By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The first time the Bristol Central and Plainville volleyball teams faced off in 2013, the Blue Devils only showed up for the first set.
But the next time around – in a showdown from Bristol – Plainville pushed the Rams to the limit.
However, the veterans from Central made all the late kills on offense and tallied huge stops on the defensive end to take down Plainville 3-0 in a CCC South challenge.
With the win, the Rams moved to 10-5 on the campaign while Plainville fell to 5-9 and must take three out of its final four games to qualify for state tournament play.
The match was a real back-and-forth affair and while Central tallied a 3-0 shutout -behind game scores of 25-18, 25-18, and 25-23, the showdown was a lot closer than the final score indicated.
Plainville scooped up leads in each of the games and nabbed a 23-20 edge in the third game before finally falling apart late.
It was a night and day showing for Plainville in the rematch between the teams.
“When I think back to what the last two sets looked like when (Central) came to our place, that may have been some of the worst volleyball we’ve played this year and some of the worst, ever,” said Plainville coach Steve Compson of the first showdown between the squads. “The wheels fell off on us in that third set. But tonight, we (stayed) with them.”
The Blue Devils had many standouts on the night as senior Alicia Gorski tallied seven assists while fellow senior Sarah Thompson zipped in six kills.
Emilia Filipkowski, a promising junior, added four kills and made a critical late kill in the third period to give Plainville a chance to take the set.
A number of bench players also contributed in the fray as Sarah Abdelsame, Michele Thibodeau, and Julie Tattersall all made big plays.
Of course, veterans Marissa Rizzo and Sarah Ercoli also made things happen on the court as well as Emily Duda.
“We changed up the rotation a bit,” said Compson. “We brought some of our younger guys in. Sarah Abdelsame had a nice block for us when she was in. Martha (Boltromiejuk) is still learning the game. We went into the (shot) blocker towards the end of the game. A couple other people also hit into the block. We’re just not good enough scooping out the blocker on the other side.”
For the Rams, stud Lauren Valley posted 10 kills and three huge blocks – just like the first time around against Plainville – while Cyndey Martin made five big kills.
Smooth setter Lara Colegrove dished out 23 assists and the returning Allie Martel made her start count with five digs and 11 service points.
But every time Central looked to be making some separation in the game, a key mistake or gaffe by the Rams left the door open for Plainville.
“I feel like we made way too mistakes and, mentally, we were kind of dwelling on the past things that we did,” said Bristol coach Jen Broderick after the game to her players. “In a game that six need to play as one, (if) one person takes their head out of the game, it falls apart (as) a group of six.”
The first period was a war off the bat as both teams could not post any real advantage.
But every time Central looked to be inching up the lead a little bit, Plainville had a response for each and run that was made.
“In that first set, we got down a couple times by two, three or four points and we fought back and tied it,” said Compson.
It went to-and-fro but with the Blue Devils leading at 18-17, the Rams made its collective move.
Vallee tallied up a long kill and off an ace by Hallie Velazquez, Central inched in front 19-18 and never looked back.
Velazquez served over a couple additional balls that weren’t returned and off a Thompson shot that was sent out of bounds, the Rams won the first set 25-19.
In the second tilt, three ties highlighted a close stanza as Plainville led 4-0 off the bat as Thompson dropped an ace in down the sideline that no Central player wanted any part of.
Central immediately tied it back up — with a Vallee kill notching the score at 4-4 — but the Blue Devils remained pesky and went up 8-5 off a mini run.
Later in the fray, Rizzo dropped in an ace of her own and quietly, Plainville led 12-9.
“They were just all over every single ball that we played,” said Broderick of Plainville. “They were in every play and made it tough for us.”
But an 8-0 Central jaunt — highlighted by two Erin Palmqiust serves that did not make it back over the net — the Rams led 17-12.
Plainville got as close as three points the rest of the way as Central held on to take the set 25-18 and grabbed a 2-0 lead in the match.
“In both the first and second sets, I thought we stalled out somewhere around 15, 16, 17 points and we just couldn’t go the distance with them,” said Compson.
In the third and final set, the Rams raced out to a 7-0 push off some slick serving by Martel to open the stint and off that start, Compson took a timeout.
He actually sat his team down during the break, had them all drink a little water, and got the squad refocused.
And soon, Central’s 8-1 cushion began to evaporate as Plainville got right back into the swing of things.
Sarah Abdelsame blocked a shot for a point and off a hit by Thompson that was not returned, Plainville was hanging around and trailed by just a 14-12 tally.
But even off a Vallee tip over for a point, Plainville eventually evened the thing at 15-15 and the action went back and forth.
“In the third game, when we went up 8-1, that was when I thought we were back and then we gave up six points in a row off mistake after mistake,” said Broderick. “After that mistake, we didn’t learn from it and they (the players) didn’t say ‘I’m not going to do it again’ because they did it again.”
With the Rams leading by one, the Blue Devils raced out to a 6-1 tilt and off an ace by Gorski and a Vallee shot that fell into the net, Plainville’s lead reached 22-18.
Later, Filipkowski landed a clean kill in the middle of the floor and the Blue Devils were at 23-20 and two points away from taking the set.
But Vallee, started her team off on a game-ending run, which included a long kill by the senior that landed in a zone no Plainville player was guarding.
And then she blocked a huge shot, capturing a point in the process, and the Rams were at game-point at 24-23.
“She knew what she had to do,” said Broderick of Vallee. “That ball that she pushed to the corner, she saw (it) and said ‘Okay, I can’t go up and swing at this. I have to put it to a spot’ and so she did. She’s smart enough to know when she needs to jump serve and when she needs to do a regular serve that she normally gets in every time. She knows that…she’s a competitor and she doesn’t want to lose.”
“That block was a momentum changer and that’s what this game is about.”
The final volley of the night was impressive as both teams were unwilling to give in.
But a penalty was called on Plainville to end the evening as the Rams rumbled up a 25-23 win.
“I’m not happy that we lost,” said Compson. “I would have liked to have seen it go another set. But looking at the way we played tonight, I think if we can play this way the next four games that we have, hopefully we can turn them into victory.”
NOTES…Plainville has certainly played better than its 5-9 ledger indicates and the team’s coach sees that very fact.
“I thought we played well,” said Compson. “We hung in with a very good team and one of the goals for the team is to be competitive against teams we have struggled against. We sure struggled with these guys the first time around. But I thought we played much better tonight.”
“So we walk out of here with a loss but also at the same time with a little bit in the gumption department.”