By MICHAEL LETENDRE
PLAINVILLE – Along the way to one of the program’s best seasons in quite some time, the Bristol Central volleyball team has experienced precious few bumps in the road in 2012.
And in a road engagement with a pesky club from Plainville, the Rams kept its path on the straight and narrow.
Outside of a back and forth third set, Central ruled the day once again and smashed Plainville 3-0 in a CCC South affair from the Ivan Wood Gymnasium in Plainville on Monday, Oct. 22.
To the Blue Devils’ credit, the third game was a challenge for the Rams as the home team put up a fight before falling in consecutive sets, 25-5, 25-3, and 25-17.
And when the Rams were playing well, it was certainly something wonderful to behold.
With Central minimizing mistakes, the Blue Devils were limited to only eight total points over the first two frames.
“Overall, what I wanted these girls to work on today was the little things,” said Central coach Jen Broderick. “We always want the girls to work on the little things but it’s those things that are going to win games. I think we only missed one serve all night and I think it was in the third game. Our passing on the free-ball has to be perfect so we can get the hit. Moving our feet to the ball, just transitioning and being in the correct positions, those little things, that’s what we need to do, every game, every play to win and that’s what we focus on in every game.”
“Today, I focused more on those things because I told (my players) we should win this game like the score (actually) was.”
Central’s Emily McKenzie was once again the game’s featured player as she picked up 15 big kills while teammate Lauren Valley added seven kills and scooped up 15 consecutive service points in the second period.
Lauren Hartwell smashed in six kills while setting sensation Lara Colegrove directed traffic and dished out 22 assists.
Allie Martel, Erin Palmquist, and Gretchen Edelman all played well for the Rams, now an impressive 14-3.
After a listless first two sets of the evening, Plainville sprung to life in the third stanza and took it right to the Rams.
At one point, the Blue Devils picked up a 13-12 edge late in the third and behind some inspired play from Katy Dressel, Sarah Thompson, and Alicia Gorski, the home team made its stand.
“I said to (the players) between the two sets, and it was a long, drawn out question, but basically (it was) do you got more than that in you and are you better than that?” said Plainville coach Steve Compson. “And coach Roy and I really didn’t fly into hysterics or anything and it was a simple question… ‘Are you a better volleyball player that you just showed?’ And I think they (responded).”
“In that third set, I think they looked more like the team that I thought we were going to be than any other time they were out there.”
But then Central reasserted itself and behind a couple kills and superior serving from the versatile McKenzie, the game was all but over as Central won the third set by eight points.
“She’s an overall player,” said Broderick of McKenzie. “She can set, she can hit, she can pass. She was an All-Conference player last year. I expect the same this year.”
In the first set, Plainville only trailed 6-4 early but from there, McKenzie and Palmquist’s serving was too tough to handle as Central went on a 19-1 burst to capture a 25-5 set victory in game one.
In set two, the Blue Devils’ struggles continued.
Vallee went for 15 consecutive points in the second frame before the Blue Devils scored a point.
Off a hit and point by April Lemanski, the Blue Devils trailed 15-2 but Colegrove went on to score eight service points and the game was all but over.
Three points later, Plainville trailed 0-2 and needed to win three straight sets to take the match.
“Inconsistency is our major problem,” said Compson. “If we pass well, then we don’t set well. If we pass and set well, then we don’t hit well.”
McKenzie opened the third set with a blazing hitting exhibition as the Rams went ahead 6-1.
But Dressel suddenly came alive – zipping in a couple of aces – and off a 6-1 Plainville run of its own, the match was tied at 7-7.
“I thought Katy Dressel looked like the Katy Dressel of old tonight,” said Compson. “She can really pound that ball and she was knocking them back for a while there. She had a couple good hits but (Central) dug them. Give Bristol Central all the credit in the world. They got some good digs on (Dressel) and I told Katy hits are good but what we really needed was kills and she got (seven).”
“She was our bright spot tonight.”
Central held a slim edge but off a Rams’ miscue, Plainville led by one and another Dressel slam gave the Blue Devils a 13-12 push.
“In the third game, we came out and we started to make mistakes, and we started to wait for Plainville to make a mistake and we weren’t hustling to the ball,” said Broderick. “During (our) timeout, I just said weren’t not moving our feet. We just expect (Plainville) to roll over and fall apart and let us win. And Plainville’s not going to.”
“So we needed to go back, earn our points just like we did in the first game, get the ball to Emily, get the ball to Lauren, serve-receive passing…and I think we woke up, we started to do a little better and got that confidence boost.”
McKenzie and company got back to the basics and eventually pulled out a 25-17 win and a sweep in the match.
“We have to play our game, no matter who we play,” said Broderick. “It’s not, we’re playing this team so play at this level or we’re playing this team, we play at this level. And that’s what I think we did in the first two games and then, we got a little off kilter on a couple plays (in the third period) and then it was like domino effect.”
Plainville certainly gave it a run in the third set but in the end, the Blue Devils simply fell to one of the top teams in the CCC South.
“In honesty, we’re lacking that sometimes,” said Compson about PHD, the passion, the heart and the desire. “It’s very painful as a coach to put it that way because I know what some of these kids are capable of and we just don’t seem to get there consistently.”
NOTES…The 14 victories is the most Broderick has won in a season for Central…Dressel, Thompson, Gorski and Kelley Slabinski all played well for the Blue Devils.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE