Moun­ties head to semi­fi­nal

Woonsocket Call - - FRONT PAGE - By JON BAKER jbaker@paw­tuck­et­

Mount girls vol­ley­ballers ad­vance

WOONSOCKET — Mount St. Charles vet­eran coach Josh D’Abate found it most strange that his girls would “SHUSH!” him af­ter he had hud­dled them to is­sue a “Well done” for an im­pres­sive four-game vic­tory over South Kingstown in a Di­vi­sion I quar­ter­fi­nal match on Thurs­day night.

“They just told me to shut up, and they kept look­ing at Mark,” D’Abate said, re­fer­ring to first-year as­sis­tant Mark Davis. “I had no idea what was go­ing on.”

The fourth-seeded Moun­ties stood in the mid­dle of the gym look­ing ei­ther pen­sive or pleased fol­low­ing

the 25-11, 25-21, 20-25, 25-16 vic­tory, star­ing at Davis, who even­tu­ally took a knee and pro­posed mar­riage to his girl­friend of 10 months, Ni­cole.

When they could tell she had nod­ded, they let out a col­lec­tive scream of joy seem­ingly louder than the one af­ter sopho­more Al­lie Mel­ny­chuk had recorded the de­ci­sive point.

“We did know about it; Mark had told us at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son that if we made it to the semis, he would pro­pose,” gushed thrilled se­nior co-cap­tain Issa Miller. “We were point­ing to­ward both all year, and we’re so happy about both.”

There’s nev­er­the­less more on that pre­sea­son list. D’Abate’s bunch, which im­proved to 11-6 over­all, now will pre­pare for a D-I semi­fi­nal against top-ranked and un­beaten North Kingstown. That match will take place at 5 p.m., Wed­nes­day, at East Green­wich High.

Sev­eral Moun­ties played key roles in the tri­umph, and Miller led the way with 15 kills and two blocks, while class­mate Mor­gan Wat­son tacked on a dozen spikes and three blocks; sopho­more Paige McCreight seven kills and four car­oms; se­nior set­ter Emma Pi­card 34 as­sists; and Mel­ny­chuk six aces.

For the fifth-ranked Rebels, whose cam­paign closed at 10-7, ju­nior Han­nah Brock man­u­fac­tured 11 spikes, eight digs, two aces and a block; se­nior co-cap­tain Molly Pinc­ince 16 digs, seven kills and three aces; class­mate Jil­lian Pre­vite seven kills and a block; and sopho­more Chloe Greene five digs and three spikes.

“We strug­gled (Thurs­day night),” of­fered SK head coach Jackie Elmer af­ter­ward. “We had mo­ments of bril­liance, but we couldn’t get it to­gether over­all. We had is­sues pass­ing, def­i­nitely. I’ve never seen us shank so many of those passes.”

As for some­thing D’Abate stated to his rather friendly coach­ing ri­valry af­ter the de­ci­sion, Elmer grinned, “Right af­ter the girls went through the (con­grat­u­la­tory) line, we said to­gether, ‘Flash­back.’ Last year, we were in the same sit­u­a­tion. Mount won the first two games of our quar­ter­fi­nal, but we came back to win it with three straight. The win­ner was go­ing on to play the No. 1 seed North Kingstown.

“The same thing was hap­pen­ing right here.”

The Moun­ties held a com­mand­ing 15-11 cush­ion in the third game – af­ter claim­ing the first two – but al­lowed Pinc­ince to serve up 10 straight points to hand SK the 22-15 ad­van­tage; that last point came on Brock’s ter­rific kill off a block.

Thanks to a Miller dink and a Pi­card ace, MSC sliced it to 23-20, but the Rebels closed it out on af­ter the hosts’ un­forced er­ror, 25-20.

In the de­cid­ing set, SK jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead, the Moun­ties an­swered and the bat­tle was on. Af­ter the fourth tie, Mel­ny­chuk took her po­si­tion be­hind the ser­vice stripe and notched two points for the 13-11 ad­van­tage, and the score re­mained tight.

That is, un­til Miller in­her­ited the serve and racked up six con­sec­u­tive points to turn a ten­u­ous 16-14 lead into a 21-14 dom­i­na­tion. With ju­nior south­paw Marissa Tessier at the line, she reg­is­tered the win­ning point, cour­tesy of a “roll over the block” by team­mate Mel­ny­chuk.

“We were a lit­tle wor­ried af­ter los­ing that third game af­ter what hap­pened last year,” Miller stated. “The keys were to re­gain and main­tain our en­ergy – and mo­men­tum – and do­ing our jobs at the po­si­tions we were given.

“We were def­i­nitely think­ing, ‘Uhoh!,’ but we talked among our­selves and said that this was a dif­fer­ent year and a dif­fer­ent group. We got our en- ergy back, and we able to clinch it.”

The Moun­ties trailed only twice in the open­ing game, at 2-1 and 3-2 be­fore an un­forced er­ror knot­ted it at 3-3. At that point, Pi­card lined up for her serve and mus­tered four straight, then – af­ter a side­out – Miller tacked on six more to make it 14-5.

They even­tu­ally sealed that at 2511.

In the sec­ond, fol­low­ing three dead­locks and a pair of lead changes, MSC held cush­ions of 9-5, 16-11 and 1914 be­fore the Rebels forged a fu­ri­ous come­back. Brock’s spike off a carom tied it for the fourth time at 21-up, but a Wat­son dink and two straight aces by Tessier led to the 25-21 vic­tory.

“The (quar­ter­fi­nal) loss to SK last year wasn’t some­thing we talked about at prac­tice (this week),” D’Abate said. “I have a smart group of girls, so they were fully aware of what hap­pened. They re­mem­bered. We talked about fin­ish­ing it af­ter Game 2.”

When asked what hap­pened at the tail end of the third, he merely stated, “That’s high school vol­ley­ball. We weren’t pass­ing it as con­sis­tently as we had been, and they were serv­ing very well. It was their own con­vers­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing on the court that turned it around. They know full well what they’re ca­pa­ble of, and I thought this match was a good ex­am­ple of that.”

File photo

Af­ter a one year ab­sence, the Mount St. Charles girls vol­ley­ball team is back in the Di­vi­sion I semi­fi­nals af­ter de­feat­ing South Kingstown in four games Thurs­day night.

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