’m going off what they’ve shown me in tryouts and the past week of practice,” Hummel says.
“We’ve been starting to dabble into different rotation. I have a few lineups we’re going to work with and they’re just basically to see how well girls work next to each other.”
While exactly who will play where is not set in stone, the team’s seniors – Gabby Leclerc, Maddie Cote, Leia Mistowski and Kelsey Hagan – have continued to lead the way.
“They’re the ones that have stepped up,” Hummel says. “They’re the ones telling some of the younger players, ‘you have to stand here,’ [when they’re out of position].”
While it is still abstract, some of the lineup is starting to take shape as Leclerc – as expected – will start at outside hitter and Cote will be in the middle.
Mistowski and Hagan can each do a little bit of everything – whether it’s playing in the front or back rows – so their roles will be determined more by where they’re needed.
Juniors Erin Foeri and Mabel Hodnett will see time at setter this season, yet exactly in what capacity is still unclear as it will depend on whether or not the Mariners go to a one or two-setter attack.
Then there are players like junior Abby McKanna, a middle hitter last season for the Mariners whom Hummel is moving to back row and will likely start at that position.
“The thing with Abby this year is last year she didn’t play too much back row but she reads the ball really well,” Hummel says. “I’m going to try her out back there and she definitely can do it.”
One of the biggest detriments to the Mariners last season was their passing and if McKanna – along with classmates Sofia Duarte, Jordan Cameron, Ryan Goff and Kim Barker, among others – can sure up the team’s serve-receive Narragansett could be in for a special season with hitters like Leclerc and Cote up front.
Everything to this point has been purely theoretical for the Mariners though, as Friday they’ll gauge just where they’re at in this young season when they take part in an Injury Fund tournament Friday beginning at 4 p.m. at North Kingstown.
“They have the skills to play where I put them,” Hummel says. “I wouldn’t put them out there If I didn’t trust them.”