The Toll Gate Titans went to Cranston East and out battled the Cranston East Thunderbolts 3-2 on Friday night in boys’ DII Volleyball with scores of (25-21, 20-25, 25-23, 19-25, 15-13) in the five sets.
It was a rare win for the Titans, who haven’t had much luck in the past playing in East’s playground.
“This is my fifth season with Toll Gate boys’ and this is the first time we’ve won in Cranston East’s gym,” Titans head coach Ryan Garno said. “It’s a great gym to play in for the home team. It hasn’t been too kind to us.”
Garno wouldn’t have to fire up the Titans for this match because they were Cranston eager to face the defending champs.
“They’ve got a great team, they’ve got a great coach,” Garno said. “The players play hard all the time. They are really good at keeping the ball up and they serve well. Cranston East is a very good team.”
Max Laiter was the man for Toll Gate, playing in the front row and recording 22 kills on the day.
“Up front he does a great job,” Garno said. “He had a lot of big balls that he came up with on top of the net. He can reach above most blockers. He’s able to hit pin to pin. Very pleased with the big guy.”
Laiter was excited after the victory that improves his team’s record to 5-2 and puts them in a tie for second place with Cranston East.
“This was a really big win for us,” Laiter said. “I came in, I wasn’t expecting a win, but we pulled it through. We should have won quicker, but the way the ball went, it happens.”
Cranston East star senior setter James Tang led the ‘Bolts with 40 assists while teammates Andrew Khvang had 16 kills and two aces and Jacob Glantz added nine kills and an ace.
Matt Walsh, Toll Gate’s setter, put the ball in good spots for his teammates all evening.
“He’s fiery, got a lot of energy,” Garno said. “He makes really good decisions with the ball. He’s kind of like the heartbeat. He keeps things going for us, keeps guys pumped up and we’re going to continue to work with him.”
East head coach Meg McGonagle felt Toll Gate’s front row was a problem for her team during much of the match.
“We knew they were a good team,” McGonagle said. “Coming in we knew they had a really strong offensive line and defensive blocks and things like that. A little too much for us tonight.”
Laiter’s height at 6’4” gave the ‘Bolts offense some fits.
“He’s a great blocker,” McGonagle said. “And they’re all great hitters. They’ve got a really quick offense that we’re not used to seeing too much here in Division II so that was definitely something that we struggled with today.”
“We’re trying to work on consistency for all of us with a middle double block like that,” McGonagle added. “It is hard for us being on the shorter side to really get up and get over some of that so we had to do a good job picking spots and getting us some points.”
The first point of the match came on a kill from Laiter, who spiked the ball past a diving Mason Paugh and gave the Titans an early 1-0 edge. Next, Khvang evened it at 1 with a point on a return.
Shortly after, East took a 5-2 advantage after back-to-back Toll Gate return errors plus a point from Reyle Dineen on serve. The ‘Bolts looked like they might run away with it when they went up 13-7 after a point on serve from Tang.
However, the Titans scored nine of the next ten points, capped by a double block from Laiter and Eric Ruiz and took a 16-14 lead, forcing East to call a timeout.
East’s Tang found Nick Chea next for a spike, but after that, the Titans scored three straight points on a return by Ruiz, a block by Joel Roache and an ace from Laiter, putting the Titans up four.
The Titans’ Calaeb Murray scored the winning point of the first set when he dumped down a return and gave the Titans a 25-21 victory.
Laiter opened up the second set with back-to-back kills and put the Titans up 2-0.
Then, East evened it at 2 after a Toll Gate serving error and a return by Chea.
The Titans took an 8-5 edge when Walsh dished to Roache for a spike before Walsh scored a point of his own.
Midway through the set, the Titans scored four straight points when Laiter put a spike into the campfire and then added two blocks before East committed a return error, making it 17-10.
Nonetheless, Toll Gate suffered a return error and then East rattled off six more straight points, two each from Khvang, Chea and Glantz and tied it at 17.
With the ‘Bolts up 19-18, East’s Paugh batted back-to-back aces and put East up three. Not long after, East’s Glantz served an ace past Roache and gave the ‘Bolts a 25-20 win of the second set and tied the match at 1.
Toll Gate jumped out to a 3-0 advantage in the third set when Laiter earned a kill and Devin Carroll scored twice on serve.
East got its first point when Dineen scored a point on a return and made it 3-1. Then, the teams went back and forth the entire set, deadlocking the score at 9, 10, 16 and 22 before Toll Gate’s Jaylan Brout scored on a return and got the Titans to game point at 24-23. Finally, Aiden Areson scored with a return and gave the Titans a 25-23 win of the third set and a 2-1 edge in the match.
The teams were deadlocked at 11 in the fourth set before the ‘Bolts scored seven of the next eight points and took an 18-12 lead. Those points came on three returns each from Khvang and Glantz.
Khvang also scored the sets’ winning tally, a kill in front that gave East a 25-19 victory and tied the match at 2.
The ‘Bolts and Titans battled in the fifth and final set which is played to just 15. The teams were knotted at 7 when Toll Gate’s Murray put a spike off of Dineen and then Aiden Areson scored with a block, which put the Titans up two. Eventually, East would storm back and tie the set at 13 on two kills from Paugh and another from Khvang.
On the next play, Laiter put a spike out of the reach of Tang and got Toll Gate to game point. On the last play of the game, the ‘Bolts were penalized for touching the net, which gave Toll Gate the 15-13 win of the set.