Seniors help Malden enter postseason
In a packed gymnasium at Malden High School on Saturday night, the host Golden Tornados girls’ volleyball team strutted back onto the court from a timeout in the first round of the Division 1 North tournament Saturday night.
A pummeling serve from Dracut’s Ally Ramirez sent Fricya Silva sprawling to keep the ball in the air. Silva dove to tap the ball to senior captain Lisa DeLacey , who set up Norma Bourque-Pimentel for the spike and the point, triggering a roar from the six Malden starters on the floor.
The Golden Tornados fell to Dracut in three sets, but Malden put together a season to remember this fall: defeating Cambridge for the first time en route to earning its first postseason berth in nine seasons as a varsity program.
“Eight of our 12 players were seniors this year, so that senior leadership and presence was huge for us,” said fifth-year head coach Dana Marie Brown .
“We got off to a really strong start and we could tell that this year was different. We knew that this was what we had been working toward this whole season.”
Malden (9-8) lost its first two games, but then rattled off four straight wins behind the stellar play of 5-foot-8 Bourque-Pimental, who was named Player of the Year in the Greater Boston League. The middle hitter finished the season with 182 kills, pacing the Golden Tornados in that stat in 16 of their 17 matches.
“I would’ve never expected any of this to hapen,” Bourque-Pimentel said of earning a tourney spot.
“We worked really hard this summer, working on the fundamentals and getting more skills that we could use this year.”
With the encouragement of the coaching staff, the players set a goal at the beginning of the season to make the state tournament.
“[We] left it on the court every game, because we knew it wasn’t guaranteed,” said DeLacey.
Cambridge coach Kelley Leary certainly took notice.
“Having a consistent coaching staff has definitely helped them but their middle hitter [Bourque-Pimental] was big both times we played them and won the game for them in our second meeting.”
Bourque-Pimentel was an intimidating presence at the net for many foes.
“Whenever we win a point, we scream and say whatever comes to our mind,” Bourque-Pimentel said. “When we celebrate like that, other teams lose their motivation and edge.”
The Golden Tornados did not qualify for the state tournament until their final regular-season match, a 3-1 win over Revere after suffering back-to-back losses to Medford and North Reading.
“We didn’t know if our last game against Revere would be our last, so we made sure we left it all on the court just in case,” DeLacey said.
“But we had practiced Wednesday and Thursday just in case, and then when we found out, we were all so excited.”
And even though Malden didn’t make it past the first round, Bourque-Pimentel and DeLacey hope that the younger girls and the community take notice of how hard they worked to accomplish something that no one thought they could.
“I’m really proud of the team as a whole and the support from the coaches, JV and freshman teams as well as the community was awesome,” DeLacey said. “After our loss, [assistant] coach [Matthew] Sadowski] said that our team raised the bar high for next year’s team, and we’re all glad that this was something we were a part of.”
For Lynn Classical, a big turnaround
Lynn Classical finished 9-8, earning the ninth seed in the Division 1 North tourney after a 7-9 mark a year ago, its first postseason appearance in three years as a program.
“We won the Lynn city championship, which was big for our girls and really got us into the tournament,” said first-year varsity coach Frank DeLuca .
“We’re really starting to grow as a program after having 80 girls try out from the summer, and hopefully, next season we can take it to the next level.”
With big wins over Malden and Revere, the Rams won five straight to land a tourney spot before being ousted by Central Catholic, 3-0, in the first round.
Beverly (14-2) took the third spot in the Division 1 bracket after failing to qualify in 2011.
“We only won one, maybe two games last season, so this year was definitely a huge turnaround,” Beverly coach Pam Padovani .
“This year’s team was more invested than last year’s team, and a lot of the girls went to camps, clinics and played on club teams as well. So, having that passion and six strong seniors, we knew this year would be different.”
The Panthers were led by seniors Karlie Marrs , Katie Ball, and Mariah Dodd . Marrs averaged 20-23 assists per game in the regular season, Ball accumulated a 93 percent on serves/receive and Dodd averaged 96 percent on serves received.
Ryan MacInnis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.