Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Eight Minutes to Remember

Playing with great intensity before a big crowd won't always bring victory...but it will always bring credit to your team. Sequence from 2005 State Championship loss to Medfield, 3-2.

The mark of a competitor is how you play when things aren't going your way. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Timing the Block

Always click photos to enlarge. 

Offense puts fans in the seats, but defense wins championships. I'm putting up a block sequence from the 2004 season against Lynnfield, which had been a formidable opponent for Melrose historically. Lynnfield had an All-League middle hitter.

Lynnfield sets up a middle attack (ball in the air), with Melrose preparing a single block, and Amanda Hallett (setter, attack line) coming in to defend the tip. There is space to the left corner.

The Lynnfield attack at the moment of contact. The Melrose defender (Paula Sen) has just left the floor and not yet shaped the counterattacking block. Coverage is available for tips to either side.
A fraction of a second later, the plan is only beginning to come together.
The critical moment, maximal jump height, the hands and forearms above the net, fingers spread, and penetration of the 'airspace' that allows the block/kill to happen.  Melrose ran off four consecutive blocks during the sequence to establish control of the tempo early.

Consistent blocking can frustrate the opposition and help the back row immeasurably. Melrose has a number of young, athletic blockers this season, who will determine whether it's nature or nurture in blocking.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Impossible? Nah.

Melrose volleyball has accomplished a lot over the past seven seasons. There's every reason to believe that success will continue.

  • One state final
  • Four Division 2 sectional championships, including three consecutive
  • Seven consecutive Division 2 North finals
  • One statewide team Sportsmanship Award
  • One Division 2 Coach of the Year Award
  • One Division 2 Player of the Year Award
  • Four All-Scholastic players (two repeat recipients)
  • Four Massachusetts Coaches All-State Selections (one repeat recipient)
  • Three North Shore League Player of the Year recipients
  • Numerous Middlesex League All-League and All-Star selections
Accept nothing less than your best each day.


Recently, we were coaching youth basketball, with six players on a team, needing to have one player sit out at a time. I asked the young girls each to pick a number between one and six, and a girl pipes up and says, "seven". Well, seven doesn't go into six, and that especially holds true for volleyball, six players on the floor at once.

Here are the 'superstars' of Melrose High School. And most of them haven't touched a volleyball twice. The library will always count more than the court, but when you're on the court, the play's the thing.  The best way for the players to respect the game is simply to come out and play hard every day.

This week, Coaches Celli and Wall will probably meet with the players and parents and give them an overview of his expectations.  Still, being honest with players and parents may not always earn points. He might regret a few of his decisions (who doesn't?), but that doesn't mean that he would change them at the time.  "Sports doesn't build character, it reveals character."

A parent cheering enthusiastically for the team when their child doesn't play much always shows me a lot about that family, and why that player made the team in the first place. Sometimes "patience carries a lot of wait".

The coach does the best job possible identifying combinations of players that will help the team have a good process and play well. At the same time, the coaches help maximize the ability from every player.  A player might earn more time because of a specific skill (e.g. defending, blocking, serving) and that will necessarily come at the expense of the time of another player.  Melrose volleyball has never lived on the seniority system. But at the end of the day, seven still won't go into six.

Coaches have to make tough decisions all the time. Years ago, a couple of players threatened to quit unless the coach reversed an executive leadership decision. He told the players to do whatever they had to do. Each made a choice which they felt was right for them. The team went on to win a sectional championship.

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, August 28, 2010

Separate Ways...Not

From Pete Carril, former Princeton basketball coach, in his book "The Smart Take from the Strong,"

You Cannot Hide on the Court

"I can check the level of your honesty and commitment by the quality of your effort on the court. You cannot separate sports from your life, no matter how hard you try. Your personality shows up on the court: greed, indifference, whatever, it all shows up. You cannot hide it. It.s possible to be a phony on the court and still be successful if you have talent by relying on talent instead of hard work. You think you're skilled enough to take shortcuts, to cheat on the effort it requires. But you cannot hide it. "

Melrose teams have achieved consistent results through the years because they made a commitment on the court AND off, both in the classroom and in the community. Embrace your opportunity and the leadership that comes with it.

Melrose Volleyball 2010 Preview

This is your team.
Always click the photo to see the entire picture. 
Melrose Volleyball 2010...
front row (left to right) Amanda Commito, Athena Ziavras, Cassidy Barbaro
back row (left to right), Jill Slabacheski, Alyssa DiRaffaele, Rachael Wolley, Brittany Adelman, Maggie Moriarty, Brooke Bell, Jen Cain, Sarah McGowan, Rachel Johnson, Sydney Doherty
The roster brings youthful experience.

Coaches Scott Celli and Steve Wall announce the 2010 Melrose volleyball roster, holding their first full squad practice this morning at the Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School Gym. Although very young, the team returns some very experienced players, as volleyball has become a year-round sport for many of the players.

Although reloading a roster filled with all-state and all-league players doesn't come easily, Melrose promises to be an exciting and very athletic team, led by senior Athena Ziavras. Athena has the volleyball intelligence quotient (IQ), energy quotient (EQ), responsibility quotient (RQ) and talent that could make her Melrose's next All-Scholastic player.

Today's first session emphasized the importance of process, as talented teams with an effective and consistent process have a far better chance to succeed. The coaches emphasized their offensive and defensive rotations, the need to communicate, and the essence of "playing to the whistle."  They also had a variety of suggestions to help players develop more reliable positioning.  Coach Celli reminded the girls that "there's no 'I' in team" and his mathematical flair came out with "you've got to use the whole rectangle."

Observing almost a full practice also afforded the chance to see the team dynamic and their interaction with the coaches. The girls had both an educational experience and a lot of fun as they clearly enjoyed being together.

The players had a full session of both fundamental drills and team concepts. The offense intends to expand its attack, with a full array of attacks being installed.  They completed the morning practice with a 'service' drill, with the players getting 100 percent of their serves in play. 

Clearly, "tradition never graduates". 

As a reminder, the team will host a scrimmage next Friday against Chelmsford at 2 P.M.

Brittany Adelman and Amanda Commito will be returning from the disabled list later this season.

*All information contained within is the sole opinion of the author.  Apologies for any errors (especially spelling). This is not an official page of Melrose High School.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's On

Melrose opened up today, with a record 28 upperclassmen and 21 freshman appearing for tryouts. The freshmen worked out this morning.

Obviously, Coaches Celli and Wall were excited about the turnout and with ever-younger players appearing on scene, more freshmen get a long look. Four were invited to the upperclass afternoon session. Whatever the outcome of tryouts, the team will be young. The four returning players as of now are hitters Athena Ziavras, Jill Slabacheski, Alyssa DiRaffaele, and setter Brooke Bell.

Injuries already continue to be an issue, with Amanda Comitto recovering from knee surgery and outside hitter Brittany Adelman recovering from an off-season injury as well.

The gym looks magnificent with the floor newly resurfaced.

Melrose will have the teams picked by sometime Saturday (TBA) and the Lady Raiders scrimmage Newton North next Thursday in the Tiger Den, host Chelmsford Friday, and will go to the Medway play day Saturday.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Memory Lane: Melrose Defeats Barnstable

Tomorrow kicks off the volleyball tryouts/training camp as volleyball aspirants compete for slots on the 2010 version of Lady Raider volleyball.

Last season the girls won their fourth Division 2 North championship in seven years, and their first since 2005, and beat perennial Division I power Barnstable.

Jeff Mate' posted highlights on YouTube, and maybe this will get your volleyball Jones on.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Signs of life emanated from the Melrose High School today, with the football team back in fall action.

Volleyball tryouts will begin Thursday, August 26th as the Lady Raiders seek another Middlesex League title and defend their Division II North championship.

Projecting the roster at this point is impossible, with the team having to replace so many quality starters, and over 550 kills from Hannah Brickley, Laura Irwin, and Siena Mamayek. In addition to Siena's offense, she was a dominant defender with superior blocking skills.

Coach Scott Celli has a lot of questions to address:
  • After Athena Ziavras, who will become the team's secondary offensive threats?
  • Who will replace Jess Farr and Alex Harlow as the primary back row defensive specialists?
  • Who will emerge as a primary middle blocker?
  • Can anyone approach the passing skills of Hannah Brickley, facilitating the ideal "bump-set-spike" offense?
  • Will the offense attempt to diversify with the short set without as much height?
The season will present special challenges and opportunities with less experience at the front end of the roster and more experience at the back end as more girls have started playing volleyball earlier and an enormous number are playing off-season volleyball.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Volleyball Season: The Countdown Begins

Melrose gets set to embark on another volleyball season, pursuing a tradition of excellence that has resulted in seven consecutive appearances in the Division 2 North championship. During that span, the Lady Raiders have captured four sectional titles and one berth in the state finals. What's different this season? Melrose graduated a number of key players, including Trinity-bound Division 2 Player of the Year Hannah Brickley and an All-State setter in Colleen Hanscom. They lose another power hitter in outside Laura Irwin, All-League defender Jess Farr, steady blocker Siena Mamayek (also with 100 kills), and versatile Alex Harlow.

Final Maxpreps rankings, 2009-2010 Massachusetts. 

But for Coach Scott Celli, the season presents opportunity not rebuilding. He and assistant Steve Wall have returning hitters Athena Ziavras, Jill Slabacheski, Alyssa DiRaffaele and Brittany Adelman, sophomore setter Brooke Bell, and defender Amanda Comitto returning from injury.

Celli and Wall will have to develop a strong passing game from the back row, and look for young talent to replace over 450 kills from Brickley and Irwin.

The evolution of Melrose volleyball has produced young players committed to off-season development and participation in camps. Players come to the high school with more volleyball knowledge and competitive experience than ever before. And as a result, the coaches expect
young talent to step in and step up. Coach Celli noted that the incoming freshman group has more talent than any he has previously coached, which is saying something in a program that has produced four all-state players and five all-scholastics in the past seven seasons.

Melrose has its usual challenging non-league schedule, including southern power Canton and perennial Division I North powerhouse Central Catholic.

Within Division 2, the preseason favorite might be North Reading, a narrow runnerup to Melrose in five sets last season, with monster Middle Hitter Kirsten Morrison.  We can be certain that the Hornets have their sights set on dethroning the Lady Raiders.

Melrose's first home tilt will be a scrimmage September 3rd at 2 P.M. against Chelmsford.