Broncos dig deep in win
Cournoyer, Simpson key fourth-game comeback
BURRILLVILLE — None of the players on the No. 1 Burrillville girls volleyball team had been in this situation before.
Trailing upset-minded Westerly by four points in the fourth game of their Division II quarterfinal Friday night, the Broncos needed to rediscover the play that helped them win the Division II-B regular-season title.
After coach Heather Farrell called a timeout, right-side Alyssa Simpson and outside hitter Karlee Cournoyer took over and lifted the Broncos into their first semifinal in nine years. The Broncos scored 13 of the match’s final 17 points, while Cournoyer delivered a match-high 19 kills and 29 digs and Simpson had 26 digs in a 25-22, 26-24, 21-25, 25-20 victory at the Broncodome.
“We get down ourselves a lot, but at that point we needed to keep telling each other to play our game,” said Cournoyer, who forced Westerly to call a pair of timeouts in a span of four points while she was at the service line in the fourth. “I’m so proud of us. We played so well today. We had a few communication issues, but other than that we did great.”
“I think we were all just nervous and got in our own heads. We just stopped communicating for the most part,” Simpson said. “Coach just told us we have to talk. We were all just a little nervous and got in our own heads and we stopped talking.”
Burrillville (18-1 Division II) will face its toughest test to date in Tuesday night’s Division II semifinal against Blackstone Valley rival Lincoln at North Kingstown High.
“I don’t know anything about them, but they won their division just like we did,” Farrell said. “It’s going to be a tough game. If we just keep doing what we’re doing and keep working on the tactics that we have, we’ll be good.”
Westerly (12-8 Division II) used the hitting of Megan Albamonti and Alex Mitchell to go on a 9-5 run to take the third game and keep the Bulldogs’ season alive. The Bulldogs continued to play well into the fourth game where they turned a 3-1 disadvantage into a 7-4 lead. After the Bulldogs won two straight points to stretch the lead out to 1612, Farrell was forced to use her first timeout.
“I just gave them a little pep talk and they turned it around. They knew what they had to do,” Farrell said. “They weren’t communicating. We can play a lot better. Was I surprised? I think the nerves of reaching this point – we haven’t been this far with this team – in nine years. I think it was just nerves and seeing everyone here for us in the playoffs.”
Simpson, who formed a dynamic rightside combination with setter Sam Gosselin (40 assists), produced a kill to get Couroyer to the service line. The reigning state triple jump champion forced Westerly to call a timeout clinging to a 16-15 advantage. Cournoyer served three more points to force coach Erin McKinnon-Beal to use her final timeout with her team trailing by two.
“When they called those timeouts, I didn’t do anything,” Cournoyer said. “I knew I just had to get the serve over the net. I don’t try to do anything fancy with it.”
Westerly responded with a sideout to close the gap to one, but that was as close as the visitors would get because libero Kendall Bousquet (42 digs) and the Broncos won seven of the game’s final 10 points to win the match.
We went from last year where we didn’t even win two games to this year where it’s the complete opposite. We just keep getting better and better each game. We just have better team chemistry and we’ve bonded better than any team in the past.”