Melrose volleyball remains untouched.
The fifth-ranked Red Raiders are setting the bar high for the Middlesex League, undefeated at 12-0. And it gets better. Last year’s Division 2 state semifinalist has yet to be pushed to five games, registering wins over, among others, No. 16 Reading and No. 17 Central Catholic.
“We try to be as perfect as we can,’’ said Melrose coach Scott Celli.
The sparkplug is Brooke Bell, a captain who, according to Celli, has developed into the best setter in the state. Bell has 275 assists this year and 909 for her career, and she is only a junior.
“Her court vision is the best so far this year among anyone we’ve seen,’’ said Celli. “She has this innate ability to see where the weaknesses are and dictates who she passes to.’’
Up front, Bell has chemistry with middle hitter Sarah McGowan. Her transition to the front has boosted the attack of the Red Raiders, who have 139 kills.
“I haven’t seen a better hitter than her this year,’’ said Celli.
“We have very good efficiency on the outside,’’ Celli added said, with senior Jill Slabacheski (50 kills) and junior Jen Cain (64 kills). With their hitting locked in, junior middle hitter Rachel Johnson (79 kills) is able to average three blocks per game.
“Our block is as good as ever,’’ said Celli.
The front row is not the only place where the Red Raiders have had solid performances. They’ve also been on fire from the service line.
Junior lefthander Amanda Commito returned after losing a year with a torn ACL, and her float serve gets opponents off-balance. Commito is 177 for 184 on serves. Another potent serving threat is sophomore Jill MacInnes, who is nearly perfect at the line at 152 for 156.
The Red Raiders’ turning point this season was the win over Central Catholic, which Melrose had not beaten in four years.
“That was the girls’ goal this season,’’ said Celli. “The team knows how to face adversity and they know how to win.’’
Central Catholic took the first game, 25-20, but Melrose then took three straight, 25-19, 28-26, 25-23.
In the third game, the Red Raiders were down, 23-13, and then 24-16. At that point, McGowan won nine consecutive service points.
McGowan (21 kills) and Bell (43 assists) notched their career highs in that match.
Celli said it was the best comeback he has ever witnessed from his team.
“It’s a luxury for me as a coach that I don’t have to coach them to get goals accomplished,’’ he said. “Plus, with Brooke running the show, we’re good to go.’’
Melrose’s ultimate test will be in its season finale against Lincoln-Sudbury.
Games of the week
No. 9 Lincoln-Sudbury at No. 20 Boston Latin, Tues., 4:30 p.m. - Lincoln-Sudbury is looking for another shot at the Division 1 state title, after falling to Barnstable in last year’s final. Although L-S already beat Boston Latin, 3-0, this season, its seven-game winning streak was recently snapped by No. 8 Brookline.
No. 6 Andover at No. 17 Central Catholic, Tues., 5 p.m. - Andover took down Central Catholic, 3-0, in last year’s Division 1 state semifinals. This is the first meeting since, and the two also face off to end the regular season.
No. 11 Marlborough at No. 18 Westborough, Thurs., 5 p.m. - Marlborough remains undefeated with 10 consecutive wins, handing Westborough one of its two losses.
No. 19 Franklin at Canton, Thurs., 6:15 p.m. - New Top 20 addition Franklin takes on Canton, which is just on the outskirts of the rankings. Canton has beaten Franklin, 3-1, so this game will likely decide which team is in the Top 20 next week.
Players of the week
Shannon Cullen, Walpole - The senior middle hitter had nine aces and seven kills against Bay State rivals Norwood and Needham.
Brooke Bell, Melrose - The junior setter led the fifth-ranked Red Raiders to wins over Central Catholic, Winchester, and Belmont. She accumulated 91 assists, 13 kills, and was 13 for 13 from the service line.
Andrea King, North Andover - King tallied 18 service points, 9 digs, 8 aces, and 6 kills in a 3-0 win over Beverly.
Eliza Bowes, Dennis-Yarmouth - The outside hitter totaled 17 digs and 12 kills against Plymouth South in a 3-1 win.
Kaylee Deluga, Barnstable - The middle hitter racked up 16 kills, 3 blocks, and an assist in a 3-1 victory over No. 2 Case.
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