Entering her final season on the Melrose volleyball squad, setter Brooke Bell had one goal in the back of her mind: to break the season record for assists. And it wasn’t until a matchup at Cambridge that she got her moment.
In the stands, her mother was prepared with iPad in hand, and when Bell landed her eighth assist of the game — and 1,648th of the season — the senior was given a standing ovation.
“I knew I was very close and I knew I would get it that game, it was just when [in the game],” said Bell, who had 1,221 assists her junior year.
Melrose coach Scott Celli called a timeout and after a congratulatory huddle, the Red Raiders won in straight sets, 25-10, 25-13, 25-16.
“It was a great feeling,” she said. “I never thought I’d reach but it shows that hard work pays off. It’s going to be cool seeing other kids trying to break it,” she said.
The record was previously held by Colleen Hanscom (2010).
Although Bell was aware of her pursuit, “it was never anything she brought up because individual goals are secondary,” said Celli.
Celli later presented Bell with the winning ball, signed by the team.
Celli, who has known Bell since the fifth grade, noted that despite her accomplishment, “she’s more concerned about winning and she’s always been that same type of person,” he said.
The fourth-ranked Red Raiders fell in last year’s state final, and in the semifinals the past two years. But Celli calls his this year’s edition his “best all-around team”.
Bell and her squad have set a high standard for the program this year, starting with the stellar defensive performances from Jill MacInnes, Jennifer Cain, and Amanda Commito.
“We’re a tough defensive team and when other teams try to attack, we have hands in their faces at the net to slow the ball-play down,” he said. The team’s best middle blocker, senior Rachel Johnson, is a noteworthy athlete that keeps competitors on their toes.
This defensive play has allowed offensive leaders like fellow captain and middle hitter Sarah McGowan to lead the state in kills per game at 4.9.
“She’s a fearless player, definitely the most fiery player and our most vocal. She’s never afraid to say what’s on her mind and she gets everyone going,” said Celli.
The Red Raiders have set program records in kills per set, serving percentage, and least serving errors.
With a 21 straight wins to start the season, if the Red Raiders defeat second-ranked Newton North Tuesday at home, the program will have also reached its best-regular season record.
“We’ll have to play our best match to beat them,” said Celli.
With returning six seniors, all of which are three-year starters, Celli commends his team’s ability to not panic.
“It goes a long way and helps you to remember how to perform when stakes are high,” said Celli.
The Red Raiders will have their hands full with Newton North, who recently toppled reigning Division 1 champion Barnstable. The Tigers also have one of the best setters in the state, Keane Brazda, who committed to Bucknell.
“They’re all so good and have a well-trained coach, who is one of the top in the state. They’re always ready to play and skill-wise,” said Celli. “They’re the best team in the state.”
Games of the week
No. 10 Brookline at No. 1 Lincoln-Sudbury, Tue., 4:30 p.m. – Lincoln-Sudbury handed Brookline a 3-1 loss earlier this season (25-20, 25-18, 22-25, 25-10) with Natalie Wohl and Alex Braverman’s combined 18 kills. Brookline has seen a bit of a rough patch, dropping three of the team’s past five matches.
No. 3 Barnstable at No. 8 Medfield, Tue., 5 p.m. – Medfield dropped a 3-1 match to Barnstable earlier this season (23-25, 25-15, 23-25, 21-25) where Red Raiders etter Kayla Crook became the first setter to eclipse the 1,500-assist mark with 45 assists. Medfield will need Alex McDevitt and Kristin Fechtelkotter, who combined for 31 kills in the last matchup, to lead the offense.
No. 1 Lincoln-Sudbury at No. 2 Newton North, Wed., 4 p.m. — Lincoln-Subdury remains undefeated. Mandy Sifferlen (13 kills) and Alex Braverman (17 kills) are the threats to watch out for on offense. The Tigers will need the consistency and confidence used to take down Barnstable to keep up in this matchup.Liz Torres can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @etorres446.