By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – If you don’t show consistency during state tournament play, it could be a stumbling block that leads to eventual doom and demise.
And in a crowded 2013 Class L volleyball field, anything can happen and a sleeper team could arise from the dark off a stretch of up and down play.
But Bristol Eastern did just enough to disrupt No. 11 Maloney in its second round war and pick up a 3-1 victory over the Spartans from the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium in Bristol on Thursday, Nov. 7.
The win moved No. 6 Eastern to 20-2 on the season to tackle No. 3 Joel Barlow, the third ranked squad in the bracket.
Maloney (16-5) pushed Eastern in all four games and off mental mistakes and early miscues, the Spartans took the first set of the match.
But in the end, Eastern won three straight games to capture its third win in three tries against the Maloney outfit.
However, it was a struggle throughout as Eastern showed plenty of rust after winning the CCC Tournament Championship the previous Saturday and earned a first round bye.
“We won ugly,” said Eastern coach Stacy Rivoira. “I’m happy that we won. I’m not happy that we didn’t play well.”
Eastern’s heavy-hitters – Cheyenne Orsi and Jenna Rodjenski – came through and racked up 30 and 13 kills, respectively. But the rest of the squad didn’t show much up front.
“We did it tonight because we have two big hitters,” said Rivoira. “Other than that, I don’t think we swung at the net. No one really put the ball down. I think we need to do a better job of moving the ball around. We are very fortunate Cheyenne can put so many balls down. We are very fortunate that Jenna can put the balls down.”
“But the rest of the team needs to show up, play defense and take a little pressure off our hitters.”
Brianna Root came through again and tallied up 42 assists and nine digs. Meanwhile, Brooke Johnson went a perfect 21-of-21 on the serving front.
Maloney’s Lindsey Massicotte tallied 11 kills and 22 digs in the losing effort.
It was a challenge from the start and Maloney once again played the Lancers tit-for-tat in what turned into a four-set battle of wills.
Eastern led early in the first game. But off several aces by Maloney’s Brianna Alica, the visitors snared a 14-7 push and that was a huge first cushion set for the Spartans.
“They were so inconsistent,” said Rivoira of her squad. “I just felt like there were too many inconsistencies where we couldn’t generate a good roll. We couldn’t put any runs together long enough except when we were serving.”
The Lancers closed the deficit to four on three separate occasions – the last being off a Rodjenski kill – as Eastern trailed 21-17.
But a late game kill by Massicotte ended any additional momentum by the home team as Maloney eventually wrapped up a 25-19 win in game one.
“Victor prepares his team well,” said Rivoira of Maloney coach Victor Rivera. “It’s always a battle no matter what their record is. It really doesn’t matter what their record is when we play Maloney. It goes out the window and it really comes down to a mental game.”
Game two took a similar tone and quickly, the set was knotted at 4-4 before two critical runs by Eastern broke open the stanza.
Off a 4-0 jaunt, Orsi dropped in three points – two by big slams – as Eastern went ahead in the frame 8-4.
Later on, off the power of slick serving by Rodjenski, the Lancers used a 6-0 run to capture an 18-8 edge.
“Jenna had a couple runs, some other people had a couple runs,” said Rivoira of Eastern’s serving.
At least through stretches of the match, the Lancers were looking like its old self.
Maloney cut the deficit to seven late in the second game. But in the end, Eastern was a 25-16 set victor and tied the match up at 1-1.
The fate of the third game hung in the balance early on. But off a Rodjenski slam – by a sweet set-up from the clever Root – the Lancers led 9-7.
But with Maloney trailing by just one, the Lancers used another quick run to snare some additional breathing room.
An 8-2 burst, highlighted by five Orsi kills and quality serving by Shannon Michelson, Eastern led 17-10 and never saw its edge dip lower than four points that rest of the way.
In the end, the Lancers zipped up a 25-16 win in set three and led 2-1 in the match.
Game four was decided early as Maloney made some early substitutions and off several aces by Johnson, Eastern picked up a 7-2 push.
The Lancers‘ edge was as much as 11-4 midway through the frame. But off an 8-3 tilt, Maloney was down only two, 14-12, and once again, the set was up for grabs.
But it was Rodjenski’s turn to serve again and off a couple nasty aces, Eastern used a 6-0 run take a 20-12 lead and cruise to a 25-17 victory to win the match and to move on to the quarterfinal round against Joel Barlow.
“I’m happy that we won,” said Rivoira. “But we need to do better than this.”