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Chargers give Oakers a battle in all three sets

PROVIDENCE — For the third time this season the Chariho High volleyball team played an uncompetitive yet competitive match against Coventry.

The Chargers were close in every set but still fell to second-seeded Coventry 3-0 in the Division I semifinals Monday night at Providence Career & Technical Academy.

The Oakers (16-2) and Chargers have played a total of three matches this season and Coventry has won nine of the 10 sets but seven of those nine victories were by seven points or fewer.

The Chargers (12-7) lost 31-29, 25-20 and 25-19 in the three games Monday.

“We just match up so well with them,” senior Zach Wilcox said. “They got the final push because they have more playoff experience than us. You give us one more game and we’ll definitely get it.”

Chariho coach Doug Bliven said he was happy with the way his team competed with a tough Coventry team all season.

“Maybe we didn’t get over the hump, but we played them competitively and the way the games played out were a lot different than the past,” Bliven said. “We’d get blown out, not give ourselves opportunities to get into the match. This year, every time we played them we made them beat us with their best offense.”

The first game represented Chariho’s best opportunity to get into the win column.

Chariho fell behind early but recovered quickly with some good play at the net and took a 7-6 lead.

Wilcox, Robbie Toth and Adam Bemis scored points, blocked shots and disrupted the Oakers’ offense in the early stages of the game.

Wilcox had 15 kills, 12 digs and four blocks while Toth had 11 kills and nine digs. Bemis led the Chargers with five blocks.

“I think we did an awesome job of taking away (Coventry’s) first option,” Bliven said. “We forced them into some more up tempo sets.

“The past couple of days getting ready for this match, we watched previous games against them, so we could learn about things we needed to fix but, more specifically, we learned about them.”

The film study paid off because Chariho led virtually the entire first game and forced the Oakers off their initial offensive designs.

Though Chariho led for much of the first game, the Chargers never built a substantial lead. A modest 19-16 advantage was the largest margin the Chargers were able to build. Still, Chariho had four opportunities to close out the first game.

Twice the Oakers responded with a good rally to tie but Chariho also faulted twice on serves for potential game-points.

Finally, with the game tied 29-29, the Oakers broke through with two consecutive points and the Chargers fell behind 1-0 with a tough loss.

“It was kind of a letdown but we stuck with it and gave them a tough time in games two and three and that’s really all you can ask for,” Wilcox said.

Bliven said he wanted his team to forget the first game as quickly as possible.

“We had set point a couple of times but when you’re serving to them, you’re serving to their offense. A team like Coventry, they’re not just going to give you that last point.”

Chariho, the fourth seed from the South, did respond with another solid game but again had trouble closing out.

The Oakers built a 17-14 lead but the Chargers rallied for four straight points however, some errors again

A pair of carries and a net violation cost the Chargers three points and Coventry closed the second game on an 8-2 run to go up 2-0.

“In the first game, we saw what they were doing and took it away,” Bliven said. “The second and third games they (Coventry) made adjustments.”

The Chargers stayed close with Coventry in the third game as well and were tied with the Oakers 10-10 before Coventry took command with a 10-3 run.

The seven-point lead was the largest advantage for either side and the Oakers won the final game by six.

Bliven praised his all-senior squad for their togetherness and coachability.

“I’ve said it before, the reason I took over this team was because of this group,” he said. “The past couple of years we’ve had some groups that have struggled on and off the court but I knew this team would bust their butts to give themselves an opportunity to win. They had an opportunity last year and did more with that opportunity this year.”

Chariho went 7-12 overall in 2013 and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2010. The 2014 season was the most successful since that 13-4 campaign in 2010 in which the Chargers lost in the state championship match, 3-1 to Bishop Hendricken.

“We’re like a family now,” Wilcox said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to be on a team with. They pick me up and they’re there through the ups and downs.”

Coventry will play North Kingstown, which beat South Kingstown 3-0 in the earlier match, Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

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