(written, shot, edited and narrated for Somerville Patch)
The Cambridge Rindge & Latin Falcons overcame a five-point deficit in their first game Friday, then took control of the next two, sweeping the Somerville Highlanders in three games to win the GBL Championship at the Somerville High Field House.
Cambridge’s win capped an undefeated regular season within the Greater Boston League, including two 3-0 sweeps of the Highlanders.
“I don’t just coach for the year, I coach for the program,” Cambridge coach Kelley Leary said. “I try to keep it flowing.”
Just like their match against the Falcons on Oct. 19, the Highlanders started their first game strong, going up 5-0 thanks in part to a kill and subsequent ace from senior Lorenza Etienne.
The Highlanders held that five-point lead until the Falcons scored four in a row to cut the lead to 12-11. Falcon senior Brigitte Boursiquot scored her first of 12 points Friday to cap that run.
Highlander execution virtually ceased at that point in the game, with 11 of the Highlander’s next 12 points coming from Falcon errors instead of their own play. And though the Highlanders built a 23-18 lead, they just couldn’t put the game away.
Cambridge sophomore Nathielly De Oliveira cut the lead to 23-21 with an ace, then Boursiquot tied it with a dump over the Somerville block and into the center-court sinkhole. De Oliveira’s ace completed the Falcons’ 25-23 comeback in Game 1.
In another repeat of their previous match, the Highlanders never recovered from the mental blow of losing the first game. The Falcons went up 9-3 early in Game 2 and 6-0 to start Game 3, and both leads would hold up until the end, with the Falcons winning 25-18 and 25-19.
With the state tournament and its top-level competition about to start, the Highlanders need to learn how to withstand comebacks and opponent-rallies without losing focus.
“We’re realizing that if we really keep a short memory, we learn from our mistakes each play and then just forget about it, that it’s a lot easier to snap out of a three-, four-, five-point rally than it is if we keep dwelling on mistakes we made,” Somerville coach Steven Walker said. “I think we’ve been getting better, and with the extra practice time we have between now and States, it’s something we’re definitely focusing on.”
Serving continues to be a problem for the Highlanders. Though the Falcons committed 14 service errors to the Highlanders’ 11 Friday, they also recorded 14 aces. The Highlanders put up just four. A Highlander service error gave Game 2 to the Falcons.
Very few Highlanders have found a serving technique consistent enough to put the ball in play every time.
“We had four games this week and one practice, so it’s really been a lack of just practice time, and we haven’t had a chance to really work on it,” Walker said. “For the first time since preseason, we’re going to have three to four practices in a row this week. Which is great, because then we can really actually work on fixing things long-term instead of just trying to put band-aids on them.”
Outside hitters Etienne and Nicole Genard once again starred for the Highlanders. Etienne had five kills and two aces. Genard chipped in three kills.
Jacqueline Homsi and Jennifer Bathol helped shut-down the Falcons’ middle hitting, blocking several shots and forcing them to rely on Boursiquot and senior LizMary Mazzarella for their points.
Unlike their Oct. 19 game, the Highlanders maintained a loud, enthusiastic and emotional attitude throughout the game Friday. Communication was excellent, with playable balls passing between players untouched only a handful of times. Bench players cheered unceasingly.
The Highlander backcourt played well, but they passed just a bit less accurately than the Falcons. This made it tougher for Etienne and Genard to spike accurately and with power, leading to digs from the Falcons’ aggressive backcourt, who dove every which way to play Highlander hits.
The Falcons, 11-3 overall and 8-0 in the league, have one non-GBL game left. The Highlanders, 11-5 overall and 6-2 in the GBL, will next play in the state tournament.