With six-time state volleyball champion Barnstable dominating Division 1 for the past decade, it seemed unlikely anyone other than the Red Raiders would win the 2009 MIAA state title.
Enter New Bedford.
The Whalers skyrocketed to an undefeated season, beating Barnstable in the South semifinals, Brockton in the finals and eventually Central Catholic in the state championship to finish 23-0.
‘‘We beat our nemesis Barnstable because of our defense ... we just outplayed them. It was a huge victory for us,” said Whalers coach Neil Macedo. ‘‘It gave us more confidence. We’re a good, balanced team and that’s why we can compete against them,’’ he said.
After clinching their first title since 1994, the Whalers are charging up this year’s offense led by retuning All-Scholastic Maura Manley. The 6-0 senior led the state in kills last fall with 408. Accompanying her up front is senior Cheyenne Howard, who was ranked ninth
in the state in aces (78). Senior Kristina Thompson adds to the mix, placing fifth in the state for digs (238).
The team is experienced with returning senior setter Nicole Peixoto (541 assists) and offensive leaders Hollian Medeiros, Janelle Menard, Katherine Guillotte, Hilarie Teves, Jennifer Vieira, and Haley Sullivan with the exception of graduated captain Kiana Raposo.
With the loss of seven seniors entering last season, Barnstable had its youngest team in more than a decade. Those kids are back and coach Tom Turco is looking at a team that accounted for 90 percent of kills last season to carry the team. Senior captains Devon Bentivegna and Sarah Colby will anchor the team along with sophomore Kayla Crook as setter.
Players to look out for will be 6-foot junior middle hitter Kaylee Deluga who has proven to be the most productive player, said Turco. And opposite her, junior Aine Cole. Junior middle hitter Lynne Hibbard (5-11) is “our biggest jumper. She’ll help us out in blocking,” he said.
“We have some promising kids coming up. We’ll see where they take us,” said Turco.
Making a regular appearance in the tournament, with five semfinals and last year’s final, was Lincoln-Sudbury. Behind the Warriors is a vast amount of horsepower led by middle hitters Emily Rudder, Lindsey Jones and Natalie Wohl. Solid blocking will be coming from right side blocker Mandy Sifferlan.
“I wasn’t sure coming into the season but we have a solid team this year. We have some real young guns coming up,” said coach Judy Katalina.
Although the Warriors will be down setter Felicia Patel, Katalina is confident in setter Kayla Ngan’s skills on the court.
“I think making it deep in the tournament is an attainable goal,” she said. “We’re working on defense and passing so we can be unstoppable and run with the big ones.”
After a year of rebuilding, Cambridge is reviving this season with five returning starters covering offense: right side Kayla Fena (80 kills), middle Kimberlee Goncalves and captains Brigitte Boursiquot (101 kills), LizMary Mazzarella (90 digs) and Deridre McMahon.
New additions to the team include junior Amber Germano and sophomore Lula Amanuel.
The Falcons have the game experience and strength under their belt but setting could be a setback. After losing setter its setter, the Falcons are in desperate need of sophomore Lydia Vital to fill in to set the team’s offensive attack.
Coach Jacqui Niosi, last year's Globe coach of the year, led Quincy to the state semifinals last season, the farthest the team had ever played in the bracket. The team will need to replace middle hitter Kylie Kozlowski.
Leading the Presidents are captains, Kori Sorensen, Stella Edwards, and Nicole Parry who will be setting. New players include Julia Yee, Maria Berberan, Kiley MacDonald, Alysha Dunbar, Sam Albanese, and coach Niosi’s sister D.J.
“They have really good team chemistry ... and play with a lot of intensity and heart,” said Niosi.
With a standout team in offensive attack and setting, Medfield was able to take down Bourne in the Division 2 state final.
“We’re not taking anybody for granted. We know that every time we walk in a gym that we’re going to get the best game no matter the team record,” said coach Jack Hastings.
“No one is walking around like a peacock because we’re state champs,” he said.
The undefeated Warriors are missing Globe All-Scholastic Allyson Le-bruno, Morganne Gagne, Jessica McLeod in its lineup that will force 6-3 senior Natalie Dickinson to hold up her first place in the state in blocks (118) along with the leadership from senior captains Hannah Donnelly and Kathleen Krah.
Other starters include Natalie Gill, Rachel Wyman and libero Kendall McCurdy. New additions to the team include sophomores Georgia Zimmerman, Alex McDevitt, Cally Lavin and sibling Anna Krah.
As far as goals go, “we’re not looking to win the league, we’re looking to be able to pass well and hit as well as we can.” The biggest goal is to win 50 percent of our games, he said.
After losing standout starters Carolyn Eddy, Maggie Hillman, Katie Zenevitch and Lindsay Phenix, Central Catholic is heading into the season with uncertainty. With five of seven starting positions needing to be filled with new players and no skilled players at back row, the Raiders are looking at a tough season unless returning starters Corrine Gosselin and
Kendall Desrosiers can lead the offense, which is key. Setting will be Alexis Michal and other new additions include Michelle Bouchard, Brinti Spring, Mary Foggo and Beka Metayer.
Melrose is missing out on Middlesex MVP Hannah Brickley and Laura Irwin who totaled 450 kills throughout the season, along with fellow graduates Colleen Hanscom, Jessica Farr, Siena Mamayek and Alex Harlow. Offense will be essential to the Red Raiders season with returning hitters Athena Ziavras, Jill Slabacheski, and Alyssa DiRaffaele. The team is going to need to add strength in sophomore Brooke Bell and junior Rachael Wolley’s setting and on the team’s receiving end to make it to the Middlesex Championship.
Sophomore middle hitter Rachel Johnson will be someone to look out for in the Red Raiders’ plight to clinch their first state title.
“We lost a lot of firepower up front and have to become a better a better defensive team,” said Scott Celli. “I’m going to have to do a lot more teaching this year. We’ll be tested hard at the beginning and will hit bumps here in the middle of the year but we’ll be a tough to beat,” he said.
North Andover is looking at a new team this season after graduating ten of its seniors with only two starters returning – libero Alyssa Noyes and outside hitter Kaylee Lambrinos.
“This is probably the youngest team in eight years,” said coach Veronica Schaefer.
The Scarlet Knights are breaking is with freshman setter Erin Cox, sister of graduated Emili Cox, being the first time the school has ever had a freshman Varsity setter.
Schaefer attributed her team’s strength to the agility and desire the Falcons have acquired. Julia Titone and Julie Issenberg will be playing middle and Courtney Green outside. A player with experience to watch out for will be transfer middle hitter Andrea King.
Division 2 state finalist Bourne will be a team to keep an eye on this season with a well-rounded attack from junior Alanah Durr and seniors Sarah Hannon and Alyssia Janak. The Canalmen have seven returning seniors with setter Sarah Hannon and outside hitter Emily White who have stepped up a good deal from last season.
“We’re going to battle our way,” said coach Tim Acton.
Other starters punching into the offense include Brenna Forsberg, Meaghan Brady, and siblings Tara Lyons, graduated captain Kelly Lyons’ sister, and Durr’s sister Madison. Defensive specialist Kaitlyn Stuck might be out for the season with a knee injury. Outside hitter Allie Stone will lead the defense.
Case lost graduated Globe Player of the Year Kristen Robillard, who led the team to the Division 3 state title. Although it’s a major loss, the team will have no problem rebuilding with at least seven returning sophomores including Jenn Cabral, Shannon Orton, Briana Sousa, Kaylee Leduc, and Linsay Boulay.
With North Reading coach Kerianne Verdonck out for the season on maternity leave, five-year junior varsity coach Mike Milone has take over along with the Fighting Hornet’s biggest asset, returning all-state middle hitter Kirsten Morrison.
“She’ll be the force on the court, definitely someone to look out for,” said Milone.
Returning for the team is middle hitter Alyson Clemens, outside hitters Bailey Eis and Katie Santilli and defensive specialist Brittany Venezia.
With the Fighting Hornets facing a huge transition this year, the team will be relying on its varsity experience and strength at the net. Junior Erika Spehlmann will lead at setter, moving up from junior varsity.
Several reporters and editors contribute updates, news and analysis to the High School Sports Blog.
- Bob Holmes: A Reading resident (Go Rockets!) and Boston College graduate, Holmes is the Boston Globe High School Sports Editor. We remind you now that his weekly picks are often made in jest so everyone just calm down when he picks against Everett for 11 straight weeks. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeHolmes.
- Craig Larson: A native of West Springfield (Leo Durocher anyone? Tim Daggett?) and Curry College graduate (a proud Colonel!), Larson is the sports editor for the Globe's regional sections: South, West and North, as well as a frequent contributor on the college beat. Abington to Xaverian: it all starts with the schools. Have a compelling story idea? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeLars.
- Zuri Berry: Berry attended the same high school as sports legends O.J. Simpson and Joe DiMaggio. (Guess which one is his hero.) He's a South Boston resident (formerly of Eastie) and the editor of the High School Sports blog as well as the go-to-guy for everything high school sports on Boston.com. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GlobeSchools for all of the latest updates.
Then there are our fall correspondents:
- Anthony Gulizia | @gulizia_a | Div. 1 football
- Eric Russo | @erusso22 | Div. 2 football
- Stephen Sellner | @stephen_sellner | Div. 3 football
- Andrew MacDougall | @Andy_MacDougall | Div. 4 football
- Greg Joyce | @GJoyce9 | Div. 5 football
- Lorenzo Recupero | @LorenzoRecupero | Div. 6 football
- Liz Torres | @etorres446 | Girls volleyball
To reach the high school sports department, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.