Pawtucket Times

Undefeated MSC/NS showing perspectiv­e

Despite sweep, Mounties know they can play better

- By BRANDEN MELLO bmello@woonsocket­

NORTH SMITHFIELD — The scoreboard is almost superfluou­s to Mount St. Charles/North Smithfield co-op volleyball matches.

For the seventh straight match, the young Mounties produced an emphatic Division II sweep – this time over rebuilding Sholman co-op – by the result didn’t matter all that much to middle Al Viera Dones, coach Josh D’Abate and the first-place Mounties.

“We’re still trying to get better on our offense because we ran some stuff today that we tried at practice the other day and it ran pretty well,” Viera Dones said. “We just need to keep working hard and keep our energy up because any team could surprise. We have to be consistent if we want to make it all the way. We have to keep the flow going.”

“For us, it’s all about consistenc­y,” D’Abate said. “We’ve been doing some different things in practice lately with blocking and offense, but it’s just the consistenc­y part.

I don’t know if we’ve explained it enough or worked on it enough to be consistent. As coaches, we have to do a better job of figuring that out. At some point it will be on the players to go out there and execute it.”

Behind 10 kills and five aces from North Smithfield sophomore outside hitter Connor DeSousa and five kills each from Mount’s Nate Tessier and North Smithfield’s Caleb Kelly, the undefeated Mounties dispatched the Tigers 25-8, 25-14, 2624 Thursday night at Lovett Gymnasium.

Pawtucket (0-13 Division II) was coming off its best match of the season where the Tigers pushed West Warwick to five games but mistakes in the final game consigned them to another defeat. The Tigers didn’t play well in the opening game Thursday night, but they played superb in the third game and if not for late heroics from DeSousa, would’ve forced a fourth game.

“It’s tough to see that against a team that is stacked like that,” veteran Pawtucket coach Neil Nachbar said. “When you’re playing a team as strong as them, your weaknesses are really exposed. The kids are definitely improving, but the problem is everyone is improving. Our issue right now is we’re not getting those three- and four-year players like we did in the past, we’re getting kids as juniors or seniors.

“One or two years isn’t enough time to develop. We’re still feeling the effects of COVID and not being in school. There’s no one person who is leading us right now, it’s a different person each night. Everyone on this team has had flashes of great play, we just can’t sustain it. That’s the inexperien­ce.”

Mount St. Charles/North Smithfield (12-0 Division II) has its toughest week of the season coming up with road matches against second-place East Providence (Monday), third-place Pilgrim (Thursday) and fourth-place Westerly the following night.

Barring a catastroph­ic week, the Mounties are a near lock to be the No. 1 seed in the Division II tournament. Next week is all about measuring themselves against the only other title contenders.

“We have no opportunit­ies to take our foot off the gas and we didn’t have any opportunit­ies to work on new things, we need to be super consistent next week,” D’Abate said. “It’s just a matter of going out there and executing. If we win, we win and if we lose, we lose, but we want to be better at the end of the season. Next week is a good test to see where we’re at and where we need to get better.”

The Tigers simply had no answer for Mount sophomore libero Ben Sousa at the service line. The Mountie served his team to an 18-3 advantage in the opening game, and the second game started in a similar fashion with the hosts jumping out to a 7-3 lead behind the play of sophomore setter Caden Sullivan.

As well as the Northman standout has played this season, D’Abate wants to see him take even more control of the team in the final few weeks of the season.

“All of our guys really played well, but I want to see Caden be a little more vocal and run the team more,” D’Abate said. “He needs to be a little less nice and not care what anyone wants and just run the offense the way he knows how to do it.”

Pawtucket showed glimpses of what the team could be next season, as the visitors battled back to cut MSC/NS’s lead to just 16-13 in the middle game. DeSousa, however, sparked a 9-1 run to close out the game.

Mount built an 8-2 advantage in the third game which allowed D’Abate to substitute liberally. The Mounties still led 18-14 when the Tigers stormed back to even the game at 20, forcing D’Abate to bring Sullivan and DeSousa back into the contest. DeSousa delivered killed off a pair of game points with kills and then he delivered two aces to finish off the match.

“We still need to be better on offense and defense,” Viera Dones said. “Right now our passing is pretty good, but I still think we can be better. We can serve better because that cost us a few points today.”

 ?? File photo ?? The undefeated Mount St. Charles/North Smithfield co-op volleyball team won its seventh straight Division II match by sweep Thursday night against Pawtucket co-op.
File photo The undefeated Mount St. Charles/North Smithfield co-op volleyball team won its seventh straight Division II match by sweep Thursday night against Pawtucket co-op.

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