‘I love games like this’: Saint John’s volleyball controls Algonquin in four-set victory

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‘I love games like this’: Saint John’s volleyball controls Algonquin in four-set victory
Saint John’s huddles before the competition starts. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

SHREWSBURY – It’s been a full week for the Saint John’s Pioneers volleyball team.

On Monday, the team headed to Westwood to face St. John’s Prep. On Tuesday, the team hosted Agawam. Come Thursday, Saint John’s went into Boston to meet Boston College High School, and on Friday, the team completed the four-game, five-day stretch by meeting Algonquin Regional at the Coaches Pavillion.

If the Pioneers were tired, they didn’t show it. Saint John’s defeated the Algonquin Titans to the tune of 3-1, improving their record to 2-3. Algonquin, on the other hand, moved to 1-3 with the four-set loss. The Titans also came into the game having competed less than 24 hours earlier.

Saint John’s broke away early, riding the serve of junior Phillip Vignally. In the first set, the Pioneers won upwards of 10 consecutive points while Vignally was serving; over the course of the game, the middle blocker served 18 total times and launched four aces, also accounting for four blocks. The Titans had no answer for Vignally’s serve, and Saint John’s took the first set 25-8.

‘I love games like this’: Saint John’s volleyball controls Algonquin in four-set victory
Two Saint John’s players stretch to block the ball. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

“It’s huge. We’ve been trying to get him going all season long. We’ve been struggling just a little bit. Finally getting him going was absolutely huge for us – that’s been one of our bigger problems this year, the consistency of our middle. Getting that today was much better,” Saint John’s Head Coach Dan Seaver told the Community Advocate after the game, speaking of Vignally.

The second set was more of the same Saint John’s dominance – the Pioneers took it 25-11.

And while the Titans – one set from defeat – could’ve folded, they played Saint John’s tough throughout the third set, giving last year’s state semifinalists all they could handle and more. Algonquin jumped out to an early 17-8 lead, and although the Pioneers would furiously attempt to come back from behind, the Titans held them off, winning the set 25-21.

It was the breakthrough the team had been waiting for. The players jumped into each other’s arms to celebrate. Although Saint John’s still led, 2-1, it was Algonquin that had the momentum.

‘I love games like this’: Saint John’s volleyball controls Algonquin in four-set victory
Algonquin libero Alex Qi serves in the first set. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

“We tried a couple different things that might help us down the line. We’re a young team – we only have three seniors – so trying to see where pieces are going to fall in the next two years is big for us. We’re just trying to see what might help us out, and making that little change, we thought we were just going to cruise. But anytime you make changes, it’s going to be a little different,” said Seaver.

Algonquin continued to play with energy in the fourth set, but Saint John’s returned to form. The Pioneers won the set 25-14, ending their busy week with a satisfying 3-1 victory.

“We’re getting there. Weeks like this are really tough because we didn’t get in the gym at all to practice. We’ve struggled with consistency… It’s a lot for these guys. Coming off last year, we have a lot of goals. We just need to get our head straight. Games like this show us we can do well, but if we don’t, other teams are going to come back and beat us. I love games like this – it challenges them,” Seaver said.

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