Melrose, which hasn’t lost a set in the postseason, continued its domination by sweeping Canton, 3-0, at Billerica Tuesday night to advance to the Division 2 state finals.
The Lady Red Raiders jumped to a convincing 25-16 victory in the first set. Canton came back strong in the second set, led by senior captain Julia Murphy (15 kills, 7½ blocks), taking a 14-8 lead.
Melrose coach Scott Celli called a timeout, which sparked a rally and proved to be a crucial factor.
“I told them to play aggressive volleyball, dictate the points, and let [Canton] make the mistakes,” Celli said. “That was the turning point of the match, they just played differently after that.”
Sarah McGowan, who finished with 11 kills, helped lead her team to a 25-21 victory in the second set with her tough jump serve.
“Coach told us to keep putting pressure on them, which is what won us Game 1,” McGowan said. “He always knows what to say to us when we’re down.”
Despite their 2-0 lead in games, Celli reminded his team to stay calm and fight all the way until the end. The Bulldogs took a 10-6 lead to start the third set. But much like the first match, the Red Raiders’ momentum was too much as they tied the score at 12 and won the final set, 25-18, to complete the sweep.
Captain Brooke Bell finished with 29 assists and six kills. Jennifer Cain, Rachel Johnson, and Annalisa Debari all finished with eight kills each.
“I never expected to walk in here and beat this team 3-0,” said Celli. “That was a good team we played tonight with a lot of firepower, but we just played great volleyball.”
For Melrose, this is a familiar situation that it hopes will have a better outcome. After an impressive 3-2 win over Longmeadow in last year’s semifinals, the Red Raiders fell short, 3-1, to Marlboro in the championship game.
With seven seniors on this squad, the Red Raiders hope that their experiences will help them win the state title this year.
“We’re back to where we want to be,” said Celli. “We’re not just happy to be there this year. This team has had one goal all year and that is to win a state championship. We have that opportunity this Saturday.”
Melrose will face Longmeadow in the state title game Saturday at Algonquin Regional High School.
Newton North 3, Andover 0 — In the Division 1 semifinal at Lawrence, Newton North senior setter Keane Brazda used a potent attack in the deciding set to lift her team past previously undefeated Andover in straight sets for a spot in Saturday’s Division 1 state championship.
“We knew what was on the line. We deal with pressure very well and that helps us, the crowd and knowing what’s next,” said Brazda, who has committed to Bucknell.
“The game was tremendously exciting for both teams, excruciating to watch,” because they had 20 kills that weren’t kills, because we dug them,” said Newton North coach Richard Barton.
The victory ties the Tigers’ (23-1) longest winning streak of 16 straight, set in 2009. They are ranked 23d nationally , and justifies the team’s recent national ranking at No. 23 in MaxPreps Excellent 25.
Brazda’s 6 points in the third set — which came from a tipping and hitting combo — broke five ties in the third set’s point-for-point rally, paving the way for a block to settle the match (25-19, 25-22, 25-20).
“I kept telling [setter] Talya [Feldman] to set me, I’m going to get a kill, so I definitely felt confident,” said Brazda, who ranks seventh in the state with a .466 hitting percentage.
The victory ended Andover’s undefeated 23-game streak, the program’s best in five seasons.
Sophomore middle hitter Tess Simmons cashed in the momentum the Tigers needed after a tight second set with a block on one of Andover’s best hitters senior, Molly Cronin to make it 19-19, and a double block with Feldman to take the lead, 22-19. “[Talya] has been the person who makes us able to have hitters at every position at every time. Talya has total game sense,” said Barton. The Tigers had to battle to the end until Feldman made a clutch hit that was blocked out, 25-22. “The whole time I was on an adrenaline high. I couldn’t even focus on what was going on around me,” said Feldman. “[I thought] just play my game, play it well and do what I can to win.” Newton North will play the winner of Wednesday’s Lincoln-Sudbury/Barnstable semifinal. in Saturday’s final at Algonquin Regional.
Lynnfield 3, Millbury 1 — Having gone five straight matches without dropping a set, Lynnfield looked poised to make it six in a row when it took the first set against Millbury, 25-6.
But the Pioneers quickly learned there are no sure bets in the state tournament.
“I think they kind of cooled their heels a little bit, thought it was going to be a little bit easier than it was,” Lynnfield coach Michelle Perrone said. “Millbury came back and really showed us why they were the Central champions.”
The Woolies surprised Lynnfield by taking the second set and gave the North Sectional champions all they could handle. The Pioneers regrouped and ultimately took a 3-1 victory in the Division 3 state semifinal at Tewksbury High School.
The opening set wasn’t much of a contest as Abby Norwood and Hannah Shaievitz controlled the net for the Pioneers, who jumped to a 16-2 advantage and never looked back.
Lynnfield (21-3) advances to Saturday’s state championship at Algonquin Regional.
Longmeadow 3, Fairhaven 2 — Longmeadow’s stirring comeback in the fifth set punched its ticket to the Division 2 state finals.
Longmeadow (19-3) dominated the first set, but Fairhaven (20-1) regrouped in the next two sets and went into the fourth seemingly on fire. The score remained tight until senior Jennifer Hurwitz spearheaded 5 points to give Longmeadow a 25-20 lead.
“They’re great players and they got into our heads,” said Hurwitz, who had 18 kills and 25 digs. “But we told ourselves we could do it, stayed positive and came out with the win.”
Longmeadow’s win looked iffy in the final set until Hurwitz scored her second ace and Amanda Tyler (22 kills) took control for a 15-3 victory.