By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The glass was half-empty and half-full for the two Bristol public school volleyball squads entangled in its first city series showdown in volleyball from Bristol Central on Monday, Sept. 30.
On one hand, you had the defending Class L champions, Bristol Eastern, looking to fine-tune itself during the midseason encounter.
On the other, you had an ever-improving Bristol Central squad who might have just collectively turned the corner of its campaign.
Even as the Lancers zipped up a 3-0 match win over the Rams by scores of 25-19, 25-14 and 25-13, Eastern head coach Stacy Rivoira wanted her squad to pick up their overall play.
Some sloppy possessions by the Lancers saw the Rams hang around in all three games.
“We have to stop giving teams points because it makes our job a lot harder and it puts a lot of pressure on our offense to deliver the ball,” said Eastern coach Stacy Rivoira. “It puts more pressure on Bri (Brianna Root) because she’s taking bad passing and having to do a lot more with them.”
“She’s expending a lot of energy when she shouldn’t.”
All the usual suspects did well for Eastern as Jenna Rodjenski tallied a game high 17 kills, the returning Cheyenne Orsi moved well on the court and nailed 12 kills while the slick and crafty Lancers’ setter, Root, zipped up 31 assists, and showed great ball placement – even as passes to her were a bit off the mark.
For Central, the team got contributions from many fronts.
Cyndey Martin and Lauren Vallee notched six kills apiece, Lara Colegrove dished out 10 assists while Allie Martel was 7-for-7 on the serving front before leaving the game due to injury.
However for the Rams, it was a total team effort in the loss.
“You know, my girls played really well,” said Central coach Jen Broderick. “They really did. That first game could have gone either way and we had opportunities in all three games.”
It was certainly an entertaining challenge over the first frame of play as the teams went toe-to-toe.
Five lead changes and five ties highlighted a back and forth affair but the Lancers opened the game up with a 4-1 burst.
But off a 5-1 spark by the Rams, a Lara Colebrook serve was not returned and Central led 7-5.
It went back and forth from that point and off a non-returnable serve from the hands of Martel, the Rams zipped in front 14-11.
However, Eastern pulled ahead off an 8-1 run as Vallee smashed two balls into the net and the Lancers’ lead grew to 19-15.
“We were up many times,” said Broderick. “We just didn’t take advantage of those opportunities. We made a couple mental mistakes and the momentum went the other way. Without those mental mistakes, you never know.”
Central remained pesky, chopping the deficit to two late. But in the end, Orsi generated a kill and off a Shannon Mickleson serve that wasn’t sent back over the net, Eastern wrapped up a 25-19 win in a very competitive first period bout.
Central opened the second tilt off a 4-2 run but five quick Eastern points later, with Orsi squeezing in a couple kills, the Lancers etched up a 7-4 lead.
Later, Root tipped over a shot, Wyrebek delivered a serve the Rams couldn’t handle and halfway through the thing, Eastern led 15-7.
But Martel was lost after taking a direct shot to the head by the ball and ended up leaving the encounter.
Even through that, the Rams kept fighting.
“I think we just proved that we can play with this team and we can beat this team,” said Broderick. “And I was down a starter (Martel).”
The Rams hung around even as the Lancers built up its lead but a 4-0 push by Eastern ended the second game, giving the visitors a 25-14 win and a 2-0 lead in the match.
“It’s not reflective in the scores but we hung with this team,” said Broderick. “And we were up against this team.”
In the third game, Central looked like it could have won the period off a hot start.
Martin tallied a hit, Vallee had a blocked shot for a score and off a long hit from Savannah White that went out of bounds, the Rams led 5-0 right off the bat.
But Eastern did not call a timeout as Rivoira’s squad worked out of the jam and got right back into the thick of things.
Off a neat 8-2 jaunt – powered by a big Orsi slam and two aces by Brooke Johnson – the Lancers forced the action and went up 10-7.
“I do have a lot of confidence in my girls, even when they’re not doing what I expect them to be doing,” Rivoira said. “I have a lot of confidence in what they can do and I think it’s important that sometimes they work their way out of something like that (jam). And they have in the past and they have come, actually, from down eight points and come back to win games this year. They need to believe they can because I can’t do it for them…I am in the sidelines.”
“They need to work it out, they need to figure out how to win and what they have to do to get that done.”
Eventually, Martin dropped in a deep shot to cut the deficit to 11-10 but Central couldn’t get any closer.
To end the contest, Eastern used a 14-3 run to sew up the match.
Kills by Rodjenski and Kaylee Cruz started the beginning of the end while the senior captain added consecutive finishes to ice the third game as Eastern took a 25-14 win and the shutout victory.
And while Eastern scooped up the win, its coach expects bit more out of her squad.
“I’m glad that we won,” said Eastern coach Stacy Rivoira. “I might have high expectations (and) for the amount of time that we spend practicing defense, I expect more balls to go to Bri (Root). We really need to get better at that. We need to stop missing so many serves.”
“In game two, we missed six, seven serves…in game three we didn’t and look at the score.
Central, on the other hand, showed glimpses of being that elite type of team when the entire package is all put together.
“We played great” said Broderick. “I’m very proud of my team. They came in, they were prepared. Like I said, it was just a few mental lapses at key times where we needed to make a play. It just turned the momentum the other way.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE