On the heels of an undefeated season and consecutive state championships, the Bishop Hendricken volleyball team opened the 2012 season with two pretty good performances. But in game one of Monday’s match with North Kingstown, it looked like the Hawks might finally be falling back to earth.
Instead, they went higher.
After dropping game one 25-19 to the Skippers, the Hawks rallied for three straight victories, winning 25-19, 25-21 and 25-23 to move to 3-0 on the young season.
While there’s still a lot of work to be done for the Hawks, it was a strong step in the right direction.
“I think this is the most fun I’ve had in a third match of the year,” said head coach Mike Harrington. “Just the guts and the grit that we showed to battle with them was great to see.”
The Hawks lost a strong nucleus from last year’s team, and they’re working in some new players to go with a few key returnees. They won their first two matches 3-1 over La Salle and 3-0 over Chariho.
Coming into Tuesday’s match, Harrington wasn’t sure what to expect. North Kingstown is one of the taller teams in the league and had gone 3-1 in its first four matches. Throw in the fact that three Hawks were away on vacation, and it was a recipe for someone to finally catch up to a Hendricken team that hadn’t lost since 2010.
But the Hawks overcame all of that – plus the 1-0 deficit – and played their best volleyball of the year.
“If this is sort of our new level, I’m really excited,” Harrington said. “The first two matches, I thought we played well, but this match, I was really ecstatic with just the mental part of the game. We corrected our mistakes, we were hustling, diving into the bleachers – it was just awesome. I’m really psyched. If we can grow from here, I think we’ll be a really tough team.”
The Skippers took it to the Hawks in the early going, turning a 10-10 tie in game one into a 15-10 lead with five quick points in a row. Hendricken stayed within striking distance the rest of the way but continued to trail. Two kills by Brandon Simeone and an emphatic kill by Mike Scott on game point clinched a 25-19 victory for the Skippers.
“North Kingstown is solid,” Harrington said. ‘They’re good in every spot. They’re deep. They’ve got a great JV program. This is a program that never takes a season off. We know how good they are traditionally.”
But the Hawks also weren’t going to back down.
“Everyone on the court realized they could have been at least one play better and that’s enough to sort of determine that outcome,” Harrington said. “We understand it’s best of five. Down 0-1 isn’t a big deal.”
The Hawks fell behind 7-4 in game two, with Scott landing four kills in that span and giving the Skippers a shot of momentum with each one. But the Hawks quickly started to turn the tide.
Brendan Baker landed a kill to make it 7-5, and a carry on the Skippers made it 7-6. Baker then came up with a block to tie the game.
After North took the lead back, Hendricken reeled off six straight points thanks to a kill by Baker, two service points and three Skipper errors.
And the Hawks never looked back.
With Baker’s five kills leading the way, the Hawks kept North at arm’s length and held on late to even the match with a 25-19 victory.
“For us to win game two, it was like, wait a minute, we can do this,” Harrington said.
The teams traded points in the early going of game three, but soon enough, the Hawks started taking control. They didn’t really catch fire – over a 19-point span, they never won more than three in a row – but they won 13 of those 19 points to take a 22-16 lead. John Kane had four kills, and Baker had three in that span.
The Skippers rallied from there, winning four straight points to make it 22-20, but the Hawks got a big kill from Kane to make it 23-20, then won two of the next three points on errors to post a 25-21 victory.
In game four, the Hawks got off to a solid start, winning five of six at one point and taking a 10-7 lead. But after that, the Skippers came up with one of their best stretches of the night. They won 11 of the next 14 points to go up 18-13. Included in that surge were six kills.
With the match suddenly looking like it would head for five games, the Hawks buckled down.
Baker stopped North’s surge with a key block to make it 18-14, and Jahari Ford followed with an ace. After a point by the Skippers, Ford put down a kill and Baker came up with two more blocks to get the Hawks within a point. A hitting error on the Skippers tied the game at 19-19.
From there, the Skippers regained control by winning four of the next six points, and they led 23-21.
But the Hawks weren’t done. A service error made it 23-22 and a hitting error tied the match at 23-23. With new life, the Hawks seized the chance and played perfectly on the next two points. Kane punctuated both with kills, and the Hawks clinched the victory.
“I give the credit just to the grit and the hustle of the team,” Harrington said. “We pulled out some fire and determination tonight, and that was really good.”
Kane led the Hawks with 19 kills, Baker had 16 to go with four blocks and Ford chipped in with 11 kills. Because of the vacation absences, those three along with Shane Davidson, Matt Medeiros and Trent Medeiros played the entire match.
That was just one more factor that made it Hendricken’s best performance of the season. And it should be one to build on as the Hawks try to keep trending upward.
“We made some real hustle plays and we did things that exceeded my expectations from previous matches and from what we’ve done in practice,” Harrington said. “The kids were fired up to play hard tonight, and it showed. The fact that they overcame the newness and the changes that we had to make this week, I’m really proud of them.”
Hendricken will return to action Friday night when it hosts South Kingstown at 6:30 p.m.