NORTH KINGSTOWN – Through the first two sets during Tuesday night’s Division II girls’ volleyball semifinal, it looked like 1A-seed East Greenwich had met their match against 2-B Classical. After going down two sets and falling behind 4-2 in the third, the Avengers gathered themselves and won three straight, beating the Purple 3-2 to advance to their second straight championship.
Classical (16-2) came into the game ranked second in DII-B behind Burrillville (17-1), got a first-round bye then beat 3A West Warwick, 3-1, in the quarterfinals. EG (17-1) finished at the top of DII-A, getting another of the four bye-weeks then they blasted through 5A Johnston, 3-0, in the quarterfinals. Being in opposing halves of the division, they didn’t play this season, and Classical’s initial punch made EG stumble, looking it would be a quick knockout.
Classical brought a lot of length especially in the frontcourt and won the first two games, 25-20 and 25-15. In game one, there was a number of knotted scores before Classical broke through at 21-20 then went ahead to win by five. They went up 5-1 in game two, and after EG tied the score at 6-6, Classical ended up with a six-point win.
“We weren’t focused,” Avenger head coach Justin Amaral said of the difference from the first two sets and the last three. “Once we started to pass the ball and work our serve-receive our team came together and played like we can.”
When EG began playing well, they were keeping the balls away from the middle where the Purple’s height was the biggest advantage. When EG started hitting balls back farther, they started seeing balls flying off of the Purple hitters and hitting for points all over.
“We definitely swung deeper,” Amaral said. “We tried to make sure we kept the ball away from those blockers and not try to hit the ball straight down. They had a height advantage, and we wanted to not let that play in their favor.”
Senior middle hitters Courtney Wegrzyn and Hope Votta got EG going with a few kills to start the third game as the Avengers went up, 10-6, to finish an 8-2 run. EG made it 14-6 before Classical would get another point. They went on to surge through for the 25-15 win.
The crowd was definitely heavier on the EG side with NK’s close proximity. The EG girl’s energy went up as they played better, and the energy in the building gathered behind them.
Senior setter Jules Abella was mixing in passes to the plethora of EG hitters as shots flew at Classical from all directions. Their height advantage seemed less an issue as EG’s quick, leaping hitters found seams and places they couldn’t block. What the Avengers may have lacked in height compared to Classical, they made up for in depth and quickness.
In the fourth game, EG started up 4-0 then were ahead 7-4 before Classical battled back, 7-6. Junior outside hitter Rachel Rowey put EG ahead 10-6 on a kill from the corner. Votta made it 16-9 on a well-spotted kill in the middle of the Purple. Senior Jordan Bean added one from the right side. The Avengers continued rolling, and finished it off a few plays later at 25-16.
EG went up 3-1 in the decisive fifth game. Senior outside hitter Vivian Goulet went into EG’s bench to dig a ball that turned into an Avenger point. It was an example of the effort EG was giving all around the court. The entire team continued to play enthusiastically, chasing and diving for digs, connecting passes and sending them at Classical forcefully. The fifth game didn’t seem close, as once EG got Classical up against the ropes they kept attacking. Goulet got the final kill at 15-7.
EG will take on Lincoln (17-1) in the title game at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 17.
EG is 1-1 against the Lions this season. Lincoln won the early season match, 3-2. EG came back to win the rematch, 3-0.