EAST GREENWICH - Where consistency lacked, drama thrived late Tuesday afternoon at East Greenwich High School in the D-I volleyball match between the Avengers and visiting Mount St. Charles.
Moments away from getting swept on their home court in decisive fashion, EG found their groove at the very last moment, turning the match on its head, only to come up short in the end by a 3-2 final (25-16, 25-18, 24-26, 20-25, 15-5).
“It was definitely up and down for us,” Avenger head coach Justin Amaral said, his team dropping to 1-5 on the year with the defeat. “I think we didn’t play as well as we normally do tonight. We had a lot of errors from the service line, a lot of miscommunication.”
That the match even went the distance at all served as a testament to the resiliency of an EG squad making the most of their inaugural season in D-I.
Down 24-21 in the third, the Avengers, led by the play of Melis Kocak and Ella Johnson, roared back to life, successfully holding off three match points as part of a 5-0 run to get on the scoreboard.
That momentum carried over into the fourth where they jumped out to a 12-4 advantage, upping their lead to ten points at 19-9 and 22-12 in a complete reversal of the direction the match had previously been going in. Mount managed to win eight of the next eleven points in the fourth, but it would not be enough, as EG’s 25-20 win guaranteed a fifth and decisive set.
It was there, that the visitors regained their stride, jumping out to a 9-0 lead behind the serve of captain Mikayla Wolf that provided enough of a cushion to seal an eventual victory.
“It was interesting. They played much better in Game 3. They were really moving well in Game three,” Mount head coach Josh D’Abate said afterwards, complimenting EG on their comeback.
A lapse of focus on his own team’s end helped contribute to those turn of events.
“I think we just thought that we would win that game and then didn’t really focus from there,” he said of the lead that slipped away from them.
“I’m okay with letting them lose games and learning on the fly a bit. We’ve got a team that’s pretty young, so that’s a good opportunity for them to learn to not just stop playing.”
While they got the win, improving to 4-3 on the year, D’Abate still sees several holes that need to be plugged before the playoffs arrive.
“The one stat that I’m really concerned with is serving,” he said of his team’s struggles on Tuesday. “Games, one, two and three, we missed five. Game four, we missed seven alone.”
Wolf and Pierce were critical in turning the tide, each doing their part late from behind the service line.
“At the end of the game, Mikayla Wolf got hot, put the pressure on them and then we played much better. Amanda (Pierce) in Game five served eight in a row and got us a 9-0 lead, so that’s a pretty good recovery. We talked about that between games four and five, focusing on the service line. We finished game five with no service errors, so that’s a good way to turn it around.”
At one game over .500, D’Abate has been largely encouraged by the play of his team thus far, with the hope that the best is still yet to come.
“We’re kind of right where I thought we would be at this point of the season,” he said. “We do some really good things and there are things you can tell that we need to get better at, but they’re working hard in practice and I like what I see.”
The Mounties will host Barrington tonight at 6:30 before traveling to Coventry on Friday for a meeting with the Oakers.
The Avengers, losers of four in a row now, will look to turn their season around on Friday when they host Cumberland at 5 p.m.
Amaral felt that Tuesday’s loss was a preventable one, even though his team needed to rally back from a deep hole.
“Mount’s a good team, but I don’t think we had our best showing,” he said. “I think we played a little better against La Salle last night than we did tonight.”
EG dropped a 3-1 decision to the Rams on Monday, but were completive in all four sets, whereas Tuesday’s defeat featured more inconsistency.
“I think we definitely could have won,” said Amaral. “It was one of those roller coaster rides where when we’re up, we’re doing great, but when we get down, it’s hard to keep our energy and wits about us.”
Follow Nick Cantor on Twitter @cantornick