EAST GREENWICH - West Warwick knew going into Tuesday night’s D-II quarterfinal matchup with East Greenwich that significant changes would be needed on their behalf if there was to be any chance of advancing to the next round. Those changes would not arrive. In a showdown that closely mirrored the regular season meeting between the two clubs, the No. 3 seed Avengers swept the No. 6 seed Wizards in convincing 3-0 fashion (25-11, 25-12, 25-10) to punch a ticket to the semifinals, while West Warwick looks ahead to the future.
“We made some adjustments as far as positioning and other things, but it was a lack of consistency on our part,” head coach Josh Malloy said of both Tuesday’s loss and the year as a whole.
“We lacked consistency for a lot of the season and if you’re not consistent against a good team, it’s going to come back to bite you,” Malloy said.
The Wizards capped the pandemic-shortened regular season with a 5-6 record, at times showing promise while other times, less so. All of their defeats, including Tuesday’s, came by 3-0 scores, highlighting the overall need for improvement for a team looking to bounce back from a nearly two-year long absence.
EG was not the optimal team for them to be facing under those circumstances.
“They’re a good team to play against and if you make as many mistakes as we did tonight, then it’s going to be impossible to keep up with that team and the way they can hit,” Malloy said.
The Avengers were in complete control of all three games, with only a brief stretch in the middle showing any signs of a potentially turning tide.
“I feel bad for my seniors having to go out this way, but it’s a learning experience for the other guys. We’re always battling against the East Greenwich’s of the world,” Malloy said as his group was unable to match the state title won by the girls’ team earlier this spring.
On the other end of the court, the Avengers took yet another step closer in the pursuit of their fourth Division II title and first since 2018.
“I think we played great defense and covered the court well,” head coach Justin Amaral said after Tuesday’s victory. “Ethan (Fain), our libero seems to be all over the place, picking everything up. I think we just need to continue to play with energy and get our offense running.”
Other players who figured prominently in Tuesday’s win were Will Jackson and Andrew Plympton, both at the forefront of EG’s offensive onslaught.
“It was a good sign to be able to go out and get a win in this fashion. Hopefully we can keep our offense going and move forward with it,” said Amaral.
A 9-2 regular season saw the Avengers complete seven sweeps and two victories by 3-1 counts, leaving little in the way between them and the finals.
One of those obstacles awaits them for a semifinal showdown tomorrow night. The Falcons of Cranston West were responsible for one of EG’s two losses on the year, a 3-1 decision back on May 25 before Classical duplicated that result two weeks later.
Cranston West is technically the defending champion in D-II play, having won it all in 2019 before COVID-19 resulted in the cancellation of the 2020 season. Their 2019 title was the first in program history.
Amaral feels confident that his group can put forth a better showing against the No. 2 seed Falcons the second time they face them, with Tuesday’s win serving as an encouraging tuneup.
“All of the games were close,” said Amaral of the 3-1 loss to the Falcons last month. “They were all within four points, win or lose, so I think it’s going to be a tight match with them. If we go in there with out heads up and ready to play, we should be able to take care of business.”
Follow Nick Cantor on Twitter @cantornick