New coach at St. John's Prep eyes next level
For two decades, Andrew Viselli sculpted the St. John’s Prep boys’ volleyball program into one of the best in the state, a 15-time tournament qualifier with three state titles from 2002-08.
This year, Viselli accepted a teaching job on Nantucket, leading him to resign hand over the reins to Melrose girls’ coach Scott Celli.
The Eagles have been a bit of a lull the past few years, and Celli’s sights are on “taking the program to the next level,’’ he said.
Celli led Melrose the past 13 years with nine Middlesex League titles, six Division 2 North titles, and two state final appearances.
The switch from coaching girls has not been a challenge for Celli, who emphasized net play because of the faster pace of the boys’ game.
“I do basically what I do with the girls, but might encourage different aspects of the game in terms of preparation,’’ he said.
The Eagles have a challenging schedule.
“After the last couple of weeks, we see we can play with anybody in the state,’’ said Celli.
The Eagles have three losses, to Xaverian, BC High, and Cambridge, which Celli attributes to a lack of consistency.
“That’s one thing we’re working on,’’ he said.
And this is where Celli’s coaching style comes in.
“Everything is always planned and always scripted,’’ he said. “They know they have to get used to this and I’m always throwing different things at them. I try to keep things simple but challenging.’’
And so far, it’s been working.
The Eagles’ statistics have exceeded Celli’s expectations, as junior captain and outside hitter Brian Keogh has 208 kills with seven regular-season games remaining.
“He is one of our best all-around players, but I didn’t know if I expected [his stats] to be that high,’’ said Celli.
Junior setter Sean Brennan has posted 437 assists. Keogh and Brennan are the shortest players in the lineup at 6-2 and 6-3, respectively. With the height the Eagles possess, team defense has been a key factor at the net and in the back row, to “limit the other team from whaling the ball at us, so we slow the ball down a bit,’’ said Celli.
Senior captain Chris McCafferty leads the team with 222 digs.
“This has set the tone in our victories,’’ Celli said.
Games of the week
Newton South at No. 3 Cambridge, Monday, 4 p.m. - Newton South has dropped out of the rankings but could return if it can handle Cambridge. Newton South’s losses have been to No. 4 Lawrence and Westford.
BCHigh at No. 10 St. John’s Prep, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. - This game will factor in to next week’s rankings. The Prep fell to BC High, 3-2, April 5 and if it loses again, BC High (7-3) will take St. John’s spot in the Top 10.
No. 8 Lincoln-Sudbury at No. 3 Cambridge, Friday, 4 p.m. - Cambridge handed Lincoln-Sudbury its only loss, 3-2 April 9, one of the Falcons’ biggest wins in their nine-game undefeated run. A Falcons’ season sweep will put some doubt in the state champion’s ability to repeat.
No. 1 Haverhill at No. 4 Lawrence, Friday, 6 p.m. - Haverhill’s 3-1 win over Lawrence April 11 has been the only hiccup in the Lancers’ season. Haverhill also took out Lawrence, 3-1, in last season’s North sectional final.