The Cranston East Lady ’Bolts swept the Tolman Tigers, 3-0, on Monday evening at home and improved to 8-0 on the season. Senior setter Joanna Wong had 24 assists in the match and Maia Caito and Lauren Milani had seven kills each. Despite the match being a sweep, it took a thrilling set three before East could walk away with the victory.
“It’s always a good match,” East head coach Meghan McGonagle said. “We never take Tolman for granted. They’ve got great players, great coaching, they stick with it. And we always know it’s going to be a big fight. Usually four, five, however many games it takes.”
After falling behind 1-0 in set one, the ’Bolts went on a tear. Caito, the senior middle hitter, blocked Ally Larson on the front line and Ella Glantz put it down to get the ball rolling. Wong followed with an ace before the setter assisted to Caito for a spike to put East up 6-3.
Caito earned a block on Ope Olagunju after that and then followed it with a kill. Then, Wong scored five straight points on serve to give the ’Bolts a 15-3 cushion. A foul against East is what stopped the onslaught for Tolman. The ’Bolts would roll to a 25-9 walloping of set one, getting two return points from Lauren Guzman, followed by back-to-back kills from Caito.
East jumped out to a 4-1 lead in set two after two blocks from Caito and a blast from Lauren Milani.
Later in the set, Milani landed back-to-back points on serve and gave the ’Bolts a 13-7 advantage. Then, East’s Chelsea Asare scored on serve and Guzman buried a blast to extend the ’Bolts’ edge to 16-8. East closed the set with a point in front from Caito, followed by two points from Milani and a dagger from Rossini Felix en route to a 25-13 win.
Tolman challenged East a lot more in the third set, however. East trailed 2-0 before Milani got it on the board with a return. But, points from Tolman’s Diagne, Larson, Liscaury Ceballo, and Maya Barbosa helped Tolman get out to a 12-6 advantage. The ’Bolts began to pull it together when Milani earned back-to- back assists, one to Kalliann Khim for a kill and another to Guzman for a spike. After that, Felix scored twice on serve and got the ’Bolts within 12-10.
Shortly after, East scored three straight points, capped by a splash from Caito to tie the game at 16.
Emily Mellor gave East its first lead in the set when she hit back-to-back aces past Julia Al-Amir and Larson to put the ’Bolts up two. After that, Caito scored with a kill past Olagunju, and then Mellor added another point on serve to put East up, 20-16.
Nonetheless, Tolman fought back, scoring three consecutive points and tied it at 21. The teams would battle back and forth following that. East had game point after Mellor scored on serve. But, Larson answered, scoring twice for Tolman and gave it the lead and a try for the finish. However, an unforced error against Tolman would keep East alive while tying the set at 25.
The ’Bolts eventually took advantage of the miscue when Milani scored a return for the game-winner, leading East to a 31-29 win of the third set.
“It was very stressful,” Wong said with a chuckle after the match.
“At the end, it was about how we have to keep the energy up and still make good decisions, and I think ultimately that’s what won us the game,” Caito added.
Felix, the ’Bolts’ outside hitter and defensive specialist felt that the final set was probably the toughest battle for the team this season.
“We never went 31-29, so it was definitely the hardest and most difficult set all year, but we did come together as a team and pushed through,” Felix said. “So, I think that’s the big thing.”
Milani, who got the game-winner, is just a freshman and McGonagle is delighted to have her for the long haul.
“She’s got good court awareness,” McGonagle said. “She’s definitely one of our go-to players in the hitting. She’s a well-balanced player. She’s got good defensive skills and also is a backup setter, so she’s an all-around great player.”
Seniors Felix and Mellor also played exceptionally well down the stretch to help guide the team to victory.
“They’re two of our seniors,” McGonagle said. “They are definitely go-to players. I know that they are going to be consistent. I know that they’re going to do what needs to be done.”