By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – When the two Bristol scholastic volleyball teams squared off in a city series showdown on Monday, Oct. 26, each squad had a very different agenda.
Bristol Central came into the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium looking to reverse a four game losing streak while Bristol Eastern wanted to secure a little momentum going into the squad’s biggest challenge of the campaign.
However, the Rams put up one heck of a fight against Eastern – taking set one of the showdown – before eventually falling in the end, three sets to one.
Game scores were 18-25, 25-17, 25-8 and 25-12 as the Lancers swept Central to claim the season series.
Eastern (15-1) celebrated senior night and started several of those players in a whirlwind first set that eventually fell apart on the squad due to errors and mental mistakes.
But once the Lancers went back to its strengths, which included its vaunted outside hitting game, the home team settled in and played an improved overall floor game.
And once that rust was shaken off, Eastern used its superior size to reign down kills – fueling the offensive charge of the Lancers.
Eastern’s Megan Gettings played in her final regular season contest from home and zipped up 16 kills and eight digs to lead the charge while fellow senior Angela Daley also displayed her power game with 17 kills.
Fellow senior Kamryn McLaughlin added two kills, Chyna Barrett zipped up nine kills while Paisley Tucker nabbed two kills and a dig.
Crafty Bailey Wyrebek played big with 21 digs and three aces.
Mikayla Martin ramped up five kills and two digs; Hannah Langlais flipped up two aces, seven digs, and went 20-of-21 on the serving front.
Setter Jessica Kenney also played well, working hard for 44 assists, 3 digs and was 18-of-19 serving
Central (9-9) came to fight and held the advantage during all four sets of the outing.
Allie Martel certainly did her part and the four year veteran led the charge with six kills and four aces while going a slick 19-of-19 from the service line.
“I thought she had a great game tonight,” said Bristol Central coach Jen Broderick of Martel.
The Rams’ other four year contributor, Cydney Martin, also contributed to the effort with five kills and three digs and the duo certainly established the defensive foundation of what turned into a victorious effort in set one.
And that Central unit, along with Hailee Velaquez, Brittany Stancavage, Alexa Caron, Kailey Davis, Kallie Clark, and Sam Laviero, played exceptional defense and forced Eastern into early mistakes and gaffes – leading to a big first frame push and eventually, a 1-0 edge in match play.
However, the momentum shifted quickly and when the Eastern bigs started to take over, the Rams couldn’t make adjustments against the Lancers’ size on the court.
“I thought we played a great game defensively,” said Broderick. “But we just couldn’t keep up with the amount of power that was coming our way. When we had to capitalize, we hit the ball out or in the net or whatever.”
“We just didn’t capitalize when we had the chances.”
But Central certainly took advantage in set one and just moments into the fray, Central snared a 4-0 edge and never looked back.
“I think in the first game, Central just played very well,” said Eastern coach Stacy Rivoira. “They did a lot of things right and we didn’t. We made a lot of errors. We couldn’t pass. We were putting the ball in the net a lot. We were hitting out. We weren’t serving well.”
“That combination is not going to win games.”
When Daley registered her first kill of the evening, Central led by three but Eastern cut the deficit to 10-8 when Wyrebek flipped in a serve that was not returnable and the Rams made an error at the net.
But things went south from there for the Lancers and Central – using an 8-1 run – captured an impressive 18-9 lead as Martel started the jaunt with a kill and ended it with an ace.
Martin came back with a kill, as did Daley, and eventually an 8-2 burst by the Lancers closed the deficit to 20-17.
However, Gettings blasted a kill into the net and when Clark snuck in an ace, Central when on a 5-1 jaunt to close out the first period.
“In the first game, I don’t think we were really making them play defense because we weren’t hitting at them and that’s usually a strength of ours,” said Rivoira.
In the end, another bad serve foiled the Lancers, Daley sent a kill shot long and when a ball Martel crushed was deflected out of bounds, the Rams ramped up a 25-18 victory in set one and was looking for bigger and better things during set two.
“They did a lot of things very well and that’s why they won that game,” said Rivoira of Central.
Central kept the pace up in the second set, seizing a 3-0 edge and keeping it at 5-5 when Clark struck the Lancers with an over the head shot that fell on Eastern’s side of the court for a point.
And Central continued to hang around, even as the Lancers built a slim lead midway through the period, when another Eastern gaffe saw the Rams trail by just a 15-11 push.
“Mentally, we just had errors throughout the whole game,” said Rivoira. “Central’s points came off of our mistakes. They weren’t necessarily making a lot of mistakes until we started forcing the ball down at them and making them play defense.”
Eastern couldn’t shake the Rams entirely but Daley started to get her power game in order and once Kinney found her on the outside, a quick kill followed and the home team was in front 22-14.
“As you can tell, they are loaded with a few power hitters,” said Broderick of Bristol Eastern. “We just weren’t on our game tonight. You give them a few points here or there and they run with it.”
Late in the frame, Wyrebek flipped in an ace, Martel added a kill and when one final Central serve failed to make it over the net, Eastern won the set 25-18 and tied the match up at 1-1 apiece.
Central kept the third stanza close and at 6-6, the set was truly up for grabs.
But Eastern took firm control of the match and when Gettings got off some slick serving, Daley was able to punch some balls down on Central’s side of the court, quickly building Eastern’s lead in the fray.
“We just started to swing, our ball started going in, we started passing better, we got into a rhythm and that made a big difference for us,” said Rivoira.
The Lancers ended the set on a 19-2 burst as Kinney started getting better chances in setting the ball and in turn, Eastern put down the kills in quick order.
“She struggled in the first game and that was a big reason why we couldn’t hit,” said Rivoira of Kenney. “When she sets well, our hitters can hit well. When she’s on target, our hitters can do what they need to do. I think it’s really important she be in the right position to receive the ball in the areas she needs to receive them and put them up so our hitters can swing at them.”
To end the third set, Kinney sent over a few serves that did not come back over the net and off one final ace, Eastern won the tilt by a 25-8 final and went ahead in the match 2-1.
“They’re a great team,” said Broderick of Eastern. “They have a lot of weapons.”
Again, the Rams came out of the gate fighting and kicking to stay in it when the Rams nabbed a 5-4 edge and went ahead 8-6 when the Lancers misfired on four serves to open the final set.
But quickly, Eastern went on a blazing 8-1 run to secure a 14-9 edge and built that advantage into an 11 point lead (22-11) when Tucker tipped over a kill.
“They missed four serves in the last game, you’ve just got to capitalize on that when it happens and go on a run and we didn’t,” said Broderick.
Central ran out of gas from there and once Gettings dropped in two serves that could not be cleanly returned, Eastern won the fourth set 25-12 and took the match by a 3-1 final.
“I was glad they came out of their funk and did what we needed to do because we have to get ready for RHAM,” said Rivoira of her squad. “Mentally, that’s a challenge.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE