We learn some of our greatest lessons not from victory, but from the inevitable setbacks that accompany sports. Here are my thoughts on lessons retaught:
1. Never underestimate the primacy of platform skills. Melrose became a very strong 'ball control' team with integrated skill in serve receive, digging, and passing.
2. The whole was greater than the sum of the parts. "The star of the team was the team." Superior blocking supports the back row, and the back row's ability to keep plays alive was never better. Better defense creates better setting chances. Players focused on not taking plays off in practice and everyone selflessly accepted their roles along the way.
3. "Good judgement comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgement." Melrose's seven seniors brought invaluable experience and leadership.
4. Serving can be a weapon. Employing Cassidy Barbaro as a designated server capitalized on the principle of "risk and reward". Aggressive serving made a critical difference in both the state semifinal and state championship.
5. Against quality opposition, balanced offense creates defensive problems. Melrose big three hitters Sarah McGowan, Rachel Johnson, and Jen Cain all produced double digit kills in the finale.
6. Good teams never quit. Against Canton, Melrose fell behind in two sets but rallied back as mental toughness complemented skill. Younger players can benefit from studying success literature such as "10 Minute Toughness" and "Way of the Champion."
7. Never underestimate foundation skills. The local infrastructure reached critical mass with summer camps, middle school volleyball, numerous area programs, Bay State Games, and players and families making tremendous year-round commitment.
8. "It takes a village." Community interest in volleyball continues to grow. Melrose fans are a presence on the road and traveled in force to Lawrence, Billerica, and Northborough.
We have much to appreciate. Happy Thanksgiving.