NARRAGANSETT – As the matches rolled and the wins piled up for the Narragansett girls volleyball team, the goal for coach Abby Hummel has been to keep her team focused on the task at hand, never letting them get too far ahead.
Yet, with less than two weeks left in the regular season, the time to start looking ahead to the end is coming as that horizon started to come into focus Monday night when the Mariners crossed off the first item on their 2013 to do list.
By virtue of a 25-23, 25-13, 25-22 win over East Greenwich, ’Gansett secured the Division II-South regular season title.
“I haven’t focused on playoffs with them because I’ve made them bring their heads down and focus on the division and focus on each game singularly, saying ‘we’re playing this team today,’” Hummel said. “I guess now it kind of bites me because now I have to go back and be like, ‘alright, now we need to focus on playoffs.’”
Similar to the first time the two teams met in the regular season – a 25-21, 25-20, 25-18 Narragansett road win at the end of September – East started the match strong taking an early lead in game one.
Strong play along the net put East ahead, but the Avengers could never distance themselves from the Mariners. With a slim, 12-9 lead, East began to slip and gave up an 11-2 run that turned a three-point lead into a 20-14 deficit that put Narragansett in control.
The Avengers battled back to tie the game 21-21, but a serve into the net by Lauren Keenan turned the ball back over to Narragansett, who then closed out the 25-23 win.
East’s struggles continued into game two as the Avengers struggled to find any consistency scoring, never putting together more than back-to-back points. On the other side of the net, the Mariners played clean, mistake free volleyball, opening the game with a 12-4 run behind strong serving from Kelsey Hagan.
“We fell apart in the second set,” said Avenger coach Terri Garno. “Had a little bit of a setback in the very beginning and couldn’t get out of it. Should have been able to get out of it, but we didn’t.
“…I think passing’s every team’s Achilles heel, but we definitely have been in a passing slump. Tonight looked a little bit better than it has, but I know that we are still capable of better.”
After Narragansett rolled to a 25-13 win in game two, the Avengers picked their game up once again in the third, but as they have done so many times this season, the Mariners put the hammer down and closed the door on the win.
Trailing 11-5, the Mariners took seven of eight points to tie the game 12-12. East stopped the bleeding with back-to-back points on a kill by Jenna Pelosi and ace by Phoebe Wong, but Narragansett came right back with another 7-1 run to take a lead from which it never looked back.
After a late rally, East got some help from the ceiling’s cross beams to close to within one at 22-21, but a pair of cross-court kills got the Mariners to match point before Abby McKanna put one through the Avenger defense that sealed the division title for Narragansett.
“I don’t know why, but they play up when they play teams that are really good,” Hummel said. “When they play lower teams, they just play their level. That’s why I love when we play the tough teams like EWG and EG and Cranston West and all them. It just gives us a better game and our girls get more excited for it.”
With the division title locked up, the challenge for Hummel is where to go from here with her squad over the remaining week and a half of the regular season as they prepare for their stretch run and to peak heading into the postseason.
“Step two of playoffs is great,” said the Mariners coach. “It looks as if we would get a bye because we have preliminaries in Division II. It looks like we don’t have to play those, so we’ll almost have and entire week before we’ll have our first playoff game, which I’m not totally happy about, but I’m excited.
Following Monday’s win, the Mariners have three home matches in the span of a week to finish off their regular season. On Wednesday they welcome in Cranston East, then play West Warwick on Friday before wrapping things up next Monday against Warwick Vets. All three matches will be at 6:30 p.m.