Cardinals ready for foes
Adversity can destroy teams or help them rise to the occasion.
At Case, the Cardinals keep rising.
When recounting the season so far, adversity was the only thought on coach Denise Levesque’s mind.
Because of a space crunch at the Swansea school, the team has had to train at the elementary and junior high school gyms. The first two tryouts were even held on the football field.
Despite the challenges, the Case girls have maintained focus on their objective - a state championship.
After falling to Frontier, 3-0, in last year’s Division 3 state final, Case has been determined, and with 10 seasoned veterans, coach Levesque knows her team is ready.
Preparation started in the preseason and the Case girls challenged themselves with regular beach practices to enhance their defense.
“These kids are diehard beach players. Newport is our home and we’re fortunate to live on the beach because it helps their defense so much. They go for every ball and dig everything up,’’ said Levesque.
And it doesn’t stop there. The team also practices drills against boys.
“They come in and play against [guys] and they look forward to that. They tell the guys to hit,’’ said Levesque.
The preparation served Case well in a 3-0 win over Seekonk, which played with a boy in the lineup.
“And [the girls] said, ‘Coach we’re up for this,’’ she said.
The team wears shirts that read: “Sometimes there is no next time, no time outs, no second chances. Sometimes it’s now or never.’’
The Cardinals have an eight-game winning streak as they prepare for their toughest stretch yet against Fairhaven and Barnstable this week. The Cardinals have not lost a set in the past six games.
Case beat its biggest challenger, Fairhaven in its season opener, 3-2.
“For a match that early in the season, the intensity was insane and for it to go the way it went was absolutely amazing. I think my girls handled it really well and pull through,’’ said Levesque, who credits her team’s maturity and IQ.
The Cardinals are looking forward to the rematch.
“We’re ready for them,’’ said Levesque.
The Cardinals hallmark is their tremendous defense.
“We’re the type of team, and we’ve heard it from other teams, that we frustrate them because nothing hits the floor,’’ said Levesque.
The Cardinals are led by middle hitter Briana Sousa, who broke the Case career blocks record with 132.
“Her confidence and determination to take chances on the court in the front row has helped the team out a lot. She gets excited about the things she does,’’ said Levesque.
Setter Megan Armburg is approaching career assist No. 1,000.
“Two years ago Megan was not my primary setter and we talked about volleyball IQ and now she’s able to go in as a senior and run the floor with confidence and can call plays on every serve. That’s definitely maturity of her as an athlete and a player,’’ said Levesque.
“She’s like the quarterback out there and her sense of who’s on the other side of the court is impeccable,’’ she said.
With the persistence, athleticism, and pride driving the Cardinals, a tournament appearance is almost guaranteed.
“We feel we’re good enough to go that far and were determined to go to the end of the road,’’ said Levesque.
Games of the Week
No. 5 Melrose at Central Catholic, Mon., 5:30 p.m.- Both teams are undefeated in league play. Central Catholic is ranked No. 6 while Melrose reached the Division 2 state semifinals.
Stoneham at No. 17 Reading, Tue., 5:30 - Reading appears for the first time in the Top 20 so it we will see how they match up against a Middlesex League rival.
No. 3 Case at No. 4 Fairhaven, Wed., 6 - Division 2 and 3 state finalists face each other for the second time this season after Case outlasted Fairhaven, 3-2, in a season opener.
Quincy at No. 11 North Quincy, Thurs., 6:30 - The longtime rivals face off for the first time this season. The Red Raiders beat the Presidents in the tournament last year after they split the season series.
No. 3 Case at No. 1 Barnstable, Fri., 5:30 - Easily the match of the week. Division 1 Barnstable has been plowing through Top 20 competitors including Division 2 state champion Medfield and Division 3 state champion Frontier. If anyone has a chance of challenging Barnstable, it’s Case.