The defending champion Cranston East Thunderbolts were swept in rare fashion by the undefeated East Greenwich Avengers (25-22, 29-27, 25-17) on Saturday evening during the 2018 Boys Volleyball Division I Tournament Final at Johnson and Wales Harborside Campus.
The ‘Bolts were led by senior setter James Tang, who finished with 29 kills, five digs and one ace and junior outside and middle hitter Andrew Khvang, who added 16 kills, two aces and two digs.
East Greenwich was headed by senior setter Matt Plympton who had 36 assists and senior Thomas Shaughnessy, a tall middle hitter, who finished with 14 kills. Shaughnessy’s size was too much for the ‘Bolts, who are not known for their height.
“Shaughnessy is really hard to kind of do anything about,” Cranston East head coach Meg McGonagle said. “Our guys are not tall. We don’t seem to grow them big in Cranston. So even when we put up a block it was kind of easy for him to just go over or around the block. So that was hard to defend.”
“We actually talked about pulling out blockers at times just to get more defensive bodies behind him, knowing that he was just going to go over the top,” McGonagle added.
Cranston East dominated much of the first set before East Greenwich knotted the game at 19 and then 20. Shortly after, the Avengers took a 22-20 advantage when Plympton assisted to Jason Mirandou for a kill. Matt Sommer found Mirandou for a point after that and got East Greenwich to game point at 24-21. Mirandou hammered down a kill and gave East Greenwich the 25-22 win in the first set and a 1-0 lead in the match.
Cranston East trailed 7-2 in the second set before eventually tying the game at 16. Late in the set, the ‘Bolts fended off three match points before they had their own, leading 27-26. East Greenwich staved them off and scored three straight points to close the match with a 29-27 victory while taking a 2-0 edge in the match.
In the third set, the teams were tied at 7 before Plympton slammed in three aces and guided East Greenwich on an eight-point run that put them up 19-11. Cranston East would cut the deficit to five, but East Greenwich scored six of the next nine on its way to a 25-17 victory.
Midway through that final set, Cranston East started to look defeated.
“I wouldn’t say that they were tired,” McGonagle said. “I would say that it was more of an emotional thing. They kind of lost the emotion towards the end of it. I think they were feeling a little bit down.”
While both teams are very talented, East Greenwich had more time to practice which showed late in the match
“I think it comes down to experience,” McGonagle said. “At Cranston East, we have kids that come into high school and they learn how to play volleyball there. I know EG has a lot of kids that play all year long and they play club and they’re able to play a lot longer and a lot more seasons of volleyball. So, I think that last game came down to experience. They really knew how to stick with it. EG knew how to pull it out and win.”
The ‘Bolts, who returned only three veterans from last year’s DII title team, finish the season and the playoffs with a record 15-4.
East Greenwich’s title win completed a perfect season for the Avengers, who finish with a record of 19-0. It is East Greenwich’s first state volleyball title since 1997 when they seized the second of two consecutive DI championships.