Thunderbolts strike Tigers

Thunderbolts strike Tigers

Tolman’s Connor Duhamel, right, sets the ball for teammate Isai Prince, #12, as a Cranston East player jumps for the block during last week’s Division II quarterfinal-round match. Duhamel handed out 25 assists for the Tigers, who suffered a 3-0 loss to the defending champions. (Breeze photos by Kayla Panu)
Volleyball team bows in D-II quarters to defending champs

CRANSTON – The Tolman High boys’ volleyball team ended its regular season on a high note by winning five of its final six matches, but the Tigers could not keep that momentum going last Thursday night, as they fell in the quarterfinals of the Division II playoffs to defending champion Cranston East, 3-0.

Both teams had a first-round bye, but the Thunderbolts, who were 13-3 and the South’s second seed, hosted the Tigers, who were 12-5 and the North’s third seed, putting Tolman at somewhat of a disadvantage, as the Tigers use their smaller gym as a strength.

“(We made) a lot of mental errors today,” Tolman head coach Neil Nachbar said after watching his team lose the match by scores of 25-22, 25-13, and 25-21. “There were physical errors too, but you’re always going to have some of those.

“But I’m most disappointed in the breakdown in our communication and just not executing the game plan that we prepared for. We had nine days to practice, (which is) a long stretch, and we practiced with Cranston East in mind every day.”

The first set was an evenly matched one that kept going back and forth until the Tigers crumbled and the Thunderbolts took advantage by scoring five of the final seven points to snap a 20-20 tie.

After rolling past the Tigers in the second set, Cranston East took its momentum and confidence into the third set and opened it with a 7-3 run. But after the Tigers came back to tie the score at 10-10, they went on to grab leads of 17-15 and 20-17.

Cranston East, however, answered back by rattling off eight of the next nine points, including the final six to clinch the match and claim a spot in the semifinals, which was held on Tuesday night against Toll Gate across town at Cranston West’s gym.

“The first set, I thought we should have won,” Nachbar added. “We had three mental errors in a row. Down the stretch, we had a foot fall, which never happens, and we got beat on a tip, which shouldn’t happen with a single block. (In) the second game, I think maybe we were still hanging our heads from the first set, and some of that carried over into the second.”

Tolman setter Connor Duhamel had 25 assists, setting up his teammates and diving all over the floor as he tried to keep his senior season alive. Junior Brandson Mesquita also added nine kills at the net, and senior Mharlin Baptista had 10 digs and six kills.

Nachbar said that his Tigers were at a disadvantage going up against a team like Cranston East because of their numbers. He said that Cranston East has more freshmen than they do players, and he had to leave players in the game that were struggling because his bench players just did not have the varsity experience to fill in for them.

“I think that Cranston East is extremely well coached,” Nachbar said. “They aren’t the defending champions for nothing. Even though they have a new group for the most part, they play smart, and they are a team that is not going to beat themselves.”

Nachbar is hoping that his program can get more players in the next few years to keep the team growing and get it back up to a championship level.

“I thought we had a great season with regards to players improving as (the season) went along,” Nachbar said. “I had no idea how many wins we’d end up with, but we had some big wins along the way, especially on Senior Night, sweeping North Smithfield. We wish our seniors (Duhamel, Baptista, and Stevenson Vincent) good luck in their future endeavors.”

Tolman senior Mharlin Baptista, right, gets ready to blast a spike past the reach of Cranston East’s Mason Paugh during last week’s Division II quarterfinal-round match, which was won by the defending champion Thunderbolts by scores of 25-22, 25-13, and 25-21.