WEST WARWICK – Against a fired-up road crowd and with two major players out of their rotation, the defending Division II champion East Greenwich boys’ volleyball team, moved to 9-0 over West Warwick in one of their toughest contests yet.
The undefeated Avengers rose to the opportunity in only their second match of the year to go five sets, as they won 3-2 after being behind 2-1 in games and down early in the decisive fourth. It was the first time EG had been behind in sets, and they handled their first come-from-behind opportunity well in the emotionally-charged DII crossover.
“West Warwick is a really strong team,” Avenger head coach Justin Amaral said. “They have a lot of height, and probably the one area we’re weakest in is our height. West Warwick didn’t give up on plays and they made it a great match.”
“West Warwick played a great game,” Amaral said. “Maybe some of our guys came in a little big-headed and thinking it was going to be easy. I’m happy we rallied behind that – we were down 2-1, and that’s a position we haven’t been in all year. We’ve never been down to a team, so to see them fight back like that was nice.”
“They have a lot of energy,” Amaral continued. “They need to make sure they direct in the right direction and the right way, but they have a lot of heart and a lot of energy, and that helps us out.”
EG went up 4-1 in the first set at Dan Sylvester Gymnasium, but the Wizards were hard to shake, tying the score a few times before EG got the 25-24 win. The second set was equally back-and-forth with Wizard Luke Flyntz (team-high 18 kills and 24 digs) had a big swing to make it 18-16 West Warwick.
On another shot, Flyntz made it 19-17. EG went up 24-23 on a Wizard error, but the Wizards were pumped after they won it 26-24.
The Wizards won set three 25-17 then the Avengers found their come-back surge to win set four 25-21 on an over-serve by West Warwick. In the fifth and final set, EG rode some intense energy in what was their most decisive victory, a 15-6 win.
Senior outside hitter Owen Petito made the final set 3-1 on an expeditious tip over. Junior Mason Minghella smacked a kill that split the Wizard back row to make it 6-3. Petitio made it 8-3 on a well-placed kill that fell right just in front of a Wizard attempting to play it. Senior outside hitter Christopher Rivera finished them off 15-6 on a hard kill.
“It’s been a big surprise,” Amaral said of the continued success with a new group. “Usually, you have a team that graduates ten seniors, you usually think of the next year as a rebuilding year. These guys have bounced back. They work hard in practice every day and fight hard for everything. To be able to be where we are right now – at 9-0 – is pretty amazing.”
The Avengers not only graduated ten, they only have two returning varsity players. All the others came up from the jayvee program, who won the state title last year.
“They were a good team,” Amaral said of EG’s 2018 jayvee squad. “But it’s a big jump to go from jayvee to varsity, and for there to be only two returning varsity players. It shows that all those guys are battling through.”
“We’re looking toward Pilgrim and Cranston West,” Amaral said. “They are the only other teams that we haven’t played. They both have great records at 9-1. They’ve only lost to each other. We’re prepared for some pretty good competition.”
Pilgrim and Cranston West lead Division II-B, and the Wizards are third at 6-4. EG (9-0) leads DII-A, ahead of Classical (7-3).
On Thursday, May 9 at 6:30, EG hosts Woonsocket at home. On Tuesday, May 14, they take on Classical at 6:00 p.m. Classical was the only previous team to take them to all five games in a match.