Exceeding expectations

Exceeding expectations

Mount Saint Charles sophomore Paige McCreight, left, blocks the ball in front of La Salle senior Anastasia Harris during Monday night’s Division I matchup at the Mounties’ gymnasium. The Mounties improved to 6-2 by defeating the Rams by scores of 25-19, 26-24, 22-25, 20-25, and 15-10. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Senior captains, newcomers help Mount Saint Charles girls’ volleyball team net 5-2 record

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.

Mount Saint Charles senior libero Katie Champagne delivered 10 digs in Monday night’s 3-2 victory over La Salle.