The Nantucket Whaler and Sandwich Blue Knights volleyball teams are used to tight contests whenever the pair meet up for a match. So when the two teams had to play a five-set nail-biter to determine a winner it came as no surprise to Whaler head coach Andrew Viselli.
“You can’t replicate a five-set match,” Viselli said. “That match was just awesome. It is just awesome for these kids to experience that. This is the best we have ever started a season in terms of our performance. They wanted to play and they wanted to fight until the very end. We just came up a little short.”
The Whalers lost the five-set thriller 3-2, but Viselli said his team showed a lot of positive signs that give him optimism they can reach a similar level of play this season to the one that helped them win 10 of their final 12 matches last year on their way to the program’s first ever league championship.
“As the match went on I felt like our team was getting better at knowing where to be, anticipating the play, and just had a better feel for the game,” Viselli said.
Friday’s match played out eerily similar to the last meeting between these two teams through three sets. The Whalers won the last meeting during the fall two season 3-1, but dropped the first set in that match. So when the Whalers dropped the first set in Friday’s match 25-20 but went on to win the next two sets, Viselli felt like his team may be heading for a similar final outcome.
But the Whalers failed to hang on to a 21-18 lead late in the fourth set, losing 27-25. Viselli said his team didn’t serve well enough to win. He said that is an area of their game that will need to improve moving forward.
“We have certain expectations for things like serving, blocking, and passing but we didn’t serve up to the standard we are used to,” he said. “That has always been a staple of our program. You can gauge a win or a loss by serve/receive and service stats. We had 23 serve/receive errors today and while we didn’t have a lot of service errors, we didn’t generate as many points off our service as we usually do.”
The Whalers jumped out to a 9-6 lead in the fifth and final set, which is won by the first team to 15 points first (must win the fifth set by two points). But Sandwich won nine of the final ten points in the match, sending Nantucket back to the island without a win.
Kacey Riseborough had 11 kills in the match. Freshman setter Bianca Santos had a team-high 22 assists in her varsity debut. Viselli said Santos will be a significant part of the program’s future and their success this season. He said he was impressed with her poised performance Friday.
“Bianca is going to be a significant part of the future of our program. She is coming to an established team. She is a new kid who just wants to be a great. Being a setter is hard,” Viselli said. “She ran a completely balanced offense. I was so impressed by that. For a freshman setter to step in and automatically deliver the way she did is special. She did a job upperclassmen setters haven’t been able to do in the past.”
The Whalers will try to earn their first win of the season today when they host the Holbrook Bulldogs at noon.