Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Orange Crush, Melrose Over Winchester 3-0

Melrose proved inhospitable hosts today, annihilating Winchester 3-0 at the Middle School Gym.

Winchester came in confident after running up an early 8-2 record, with a skilled junior setter in Amy Wright and a tall, talented middle hitter in Samantha Mangano. Unfortunately for them, they ran into the buzzsaw that is Melrose these days. When the wood chips cleared, Melrose emerged with a 25-3, 25-10, and 25-11 thrashing. Winchester was unable to amass enough total points in three games to win one.

Hannah Brickley sent a message early with a block and kill on Mangano on the opening point, and the Lady Raiders never looked back. Melrose expanded a 2-1 lead to 11-1, and 24-2, using a flurry of Colleen Hanscom sets spread throughout the lineup. Melrose had sixteen first game kills, led by seven by Hannah, and three apiece by Laura Irwin and Jill Slabacheski. Melrose had no service errors during the game.

Second game was more of the same, with another thirteen kills, and a 7-0 lead shutting down Winchester as blends of Melrose starters and reserves continued the pressure. Hannah rammed hom another five kills, Laura rained down three, and Siena Mamayek added another pair along with a block. Freshman setter Brooke Bell came off the bench to chime in with four assists and a kill.

Game three saw Winchester take their only lead at 3-2, with Melrose responding with a 13-1 run to keep the Sachems at bay. Melrose had another fourteen kills for a remarkable forty-three kills in the match, including another five for Hannah before she got a well deserved rest and replacement by sophomore Alyssa DiRaffaele.

Match analysis: one respected observer made the point that in these times, the only way to get respect is to be an undefeated team. Winchester arrived with confidence and some puffery, and left with more questions than answers.

Melrose came out with a new warmup routine and much greater energy than against Bishop Fenwick. Colleen Hanscom's contribution often gets lost in the praise of the hitters, but the sets today were clean and precise, allowing the front row to bomb away. The back row hasn't been challenged by heavy hitters, but Jess Farr, Alex Harlow, and Amanda Commito keep returning most everything coming their way. Annemarie Wiesen showed her versatility setting the front row, and the team reduced its service errors to two.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Winchester Preview

Melrose hosts Winchester tomorrow, seeking to extend its seven match win streak.

Winchester has already defined itself as the most successful expansion team in Middlesex League volleyball. Although a complete record is not available at the time of writing, the Sachems are likely to have a 7-2 record coming in, with losses to Reading and (presumably) Lexington.

The word is that Winchester brought in college coaches for fundamental instruction before embarking on league entry. We can only hope for equivalent enthusiasm around the league.

Melrose needs to improve its overall efficiency with this week's games and avoid looking too far ahead as they face Massachusetts' third ranked team Monday at Central Catholic.

What do the Lady Raiders need to refine as the season progresses?
  • Reduce service errors. Teams with championship aspirations cannot beat themselves.
  • Bring their hitting efficiency to peak. Excellence and aggressiveness go hand in hand. Passive volleyball means losing volleyball...hit through or be through.
  • Play 'A game' defense. Neither the front row (blockers) or back row have been tested at the level requiring multiple tough digs game in and game out.
What we do know is that this team has already established its identity and that the challenge ahead means raising their game from the opening serve to game point.

Monday, September 28, 2009

MaxPreps Rankings Are Out

Click chart to enlarge.Melrose shows up at number 14 overall, reflecting the schedule so far. No reason to fret fans, as Melrose plays number 2 (Barnstable), number 3 (Central), number 6 (Feehan), and number 12 (Canton) later this season. It's easy to see that the power is in the Central and the South. Rankings don't always tell the story though, either. In preseason play, Melrose handled both Feehan and Frontier. All that being said, it makes for great discussion.

Lady Raiders Finish Strong, Beat Bishop Fenwick, 3-0

Melrose hosted Bishop Fenwick (4-2) at the Middle School Gym, and came away 7-0 with a 25-15, 25-6, 25-10 victory.

The Lady Raiders looked sluggish in the first game, leading 4-0, before succumbing to sloppy volleyball and trailing 9-8 before Coach Scott Celli took a time out to rally his troops from their numbness. Melrose picked it up from there, losing another point before going on a 17-5 run to capture the game. Laura Irwin (4) and Hannah Brickley (3) converted Colleen Hanscom assists into kills to ice the game. Unfortunately Melrose had four service error.

The second stanza saw more typical Melrose play, although with a new wrinkle as Alyssa DiRaffaele got a start in the back row. Melrose responded with both better offense and defense, including five players with kills including Laura, Hannah, Colleen, Siena Mamayek, and Jill Slabacheski. Melrose also trimmed the service errors to one, holding leads of 7-1, 14-2, and 18-4 en route to a dominating win. Freshman Brooke Bell came in to pile up some assists of her own.

Game three again saw liberal substitution and Melrose racing out to 9-3 and 16-5 leads. Melrose won the point of the year at 10-4, with Hannah making a sprawling, diving cross-court one-armed get during a long rally culminating in a Melrose point. Again Brooke came off the bench to set effectively, and Siena had a couple of athletic blocks and kills. Melrose had an additional two service errors.

Match analysis: The cartoon strip 'Pogo' has a famous line, "we have met the enemy, and he is us." Early in the match, Melrose struggled not because of Bishop Fenwick as much as through unforced errors and service miscues. As the match progressed, the girls got their footing, although it took about half the contest for the team to get in sync.

Hannah's defensive play in the third was the match highlight, but other players had their moments. Jess Farr continued her remarkable steadiness at libero, Siena looked strong defensively in the middle, and Colleen and Brooke both set very cleanly. Everyone on the team continues to do their job whether starting or coming in off the bench.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

ML Roundup

Reading recently got some face time in the Globe North section.

Lexington held a fundraiser for ovarian cancer awareness as part of their Friday contest with Reading.

Burlington continues to try to get its program off the ground.

Watertown likewise continues to work hard to improve.

MaxPreps keeps the league standings, but are dependent on reporting for updates.

Quarter Pole

Melrose has completed about a quarter of its season (anticipating a long post-season run), and numerous observations come to mind.

  • The team has improved in every facet of the game
  • The offense has a much higher hitting percentage
  • The first pass success to setter Colleen Hanscom continues to improve
  • In additional to improved team defense, many individuals have stepped up their defense to a high level, particularly Jess Farr, Laura Irwin, and Siena Mamayek
  • Although the team starts five seniors, it has paradoxically also gotten younger with a pair of sophomores (Jill Slabacheski, Allysa DiRaffaele) and freshmen (Amanda Commito, Brooke Bell), all of whom would start for most Middlesex League teams.
  • The entire team is playing at a high level with great enthusiasm.
What to look for going forward?
  • Can the Middlesex League competition improve and make for more interesting matches the second half of the season?
  • Will there be any unexpected events between now and playoff time, such as incremental player development?
  • How will the Lady Raiders fare against the "iron" of the schedule, as they still have three undefeated teams on the nonleague schedule, Central Catholic, Barnstable, and Canton?
If you wonder why Melrose has enjoyed such a run, then know the many reasons.
  • Coaching
  • Surging interest in youth volleyball. Ideally, a year-round volleyball facility will emerge along with more coaches
  • Nonspecific player development: YMCA memberships, personal trainers, player workouts
  • Sport-specific development with off-season participation in camps and travel volleyball programs

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Melrose - Reading Photos

Click photographs to enlarge. Pictures courtesy of Don Norris.

Melrose volleyball combines success with fun. From left, Jess Farr, Alex Harlow, Amanda Commito, Laura Irwin, Colleen Hanscom, and Hannah Brickley.

Jill Slabacheski goes up for the block, with the fingers spread but the hands a tad late in getting together to penetrate the net.
Hannah goes for the block as Athena Ziavras and Jill look on.
Athena goes for the spike.
Melrose waits for the second game to start.
Laura winds up from the outside (strong side) of the court, with Siena Mamayek at the ready.
Hannah goes high for the kill.
Who's who in the crowd? Melrose AD Pat Ruggiero and School Superintendent Joseph Casey.
Game over. Time to celebrate.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Melrose's Athens Downs Stoneham Spartans, 3-0

Melrose (6-0) traveled to Stoneham to face Coach Andrew Viselli's Spartans, leaving with a 3-0 victory, 25-10, 25-11, 25-10.

Melrose sprinted out to a 5-1 league behind southpaw Alex Harlow's serving, and built an 18-5 lead before closing out the game. Hannah Brickley had five kills, Laura Irwin three, and Siena Mamayek and Jill Slabacheski added a pair apiece.

Second verse, not same as the first, as Stoneham romped out 6-0, before a Melrose counterattack gave them an ephemeral 8-7 lead. Stoneham went back up 9-8 but Melrose went on an 11-0 run to ice it 19-9, and a Brickley service run including a pair of aces, greased the victory skids. Hannah (4), Laura (3), Jill (2), and Siena continued the offensive load, with Colleen Hanscom padding her career assist record.

Game 3 mirrored the opener, with a 4-0 lead, 12-3 lead expansion, and gradual break away from their hosts. Stoneham struggled with Melrose only producing four kills, and producing three service errors.

Melrose continues to refine their total package of hitting, and the critical initial pass to set up the plays. The higher attack rate percentages reflect clear improvement in the initial pass and the solid play of Jess Farr, Alex, Hannah, Laura, and Amanda Commito in the back row. The best teams have terrific libero and back row play digging out the spikes that defeat lesser teams.

V-Ball Notes: Kneebone's connected to the hip bone, or who beat whom or took games from whom. Arlington Catholic lost to perennial south power North Quincy 3-1. AC had never been in the game against the Lady Raiders. North Quincy is 6-1, having lost only to future Melrose opponent, Barnstable.

Melrose hosts 4-2 Bishop Fenwick Monday at the Middle School Gym.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Melrose Sizzles, Rockets Fizzle 3-0

The Melrose Lady Raiders volleyball team notched their fifth consecutive victory, thrashing the Reading Lady Rockets 3-0 at the Veterans Middle School Gym. Reading came in 3-1, undefeated in Middlesex League play, with a lone defeat to Methuen.

Since 2002, every Middlesex League title has belonged to either Melrose or Reading (2006). The pair shared the crown in 2004 before Melrose won the rubber game in the D2 North semis.

Melrose has its best team since 2005 and they reinforced their claim to ML superiority with the blend of improved passing, better back row defense, and dynamic serving as they simply overwhelmed the visitors.

Game one saw Melrose go up 4-0 and they never looked back. Reading struggled to return serve and couldn't mount any offense as Melrose threw a blitzkrieg at the Rocket back row. The result...a 25-5 rout from which the visitors never recovered.

Melrose continued to make a statement in game two, blasting out to a 10-1 lead before Reading could mount a counterattack. Crisp passing and the combination of Colleen Hanscom to Hannah Brickley set up some beautiful attacks for Melrose. When the smoke cleared, Melrose emerged with a 25-11 triumph, including long service runs from Hannah, Laura Irwin, and sophomore Jill Slabacheski.

Game three saw Reading playing their best volleyball of the day, but not nearly good enough, as the back row defense of Jess Farr, Alex Harlow, and Amanda Commito, along with contributions from Hannah and Laura simply stymied the Rockets. Reading knotted the game at five, before a 13-1 Melrose run drained the dinitrogen tetroxide from the Rocket tanks. Melrose called off the dogs and put a 25-13 victory in the book.

The implication of the combined 75-29 victory became crystal clear; the Middlesex League title runs through Melrose.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Reading Preview

Melrose (4-0) hosts the Reading Lady Rockets Wednesday at the Middle School as the perennial top two teams in the Middlesex League square off.

The Reading Advocate recaps their recent victory over Winchester.

Melrose and Reading have had some classic confrontations through the years and fans can be sure these teams will bring their 'A' game as they battle for ML supremacy. Reading usually has the height advantage, while this year the Lady Raiders counter with superior experience and a team balanced with a plethora of hitting options.

More volleyball hitting drills and education for your entertainment.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Melrose has enjoyed great success as a program, but Massachusetts volleyballers toil in relative obscurity. You might ask why.

Barnstable, our perennial state champion traveled to Illinois last year ...and didn't win a game. explained:

In Massachusetts, it is shocking if Barnstable loses a single game in a match, but in Illinois the Red Raiders did not win a single game in their first three matches.

They lost Friday to Hinsdale South (25-19, 25-18) and Wheaton-Warrenville South (25-18, 25-17) and Saturday morning to Barrington (25-20, 25-18).

“That’s why we went out there,” said Turco. “The teams out there are so far ahead of us in every facet of the game — in passing, serving, defense, training and youth development.”

We know a family from California whose daughter is being recruited as a scholarship player by a number of quality New England colleges as a defensive specialist. Check out the highlights on her professional web page, to see the difference in the caliber of play. She can't even make her high school team which is one of the top teams in California. However, a separate club structure exists so players can compete outside of high school.

As a region, we lack the infrastructure (leagues, courts, youth coaching) to approach the development in other areas of the country. It is what it is.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Don Norris Photos Up at MaxPreps

View Melrose-AC photos here.

Volleyball 101

Most of us haven't grown up around volleyball and don't know all the terminology, rules, and even some of the basics of how to "bump", set, and spike. That doesn't mean we can't learn.

Here's a list of some volleyball terms and 'geography'.

We'll try to add some videos (off the web) to give more basic information. Here's a few videos on attacking, passing, and the "short set" or "1 ball". Upper echelon (college/international) volleyball uses the short set to defeat powerful blockers and compensate for lack of height. Melrose has had some big hitters in the past, but note that in many parts of the country, players are learning skills at much younger ages.

Here's an intro.

And the 'jump set'...shorter than the fountains.

And the initial pass to set up the play.

And the 'short set'...or 'quick set'. The quick set comes in at about 3:15. With the right technique, this can be devastating.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Melrose - Arlington Catholic Photos

I have uploaded additional photos to the MaxPreps site. I am running into some space limitations with my Google account regarding the number of pictures uploaded.

Here is the link to MaxPreps, which also gives league standings, rosters, and as we move deeper into the season, rankings based on records and strength of schedule. Apologies for any inconvenience. I strongly suggest that you bookmark this site.

I have also been uploading many of the (recent) articles to this site. It also gives you an opportunity to contribute your own photos and/or stories.

The terrific photos belong to Don Norris, who is kind to use his artwork to celebrate the girls...congratulations again to Colleen Hanscom on setting the school assist record.

Declawed! Melrose Tops AC, Hanscom Sets Assist Record

Melrose put in a bid to be the top dog in the North, hammering the Arlington Catholic Cougars 3-0 at the Middle School Gym. A large crowd saw the locals in total domination, 25-6, 25-14, and 25-15.

The Cougars got the jump 1-0, but a 9-0 run of service by Alex Harlow effectively decided the outcome. A time-out by AC Coach Erin Kozul couldn't stem the tide, as the shell-shocked Cats couldn't get rolling. Melrose had 12 first game kills, including six from All-State Middle Hitter Hannah Brickley, a pair from Laura Irwin, and one apiece from Siena Mamayek, Athena Ziavras, Colleen Hanscom, and Jill Slabacheski. Melrose had a pair of service errors.

Colleen set the all-time assist record in the game as she needed seven to eclipse Amanda Hallett's record, who in turn had superseded Amanda Labella. Colleen also deserves credit for her versatility with the capacity to both hit and block. Congratulations to Colleen who has had a terrific career at setter with over a thousand assists.

AC came out stronger in the second stanza, tied at three before an Irwin service run ran the score to 9-3. Melrose continued to pound away from all angles, adding another eleven kills, including seven from Hannah. AC cut the lead to 10-5, but then exploded to 15-6 effectively dishing out the catnip winning 25-14.

Game three saw AC without any kryptonite to slow down the Melrose offensive machine. A 5-4 Melrose advantage expanded to 17-7, and the coaches substituted freely down the stretch. Laura Irwin had another pair of kills in the third game, and the stout defense of Jess Farr, Alex Harlow, and Amanda Commito in the back row iced the victory at 25-15.

Melrose goes to 4-0 and AC falls to 2-2. The composite score of 75-33 reflects the superiority that Melrose showed today.

Game Notes: AC has three Melrose residents, Lizzie Atkins, Alie Barletta, and Rachel Buckley. AC's most effective player today was junior David Amicangioli. Boys are eligible for a sport when there is no equivalent sport for their participation.

Melrose JV also dominate the Cougars' JV squad, winning 2-0.

Melrose JV Roster:

Kailey Rawston
Amy Howland
Rachel Johnson
Katie Shinkwin
Maggie Moriarty
Jennifer Cain
Sydney Doherty
Courtney McNamara
Brittany Adelman
Sarah McGowan
Casey McVicar
Rachel Wolley

Melrose Freshman Roster:

Caroline Butts
Caroline Casey
Alana Colombo
Christina Giordano
Hannah Goulian
Sara Hatfield
Mackenzie Hines
Anna Morgan
JoAnna Stanton
Sara Vagan
Kayla Wyland

Melrose Volleyball will sponsor a Car Wash at the MHS parking lot next Saturday, September 26, 2009.

Melrose volleyball action should soon also appear on MMTV Channel 15.

Melrose Volleyball History Update

Click chart to ENLARGE.

Each season a new team strives to build its own legacy, with goals including league championships, playoff appearances, and advancement deep into the post-season.

Girls' volleyball has enjoyed the most success of any sport in Melrose recently with six consecutive appearances in the sectional finals and steady increase in both interest and participation in the sport among younger girls.
This year's group, a senior-laden team has the opportunity to build on their prior success with a dynamic non-league schedule, including defending Division I state champion Barnstable and Division II state finalist Central Catholic.

Today, the Lady Raiders host the Arlington Catholic Cougars at 2 P.M. AC is off to a 2-1 start in the Catholic Central League. AC dropped their last match 3-0 to their league leader Cardinal Spellman.

Melrose Volleyball Notes: The Lady Raiders did not face AC last season; Melrose resident Maria Scocca is a former AC star and plays for Division I Bryant College along with another former Melrose opponent, Adrienne Boss of Central Catholic.

Merry Heyward plays volleyball for Westfield State. Paula Sen played for Dartmouth's club volleyball team that captured the New England college club volleyball championship.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Red Devils Exorcised, 3-0

Melrose hosted Burlington today at the Middle School and came away with an impressive 3-0 victory.

Melrose's dominance allowed Coach Scott Celli to give extended playing time to many of his charges, which helps determine optimal combinations and court time. Opportunity has always followed production in the Melrose system.

Melrose started slowly, trailing 4-1 with a few uncharacteristic errant hits. Then the Lady Raiders turned it on, with several long runs, from 1-4 to 10-4 and 12-7 to 19-7, sparked by precision setting from Colleen Hanscom and a flurry of kills from Athena Ziavras (4), Hannah Brickley (3), and Siena Mamayek (2) and Laura Irwin (2). Melrose closed it out 25-15.

Game 2 reflected total domination for the locals 25-6. Serving specialist Alex Harlow had a solid run, and Melrose jammed home another eleven kills, with another four apiece for Hannah and Athena. Brooke Bell got valuable setting experience spelling Colleen.

Game 3 found Melrose winning 25-17, although the score didn't reflect the actual margin. The coaches continued to experiment with personnel groupings, alternative hitting strategies, and substitutions. Melrose again had double figure kills including six for Laura, three for Hannah and a pair for Jill Slabacheski having a high attack rate efficiency early this season.

The back row defense spearheaded by senior Jess Farr and Amanda Commito turned in another solid performance. Senior AnneMarie Wiesen got a good look at opposite and Alyssa DiRaffaele shows promise in the middle.

Match Analysis: Burlington showed improvement both at the net and serving, although likely to be a middle of the road team in the Middlesex League, behind Melrose, Reading, Lexington, and Stoneham. Melrose continues to reduce service errors, with only a pair this afternoon. Melrose may have its deepest hitting group ever, with career leader Hannah in the middle, veterans Laura and Athena outside, and rapidly improving Jill challenging for a big role this season. Siena uses her height and aggressiveness to defend superbly in the middle, and Colleen shows why she should be the All-League setter this season.

All that being said, Melrose hasn't been challenged yet this season, and the teams that have beaten Melrose in the post-season have typically done it with explosive offense and unyielding back row defense with All-State type libero play (e.g. Marlborough, Case, Medfield).

Saturday, the Lady Raiders will face their first real hurdle as they host Arlington Catholic at the Middle School at 2 P.M. Local volleyball fans should get a better picture of competitive volleyball when the Cougars come to town for "Catfight Saturday".

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Marauders Sacked, 3-0.

Melrose traveled to Belmont and took home a 3-0 victory. The Lady Raiders (2-0) started slow and built from there.

Game 1 began with alternating 4-0 runs, with Melrose striking first and then a knot at four. There was seesaw action until 9 all and then Melrose went on a 16-3 run to win 25-12. Laura Irwin and Hannah Brickley each had a pair of kills.

Game 2 was similar with the score even at five before Melrose took the train to Blowout City, winning 25-11. Colleen Hanscom piled up the assists with five kills apiece (unofficially) for Laura and Hannah and singletons for Siena Mamayek and Jill Slabacheski.

The final stanza proved to be a quick 25-8 affair. Laura added another five kills, and six different players were credited with kills.

Melrose reduced their number of service errors today, with six overall, three long and three into the net. The team will be working to get sharper as they play Burlington and AC later this week.

AC usually provides stiff competition for Melrose, although Melrose's rise to a Division II North power has come partially at the expense of the Cougars. The 2003 defeat of AC at Andover in the Division II North sectional final remains one of the top victories in Lady Raider history, helping to fuel the rivalry between the two.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Melrose-Watertown Volleyball Photoessay

Photographs courtesy of Don Norris.

I try to post the 'best' shots and stay away from a few selected shots that for whatever reason... Also, I can only post the pictures received. Occasionally, all the players aren't available; they know who they are. And sometimes the without further ado...

Jill Slabacheski had an impressive debut in her second season as a hitter.

Junior Athena Ziavras also got off to a great start in 2009.
Amanda Commito is the first freshman ever to start a first game for Melrose, which is saying something when Melrose has had three All-State players, and four players named All-Scholastics.
AnneMarie Wiesen adds experience up from front, and versatility in setting.

Heidi Wall is one of the first ladies of Melrose volleyball.
___________________________________________________________This year's team is a blend of youth and experience. From left, Coach Wall, Siena Mamayek, Athena, Brooke Bell, Coach Celli, Colleen Hanscom, Alyssa DiRaffaele, Jill Slabacheski, Amanda Commito, Alex Harlow, and AnneMarie Wiesen.
Jill, Laura Irwin, and Hannah Brickley will have a big role in Melrose's offensive attack this year.
Back row players like Alex Harlow and Jess Farr are critical against the big hitters.
The Melrose brain trust of Coach Scott Celli (R) and Steve Wall have taken the locals to the sectionals for six straight years and playoffs for seven consecutive seasons.
Jess (L) and Amanda in between points.
Sophomore Alyssa DiRaffaele shows competitiveness at the net.
Athena spikes, with Jess, Alyssa, and Senior Middle Hitter Siena Mamayek prepare for a return.
The fans turn out for the Lady Raiders.
From left: Jess, AnneMarie, Siena, Alyssa, freshman setter Brooke Bell, and the coaches.

Melrose Volleyball Update

Schedule changes.

Sept.18 match vs Burlington has been changed to Sept.17
Sept.29 match vs Winchester has been changed to Sept.30

Per Coach Celli

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tradition Never Dies: Melrose 3-0

Something old, something new. The Melrose Lady Raiders opened the 2009 volleyball season with a convincing 3-0 victory over Watertown at the Middle School Gym.

The "old" included a vintage effort from returning starters Hannah Brickley, Colleen Hanscom, Laura Irwin, Siena Mamayek, and Jess Farr. The 'new' included the first opening day freshman starter in defensive specialist Amanda Commito, and an extended appearance from reserve setter freshman Brooke Bell.

As a developing program, Watertown struggles against the stronger teams, and that showed today. Melrose jumped out to a 9-2 lead in game one, with Watertown's only points coming on Melrose service errors. Melrose wrapped the first frame 25-4, with the highlights including Hannah Brickley's jump serve and a paucity of kills as the visitors struggled to return serve.

Game 2 saw more of the same, with a 25-6 thrashing, but a few more kills including a trio from Hannah and a pair from Laura. From the middle of Game 2 onward, Coach Scott Celli substituted liberally and everyone saw action.

Melrose captured Game 3 25-10 with yet more domination.

Although the match lacked a high degree of competition, Melrose showed its usual solid defensive flow, and the hitting improved noticeably from last season, with particularly impressive attack rates from some of the younger players including Athena Ziavras and Jill Slabacheski from the outside. Athena showed power and consistency and Jill displayed the knack of hitting down, rendering digging virtually impossible.

As Coach Celli noted after the match, "we play the schedule and face plenty of strong teams this season." The Coach was pleased with the effort and early season performance of his team in all of the preseason schedules.

Melrose has opportunities to improve their serving, with nine service errors, including five into the net, not unusual with a number of young players seeing early season action. However, overall the team shows a lot of promise as they seek to bring the Division II North title 'home'.

Colleen Hanscom had the postgame Tootsie Pops, a tradition started years ago by the Dillons.

Faces in the crowd. The Back Row Gang came out in force, and former All-State Middle Hitter Karen Sen and Lady Raider hoopster Sam Bell were on hand.

A shout out to Joe Celli, unable attend today with illness...get well soon, and the Melrose volleyball family looks forward to seeing you in the stands soon.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lady Raiders Launch 2009 Campaign

The Melrose Lady Raiders Volleyball team launches their 2009 season tomorrow, hosting Watertown at the Veterans Memorial Middle School.

Melrose returns a senior laden team sprinkled with youthful enthusiasm with a pair of sophomores and freshmen as the program expands with the addition of a freshman program sponsored by the parents. Accomplished local player Andrea Basteri coaches the freshman squad.

Last year Melrose (20-3) lost in the Division II North finals to Central Catholic which now moves up to Division I.

This team will likely house all the record holders for Melrose volleyball, with Hannah Brickley owning the record for kills and Colleen Hanscom the ultimate record holder for assists from the setter position. Brickley is a two-time All-State middle hitter and one of the top players in Massachusetts, and returning North Shore League Player of the Year.

For those new to volleyball, every time the ball is put into play a point is scored, and this season Melrose hosts some terrific non-league opponents in perennial state champion Barnstable and archrival Arlington Catholic. AC remembers their undefeated team handed a stunning defeat by the Lady Raiders in 2003 en route to Melrose's first Division II North title.

Consider turning out to support the young ladies as they launch their season. We'll get an opportunity to see both veterans and new faces in the opener.

Monday, September 07, 2009

More Than a Feeling: Teammates*

"Sports doesn’t build character, it reveals it.” – John Wooden

Great players who are "bad teammates" simply don't exist. We remember great teams as special units, not one or two players acting independently.

Melrose volleyball earned its reputation through consistent excellence. The Lady Raiders won three consecutive Division II North titles and went to the state championship in 2005, and won the MIAA Coaches’ Sportsmanship Award in 2004. The past three seasons the team has again advanced to the D2 North finals, extending the run of Division II North final appearances to six. Expectations remain high. It's never easy.

Girls learn volleyball skills earlier each year, and prepare for the opportunity just to become part of the program. The competition doesn’t end with selection. Everyone wants not only to be on the team, but contribute on the floor. Players sacrifice time and freedoms that classmates do not; players meet drug and alcohol abstinence standards and are role models for young girls in the state's second smallest city.

Coaches Celli and Wall introduce expectations annually to set the tone for players and parents. Participation fees make it more difficult, as fees help defray expenses, but don't guarantee playing time.

The coaches explain how players can contribute through determined practice, exemplary attitude, and of course, demonstration of improving skills. They let players know that they will earn playing time in varying degrees according to their progress. Not everyone will play as much as they would like. The ultimate goal is having a winning team, playing to its potential. Understandably, players and parents often find this difficult.

“The race doesn’t always go to the swiftest or the battle to the strongest, but it pays to bet that way.”

Although many players have earned attention locally and some regionally, few have accomplished more than a girl who played years ago- being a great teammate. She wasn’t the star of the team. She often played only late in games after the outcome was decided. She came to practice every day, practiced hard, and became the best she could be. She knew she wouldn’t be in the game at the big moments, while younger, less experienced athletes would be. She accepted this because she valued being part of the team and contributing however she could. Her best friend, Marianne Foley, became an All-Scholastic in 2003, while she cheered and supported the team. Both shared Melrose's first Division II North volleyball championship, on a team that went 22-2 and came within a point of going to the state championship, losing to the ultimate champions, Marlborough. And everyone remembers Danielle Burke as a great teammate, a part of Melrose volleyball history.

*Modified from a previous article on this site.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Medway Playday Proves Heyday for Locals

Melrose faces a difficult non-league schedule this season, and has prepared with a scrimmage at Newton North Thursday and a six-game 25 minute apiece jamboree at Medway.

Melrose returns the core of its team, having lost only Senior Kelly O'Neill to graduation.

Today's action saw the following scores:

Melrose over perennial Division 3 power Frontier 34-23
Melrose dominates Division I Lincoln-Sudbury 40-20
Melrose stops host Medway 33-29
Melrose outpoints future opponent Bishop Feehan 42-25
The Lady Raiders handle Franklin 38-22
Melrose runs past Hopkinton 36-23

According to the Maxpreps schedule, Melrose hosts the Peabody Tanners in a scrimmage Wednesday, and opens against Watertown Friday.

Melrose has further expanded the program this season with the addition of a Freshman team, coached by former Lady Raider and Emmanuel College standout Andrea Basteri.

The season should offer change, at least according to the rumor mill. "The Grapevine" has Stoneham's Coach Andrew Viselli promising a Middlesex League title within three years, Reading and Lexington the usual suspects to challenge the Lady Raiders, and Melrose's seniors with their last chance to grab a Division II North Sectional championship while seeking their 7th consecutive berth in the Sectional finals.
Melrose is developing their next core of players while the seniors get their final title shot.

We'll be on the lookout for preseason previews from the area newspapers.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Division 2 Teams 2009

Again a list from Maxpreps.

Note: The North Reading Hornets have moved into Division II. If form holds, they will prove to be Melrose's prime obstacle in Division II North. Other perennial powers in Division II include Medfield, Medway, Marlborough, Bourne, Bishop Feehan, Canton, and Arlington Catholic.

Team Prepares for 2009 Season

The Melrose Lady Raiders Volleyball team prepares for its toughest schedule ever. Here's a link to the MaxPreps site, that should prove to be a useful site. I don't know about the accuracy of all the information, but here it is.