End of the road for MSC Volleyball
By Branden Mello - Woonsocket
EAST GREENWICH — If the No. 4 Mount St. Charles girls volleyball team was going to be the first team in nearly two years to knock off reigning state champion North Kingstown, they needed to play points like the opening point of Wednesday night’s Division I semifinal.
After the underdog Mounties twice dug North Kingstown attacks, senior middle blocker Morgan Watson stuffed NK middle Meaghan Corkery.
Mount failed to execute its defensive game plan in the opening game after the Watson block, but over the final three games, Mount St. Charles was up for the challenge. Led by senior outside hitter Issa Miller and senior libero Katherine Champagne, the Mounties forced the Skippers into errors and were in position to win each of the final three games.
Alas, the Mounties only pulled out the second game because NK junior All-State outside hitter Haley Sawyer was just too good. Sawyer helped the Skippers pull away in each of the final two games of a 25-14, 24-26, 25-18, 25-18 victory at East Greenwich High.
“Our game plan was for everyone to just focus on what they had to do in their positions,” Miller said after delivering an All-State performance at the net and from the service line. “Everyone had to be on tonight and everyone had to play with heart. We couldn’t take a play off. We weren’t happy with the energy in the first game, we just made sure we had energy and didn’t take a point off.”
“We made some pretty big mistakes in the first game and we cleaned those up in the second, third and fourth games,” Mount St. Charles coach Josh D’Abate said. “We had to play almost perfect to win this match. I think if perfect is 100, we played at a 99. Other than that first game, we didn’t make a lot of mistakes mentally and we didn’t miss a lot of serves. We executed our game plan, but they just closed the match.”
Mount St. Charles (11-7 Division I) scored the final three points of the second game to tie the match after a pair of aces from the indefatigable Miller. The Mounties tied the third game at 17 and the fourth at 16, but Sawyer, libero Jamie Harrington and senior setter Gabrielle Andrade engineered long scoring runs for the Skippers.
Even though the Mounties came up a win short of playing for the program’s first state title, D’Abate was proud of his squad. After graduating a number of talented players – including both middle hitters, the starting libero and starting setter – the Mounties went a round further this season.
“If you told me at the beginning of the season that we were a final-four team, I would’ve told you that you were crazy,” D’Abate said. “We had some many pieces that we had to replace, but the kids came in on the first day and bought into what we were trying to do. This is maybe the proudest I’ve been of a team other than that boys team last year. This might be the proudest moment I’ve had as a coach because these girls bought into what we were trying to do.”
North Kingstown (18-0 Division I) defeated the Mounties three times this season and the Skippers won all three matches in four games. The Skippers will play for their second straight state title Saturday afternoon at 5 at Rhode Island College’s Murray Center against either No. 2 Barrington or No. 6 La Salle.
After the Mounties tied the opening game at two, the Skippers simply served the Mounties off the court. Harrington served six straight points to help the Skippers open up a 12-4 lead. Mount setter Emma Picard served an ace to cut her team’s deficit to 15-10, but the Skippers answered with five straight points to claim the game.
Mount trailed 5-1 in the second game, but they responded to take a 9-7 lead after a Watson kill. Neither team led by more than three points, but the Skippers earned game point on a Kyla Berwitz ace. Marissa Tessier killed off the game point and then Isabella Giofre served two straight winners to tie the match.
“We just believed in each other and we played with heart the entire time,” Miller said.
NK, behind kills from Sawyer, opened up a five-point lead early in the third. But, just like the second game, the Mounties had an answer. Paige McCreight had a kill, while Miller added an ace and a kill to close the gap to one. The Mounties again battled back from a six-point deficit to the game at 17 The Skippers scored seven of the game’s final eight points to regain the lead.
The Mounties led the fourth game 15-14 after a thunderous Miller kill. Picard delivered a kill three points later to tie the game at 16, but the Skippers scored nine of the match’s final 11 points – including the final five – to reach the state final.
“We let them go on a few too many runs,” Miller said. “We kind of got down on ourselves when we lost a point and we let it affect the next few points. Overall, I’m really proud of what we did this year.”
Mount advances to D1 semifinals
By Jon Baker - Woonsocket Call
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, ‘Uh-oh!,’ but we talked among ourselves and said that this was a different year and a different group. We got our energy 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 25-11.
In the second, following three deadlocks and a pair of lead changes, MSC held cushions of 9-5, 16-11 and 19-14 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.”
Exceeding ExpectationsSenior captains, newcomers help Mount Saint Charles girls’ volleyball team net 5-2 record
By Eric Benevides - Valley Breeze
WOONSOCKET – It would have been easy to write off the Mount Saint Charles Academy girls’ volleyball team at the beginning of this season, especially since the Mounties graduated nine seniors last spring, including five starters who were either All-Division or All-State players.
But instead of rebuilding, it seems like this season’s Mounties have simply reloaded, and that’s been evident in the team’s outstanding start.
On Monday night, the Mounties bumped their Division I-B record to 5-2 by holding off a furious comeback by La Salle before coming away with a 3-2 triumph. Senior outside hitter Isabella Miller’s 13 kills and five aces and senior libero Katie Champagne’s 10 digs helped lead the Mounties to a 25-19, 26-24, 22-25, 20-25, 15-10 victory.
Miller, Champagne, and senior setter Emma Picard are the Mounties’ captains. They played key roles on last season’s squad that ran away with the Division I-North regular-season championship by posting a 15-3 mark, and they will again be counted on to lead a young team that’s short on varsity experience, but hanging tough in its division. Entering Wednesday night’s action, Mount was tied for second place with South Kingstown, with defending state champion North Kingstown leading the league with a 7-0 mark.
“We sort of came into this year not really knowing what we were going to have,” said MSC veteran head coach Josh D’Abate. “We have an influx of new players, but they’ve been in the program, so they understand what we’re trying to do. And so far, it’s been a great season. We’ve really worked hard in practice to get to where we are, and it starts with our seniors. They have been awesome and done a nice job leading (the team).”
Another senior who has been helping lead the way is Morgan Watson, who hadn’t seen a lot of varsity time before this year, but “has done a phenomenal job,” noted D’Abate. “She’s been our best middle all season. She’s been good at the net blocking and she’s been good offensively – knowing when to hit and when to throw, and being a little more aggressive. For someone who hadn’t seen a lot of court time, it’s been great to see that kind of development.”
Three newcomers to the team’s attack are junior right-side hitter Marissa Tessier and sophomores outside hitters Paige McCreight and Allison Melnychuk. That group, who had siblings star for D’Abate’s boys’ and girls’ teams during the past two years, have really impressed D’Abate, and McCreight and Melynchuk have really taken to the varsity game as 10th-graders.
“We stuck Paige on the outside because she can do so many things well,” remarked D’Abate. “She passes well, she plays good defense, and she has a great volleyball IQ, so she’s been a really special kind of player for us.” And as for Mclnychuk, “La Salle had two big blockers out there and she got balls past them quickly,” said the MSC coach. “She’s just getting better as she goes and I think she’s going to be really good.”
In their season opener, the Mounties suffered a 3-1 defeat to North Kingstown, which boasts one of the state’s most experienced teams, as well as two returning All-State players. But Mount came out strong in that match, winning the first set by a 26-24 score and holding a 23-20 lead in the second before the Skippers came back to win the set, 25-20, and rule the next two by scores of 25-16 and 25-13.
The Mounties then responded with four straight victories, including 3-0 shutouts of East Providence, Cumberland, and Prout, before suffering an agonizing 3-2 loss to Coventry last week that saw Mount take the first two sets, 25-23 and 25-13, but the Oakers bravely battle back to win the next three, 25-19, 25-22, and 16-14.
In Monday night’s victory over La Salle, it looked like the Mounties were going to experience a bit of deja vu after watching their 2-0 lead slip away in the third and fourth sets, but they turned in a strong performance in the final set to end their two-hour battle with the Rams.
“I think tonight’s match was important for us,” added D’Abate. “Up 2-0 and losing (sets) three and four, we could have folded. It happened against Coventry, and I thought it was important that we went out and kind of fought through some adversity tonight, especially for our younger players. This was a very good win for this kind of team, and it’s only going to help us going forward.”
The Mounties, who concluded their four-match homestand on Wednesday night by taking on Cranston East, will visit Barrington next Tuesday for a 7 p.m. match.
Mounties’ experience shows again Townies
By Eric Rueb - Providence Journal
WOONSOCKET — Just get better. That was the goal. When two of the state’s premiere girls volleyball teams meet, it’s usually a slugfest from the opening serve. Wednesday night’s match between East Providence and Mount St. Charles didn’t turn out that way. Two programs were taking the steps needed to reach their accustomed levels and the Mounties might be closer after their 25-22, 25-13, 25-21 win over the Townies.
“We know we have some pretty good players and it was nice to see us execute some of the things we’ve been working on in practice,” Mount coach Josh D’Abate said. “It’s good for these girls because we know East Providence is a real good team.”
“I don’t think it’s a setback. We’re building a team,” EP senior outside hitter Emma DaSilva said. “Most of these girls haven’t played on a varsity floor so we’re definitely getting used to it.”
If you throw the second set out of the match — which EP coach Alex Butler would have volunteered to do — Wednesday was almost what you’d expect when the Townies (0-2 Division I) and Mounties (1-1 D-I) meet up. Almost.
The sets still lacked a certain championship-caliber crispness, passes weren’t as clean, there were lapses in communication and the swings weren’t always finding their mark. But that was OK. It’s the second week of September.
On Wednesday Mount won thanks to some impressive serving. In the first set it was Katie Champagne befuddling the receiving Townies with a variety of well-placed first balls. Mount won six straight points to turn a 9-8 deficit into a 14-8 lead that never got closer than two in a 25-22 first-set win.
In the second, junior Marissa Tessier served. She kissed the net a few times with a topspin serve and threw a couple of high topspin lobs to the back line. For good measure, she mixed in a knuckler to completely flummox EP. She turned an already large 13-7 margin into 19-8 before the Mounties finished it off 25-13.
″[D’Abate’s] No. 1 rule is try and get it in the court,” Tessier said. “He doesn’t want it at like any pace or anything, just get it into play and we’re all good.”
By the third, the Townies had better luck with the serve receive but had no answer for the Mounties offensive attack. Setter Emma Picard dished out 11 of her 24 assists: six to Alli Melnychuk and five to Isa Miller. That included the last two points where Miller attempted to drill the ball through the floor to close the win, 25-21, in the third set. Miller had a match-high 12 kills while Melnychuk finished with six.
“We did some good things out there. There’s definitely some things we did that weren’t as good as Friday night [in a loss to North Kingstown], but you expect that with a young team,” D’Abate said. “You have your highs and lows and you have to keep getting better.”
The Townies have a reliable star in DaSilva (11 kills Wednesday) and are solid with junior Paige Messier setting (22 assists), but there is a lot of work to be done if East Providence wants to be something more than just another team.
“Our teams traditionally have always gotten better in the middle of October to the end of October,” Butler said. “It might take this team a little longer to get to that because of the inexperience, but I don’t doubt for a second we’ll be able to go out and play the way we’re capable of playing.”
Miller, Mount top Townies
By Branden Mello - Woonsocket Call
WOONSOCKET — Issa Miller’s role with the Mount St. Charles girls volleyball program has slowly grown since she was a rarely-used freshman watching her older sister, former Mount All-State setter Alex Miller, guide the Mounties to the state semifinals.
After playing an integral role last season, Miller has become the unquestioned team leader and go-to hitter when the Mounties need a point.
“Last year with all of the seniors we had, I was just a player and now I need to be more of a leader on the court with rotations and motivation,” Miller said. Wednesday night. “It’s a lot of fun to have a bigger role with the team and get more playing time and have more plays for you. It’s really a lot of fun.”
“She’s been involved with us since she was a freshman and she’s started since she was a sophomore,” Mount coach Josh D’Abate said. “She can handle the work load of taking more of the court defensively and getting 30 to 40 swings and being able to convert on a good number of them. It’s nice to have that kind of player because she’s a calming presence that helps the younger players because they really look up to her. She makes it easy on them.”
Miller only had 29 swings Wednesday night, but that’s because the Mounties needed little more than an hour to dispatch visiting East Providence, 25-22, 25-13, 25-21. Miller delivered kills on the penultimate and final points of the match, finishing the evening with a team-high 15 kills and five digs. Senior setter Emma Picard dished out 29 assists.
Mount St. Charles (1-1 Division I) heads to the Wellness Center tonight for their first road match of the campaign when they face rival Cumberland, whose coach, Ruth Plante, was in attendance Wednesday. After graduating a number of talented starters, the Mounties have shown there’s plenty of talent in the program after pushing reigning state champion North Kingstown to four games in the season opener.
“We knew we lost a lot of great players and great people last year, so we knew we needed to step up this year,” Miller said. “That mentality is kind of pushing us to play harder because we know we need to step up. I was really impressed with how we played [against NK] despite the loss, it was a really positive game for us. We thought we were going to get swept, but we hung with them.”
East Providence (0-2 Division I) still hasn’t won a game in a pair of matches, and the Townies made far too many serving, passing and hitting errors to ride back down Route 146 with a victory. After a blowout loss in the second game, coach Alex Butler’s crew earned a 19-18 lead in the third game when the Townies blocked an attempted setter dump by Picard.
Mount St. Charles answered with three straight points and went on to secure the victory thanks to a pair of kills from Miller. Fellow outside hitter Alli Melnychuk had 11 kills and five digs, while junior right-side hitter Marissa Tessier had five kills and three aces.
Even though Mount trailed for a total of two points in the first two games, D’Abate said communication was a big issue.
“We did some good things and I thought our serve-receive was pretty good – it wasn’t on par with Friday night,” D’Abate said. “If Friday night was an A, this was a B-plus. I thought the one thing we didn’t do well was communicate. We struggled out there. A lot of balls we played and got good touches to get ourselves in system on Friday, we just scrambled on tonight. We need to work on that.”
The Townies led 1-0 and 8-7 in the opening game, but that was as good as it got for the inexperienced side because hitting errors and serving errors allowed Mount to jump ahead 14-9. Even though EP closed the gap to one (17-16), Mount held on for the victory.
The home side jumped out to a 7-1 advantage in the second game and continued to pull away. Behind the play of Picard, Miller and Tessier, the Mounties stretched the lead out to 17-7 before cruising to a win. “As a young team, we have to learn to win. This was a good step in that direction,” D’Abate said. “I would’ve liked to see us after getting that second game by a pretty good score keep our foot on the gas and really take advantage of it. We didn’t do that, but I’m glad we responded to win the third and get out of here.”
Mount positive in defeat to NK
By Branden Mello - Woonsocket Call
WOONSOCKET — The final two games of the Mount St. Charles girls volleyball team’s season opener against reigning state champion North Kingstown went the way Mount coach Josh D’Abate had a feeling they would.
Fielding an inexperienced team that didn’t get a chance to practice Thursday, the Mounties were going up against a bigger NK team which featured a number of talented returning players, including All-Staters Chloe Khoer and Jamie Harrington.
What D’Abate didn’t expect – and what shocked everyone in attendance Friday night – was what happened in the first two games. Led by senior libero Katherine Champagne, senior setter Emma Picard and senior outside hitter Isa Miller, the Mounties took the opening game and were up 23-20 in the second game.
“I knew that level of play is there with this group of girls because we have good hitters, good passers and a setter, but I was surprised to see us fire out and play like we did tonight,” said D’Abate, who said prior to the match he wouldn’t be surprised if NK didn’t drop a game all season. “It’s good to know that we have that level in us, now it’s just about being consistent.”
Picard had 23 assists and seven digs, Miller delivered a team-high 14 kills to go along with five digs and sophomore Ally Melnychuk had four kills and four digs in a 24-26, 25-23, 25-16, 25-13 North Kingstown Division I victory.
The turning point in the match came after Miller delivered an ace to put the Mounties up 23-20 in the second game. The Mount could’ve won the next point after a Skipper free ball, but the visitors won point. D’Abate called a timeout after another NK point, but the Skippers scored the next three points after the timeout to even the match.
“It’s early in the season, so the fact that we had that opportunity, I like that,” D’Abate said. “It’s about learning how to win games like that with this group of girls. You have Ally, Paige [McCreight] and Bella [Gioffre] who haven’t played at this level. Bella is a brand new to the program, so it’s going to take a few opportunities and time to learn how to win those games.”
North Kingstown (1-0), which received a match-high 17 kills Koehr and eight kills and four blocks from junior middle Meaghan Corkey, started to pass better and take away Mount’s top hitters early in the third game. The Mounties trailed 16-12 in the third game when the Skippers took complete control of the match.
Led by Koehr and Harrington, the Skippers scored 34 of the match’s final 51 points to avoid an upset to the upstart Mounties.
“North Kingstown started to pick up their level of defense and started to adjust to the things that we scored on early in the match,” D’Abate said. “I think we ran out of some options because we weren’t scoring. I don’t think we ran out of steam, it was just we ran out of options on offense. I was very excited to see how we played tonight.”
The Skippers overcame a four-point deficit early in the opening game to take a 22-19 advantage thanks to superb hitting and blocking. Just when it seemed the Skippers took Mount’s best punch, Miller, Marissa Tessier and the Mounties went on a 7-2 run to claim the game.
North jumped out to an 11-5 lead in the second game, but, again, the Mounties rallied. Mount went on a 14-6 run to take a 19-17 lead. The Mounties led 23-20 after a Miller ace, but then the road side scored the final five points of the game and never looked back.
“Katie did a great job tonight in serve-receive,” D’Abate said. “We’re not a big offensive team, so we need Katie, Ally and Issa to pass the ball well. They were in serve-receive all six rotations in all four games – no one else was in serve-receive. Emma was awesome. We’re on her a lot to pass the ball with her hands and get in position to do it, she did that great tonight.”