PROVIDENCE — Shea High head coach Christina Daily explained she really wasn’t in the mood for a mini-postgame press conference early Wednesday afternoon.
Really, who could blame her?
Her Raiders had looked pretty solid in a first-game victory over Division II crossover foe Central High, but – slowly – unforced errors, points with little or no communication and serves gone awry became more commonplace.
In the end, the Knights celebrated a 3-1 victory at the Providence Career & Technical Academy field house – and it came via scores of 15-25, 25-14, 31-29 and 32-30.
Daily finally acquiesced to a brief interview, shrugging her shoulders.
“We didn’t have our setter, (senior) Austin Vengel. here (Wednesday); he had a doctor’s appointment that he had to keep,” Daily stated afterward. “It’s tough during (spring) vacation week, but we’re having problems adapting to change.
“We had some nice chemistry going with the (regular starting) setter earlier in the season, but when someone’s out of the equation, we’re just out of synch,” she added. “We have some players in different positions, and it’s like we’re playing tight. We were playing their game rather our own.
“We also had too many unforced errors.”
Junior middle hitter Livio Verissimo paced Shea with 12 kills and four blocks, and senior tri-captain William Baah posted eight kills and three blocks, though other premier statistics were few and far between.
That’s why the Raiders fell to 5-2 in II-East action.
For Central, which improved to the same record in II-West, junior tri-captain Vuthy Chan manufactured a team-high 11 kills, three blocks and two digs while classmate Gerald Polanco chipped in seven blocks and six kills and senior outside hitter Christian Hernandez seven kills and two caroms.
Other key contributors included junior tri-captain/Xue Yang (eight digs, kill); junior libero Sai Yang (four digs); and junior defensive specialist William Le (four digs).
“Gerald surprised me; he had six kills, and he usually has just one or two,” noted Knights’ mentor Donn Chu. “He also astonished me with the amount of blocks he had (seven).
“I’ve been getting the guys to work more on blocking and controlling the net,” he continued. “I thought that was the key to being more successful. Even if you don’t come up with the block, just being there and showing a presence – getting hands up – makes the opponents think about going for it. Instead of swinging away, they may opt for something different.
“I wasn’t pleased with our start, not at all. I was very disappointed. Our confidence was very low and we were sluggish, but I was pleased with the fact we fought our way through it. No one was pointing fingers, and they buckled down.”
After the first-game blowout, the hosts regained some of their intensity in the second. In fact, with the scored knotted at 10-10, the game already had been tied seven times, though that would be the last.
Thanks to sophomore setter Ger Vang, he served up two points, and Le managed four to give the Knights a 21-12 cushion.
On the final point, SHS senior Oumar Baro was called for a “double-hit” as Central registered the 25-14 verdict.
Shea, however, looked poised to do the same in the third as it had in the first: Dominate.
Behind senior Ivanildo DosSantos’ service, it notched five straight points to take a commanding 7-1 lead.
But that’s when Central battled back. With Le at the service stripe, he mustered four consecutive points (with an ace) to bring it back to 7-6, and eventually tied it at 11-11 when officials whistled Baah for touching the net.
The Raiders responded again on DosSantos’ serve after the score was tied at 14-14; he utilized a Verissimo block, a Jose Torres kill, a Baro carom and an unforced error to push the lead to 21-14. Shea actually had a game point at 24-23, but a player touched the net, knotting it once more.
In a set that had delivered a total of 11 deadlocks, sophomore Kai Yang played the role of hero, first acing the Shea defense before senior Adriyan Tomlinson’s kill try sailed into the netting as the Knights took the third, 31-29.
The fourth and final game saw more of the same, as neither squad had gained more than a two-point lead until Verissimo served two straight points, the last with an ace, to snatch a 20-17 advantage.
Yet with Sai Yang at the stripe, he retied it at 22-22, though the topsy-turvy nature of the contest again reared its ugly head (i.e. unforced miscues).
Verrissimo’s dink knotted it once more at 30-30 before two defensive errors spoiled the triumph for the visitors.
“Everyone always wants to talk about offense, but I was more pleased with our defense,” Chu explained. “We’d come up with a huge dig of save a broken pass, and that’s just what I’m looking for. Those kinds of plays get the fans pumped up, the players get excited and the confidence builds.
“That was the difference, I thought, over the last two games.”