Career win number 300 didn't come easy for Bishop Feehan volleyball coach Joe Reardon in the first round of the MIAA South Sectional Tournament Friday night.
But, despite a difficult battle with a relentless No. 9 Oliver Ames squad, the No. 8 Shamrocks were able to advance in the state tournament with a 3-0 victory. With the win, Feehan (13-6) will play at No. 1 Cardinal Spellman (20-2) Tuesday at 7 p.m.
"We weathered the storm.," Reardon said. "[OA] is very good team. Eight and nine seeds - you always have those types of match-ups."
Feehan started strong, pulling ahead 12-2 on the Tigers in the beginning of the first game. But, led by middle-hitters Candace Stedman and Michaela Nichols, OA was able to come storming back to tie the game at 24 and eventually take a lead at 26-25.
After falling behind, Reardon called a timeout. The next point was won with a kill from senior captain Alexis Sells. From there, the Shamrocks were back on track, winning the first game, 28-26.
"There’s not many better athletes that come through here," Reardon said of Sells. "I’ve had a few pretty good players over the years and she’s right up there with them as far as offense. She also does a great job for us in the back row when she’s there."
After losing the second game, 25-17, and falling behind 6-0 in the third game, OA coach Corinne McCarthy turned again to her middle-hitters Stedman and Nichols to bail the Tigers out and take a 22-21 lead. Stedman finished the match with seven kills and Nichols ended with five. The majority of Stedman's spikes drew the crowd from their seats.
"She’s an amazing athlete," McCarthy said. "She blocks – she blocked [Sells] a couple of times and we tried to get in her head, too. She played really well, she’s amazing."
Reardon did his best to take advantage of opportunities when Stedman was not in front of the net.
"They were tough, but we take teams out of their offense and when [Stedman] was in the back row we tried to score points when we could, but they certainly made it tough," he said.
The Tiger surge was not enough to beat the Shamrocks, who took the third set 26-24 and swept OA.
McCarthy, whose Tigers finished 13-8 on the year, praised her team, particularly her seniors, for a hard fought match and season.
"They pushed hard. We did kind of put ourselves behind but we came back and we gave it our all – we really did," she said.
"I am proud of [the seniors]. They gave it their all and I’m very proud."
For Bishop Feehan, the Shamrocks will have their hands full in the next round against 20-2 Cardinal Spellman. Reardon said they are ready for the challenge.
"I’ve never seen Spellman before," he said. "I always welcome a new face. We know we’re going to be road warriors now. We’ve got to get on the road and have some fun on the road."
And, after 19 seasons and 300 wins, the coach knows to rely on his team to get him win number 301.
"It’s all about these guys," he said. "They’re the ones that play the games and I wouldn’t have 300 wins without the teams that I’ve had over 19 seasons."