NARRAGANSETT – Just two steps remain in the road to perfection for the Narragansett girls volleyball team.
The upset was threatened briefly, but the top seeded Mariners overcame a slow start and eventually trounced the Central Falls Warriors 18-25, 25-17, 25-12, 25-16 in the Division II quarterfinals Tuesday night at the Narragansett Pier School.
“I don’t want them to come out slow,” said Narragansett coach Abby Hummel. “We try and work on that, we try and talk about that right before every first set. ‘Let’s not come out slow. Let’s be first to five.’ And then we’ll come out and give three straight points to the other team.
“Sometimes we joke maybe we should just start the scoreboard at 0-3 and then we’ll start playing. Save us some time. I don’t know how to get them out of that funk and I just have come to the realization that’s this team and I just have to accept it at this point.”
When the night began it looked as though Monday might be the night Narragansett’s undefeated run came to an end as they were played off the court in the first set.
The Mariners battled back and forth for a while early, eventually going on a four-point run near the middle of the set to tie it at 13-13, but they never really threatened and never took the lead as Central Falls coasted to the 25-18 win.
Only once this season had the Mariners trailed a divisional opponent – a 20-25, 25-22, 18-25, 25-20, 15-6 win at Exeter-West Greenwich on Oct. 3 – but that one comeback was all they needed to gain the confidence needed for when facing adversity.
“We’ve been down against other teams, which I thought was great for us as a learning process and to see how well they bounce back,” Hummel said. “I’m never nervous about losing a set, I am always nervous to see that next set.
“I have four seniors and there’s two juniors that start and most of the time they are coming off yelling like ‘pick it up! Come on, guys!’ I don’t even have to talk. …I couldn’t be more proud of the leadership they have and how well they dig themselves out of those situations.”
The two sides traded runs early in the second set, but with the score tied 8-8 the Mariners finally locked in and went on a 12-3 run to put a healthy cushion between themselves and the Warriors at 20-11.
Some control issues on the Narragansett side of the net allowed Central Falls to close the deficit to 20-16 with a five-point run, but Gabby Leclerc regained the serve and scored an ace down the stretch as the home team put together a 5-1 run to even the match at one set apiece.
As the night went on, the momentum continued to build for Narragansett as it threw the hammer down in emphatically stamping their ticket to the semifinals. Central Falls scored the first point of the third, but that was where their highlights in the set ended as Narragansett found its stroke on the serving line, totaling eight aces – including three straight at one point by Meghan Sawyer – as they rolled to their biggest win of the night, 25-12.
The final score of the third set was closer than the second, but the Mariners ended things early as they opened the set on a 12-3 run. It was an even 13-13 trade of points as the game closed 25-16, but the set and the match were long since over. Narragansett had secured the win and with it advanced to Thursday night’s semifinals at URI’s Keaney Gymnasium (results unavailable at time of press).
There they met with East Greenwich, who they posted a pair of victories over during the regular season; 25-21, 25-20, 25-18 on the road on Sep. 23 and a 25-23, 25-13, 25-22 home win on Oct. 21. Regardless of opponent and track record, however, Hummel knows her team has the capacity to overcome whatever may come before their journey comes to an end.
“It’s more confidence,” said the Mariners coach. “They know that first set is most of the time not the way they play. They know they’re better than that. You can see it their faces, how mad they get when they hit the ball out of bounds because they know they’re better than that. How mad they get when they miss a pass because they’re just that much better than what they’re showing.”