Sunday, September 30, 2012

# 2 in Globe Poll

I'm not sure that the poll holds so much water, underrating Medfield, Notre Dame of Hingham, Westborough, Andover, Central, and Bishop Feehan to name a few. But I'm not doing my own poll.

Liz Torrez' story is here.

Game 9: Details

Melrose remained unbeaten with a workmanlike performance at Stoneham. Melrose had expended a lot of energy earlier in the week, and the Spartans had done the same the previous day against AC in a losing cause.

Perhaps as a result, neither team had the anticipated crispness we expected.

Melrose took the lead early in set one and never trailed. The Lady Raiders had only eight kills as Stoneham had trouble with serve-receive and the other platform skills.

From 7-4, Melrose went on a six point run with Brooke Bell serving, a springboard to an 18-7 lead. Melrose coasted in for a 25-11 set edge.

Kayla Wyland had a couple of early kills and Brooke Bell spread it around.

The second set saw a tale of two halves. Melrose went up 12-2, with Sarah McGowan en fuego with Melrose's first six kills. From a 16-5 edge, Melrose proceded to play less focused ball, with Stoneham getting back to 20-13.

Late kills from Rachel Johnson, Cassidy Barbaro, and Sydney Doherty delivered a 25-15 advantage. McGowan had seven kills added by a pair apiece from Jen Cain and Rachel.

Melrose continued to press their edge in set three, looking for a weekend break before a key match against Central Catholic. Stoneham was within 7-6, but Melrose proceeded to capture seventeen of the next twenty-two points to lead 24-11 in a 25-12 rout. McGowan filled up seven kills along the way.

Game analysis: Melrose faced a possible "trap game" between two toughies against the preps and a third, highly anticipated match against Central. The Lady Raiders took care of business and moved on.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Game 9: Photos Melrose 3 Stoneham 0

Long day with volleyball, then football broadcasting...

Melrose defeated Stoneham (8-2) as Stoneham had low energy after a tough match with AC yesterday. Melrose won 25-11, 25-15, 25-12. Full report to follow tomorrow.

Game summary: Melrose played solid volleyball against an overmatched opponent. As usual, Melrose's All-State returnees Sarah McGowan and Brooke Bell dominated. Rachel Johnson has really come on lately as a hitter and has a big role with Jen Cain still limited by injury. Additionally, both Kayla Wyland and Sydney Doherty are playing their best volleyball. The back row has tightened up with good work from Amanda Commito, Jill MacInnes, and Allie Nolan.

Jill and Brooke combined for the play of the season, as Jill made a diving dig and pass to Brooke who made a back-set setter dump for a kill.

Images courtesy of Don Norris.

Rachel Johnson has been outstanding recently both defensively and with improved attacks.


A tweet from Celtics' assistant and basketball guru Kevin Eastman:

Leadership requires vision. Vision requires an everyday commitment to execute it & consistent reminders of what it is!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Updated Maxpreps Standings updated standings for Massachusetts. Melrose made the biggest jump on the leader board with a pair of quality wins. The Lady Raiders face Stoneham (8-1) at 4:00 tomorrow at Stoneham.

Melrose-Stoneham Preview

Melrose travels to neighbor Stoneham for a Middlesex League match tomorrow. Stoneham currently is among the Middlesex League leaders with an overall record of 8-1. They are lead by Samantha Trant, an undersized hard-hitting outside hitter, pretty much their version of Jennifer Cain. previews the game here.

The latest rankings have not yet arrived as of publication. It will be interesting to see who moves up more, Melrose by beating Fenwick and AC or Fenwick and AC by losing to Melrose and improving their strength of schedule points.

Sarah McGowan currently ranks first in Massachusetts in Kills/Set with 5.1 and Brooke Bell moves into the top four with 7.9 assists per set.

Most encouraging for Melrose is a steady rise in the moving average of the number of kills/set. This reflects not only the competition (keeping the ball in play), but more efficient offense from Melrose.

Tomorrow's match has importance per se but also for maintaining momentum going into the second half of the season.

Around the Net

The Boston Globe online gives some props to the Lady Raiders.

Perfectly satisfying.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Game 8: Melrose 3 AC 0

Arlington Catholic has not always been a hospitable venue to Melrose. In 2002, AC finished Melrose's season with a 3-0 playoff defeat in the D2 North semifinals. But since then, it's been mostly Melrose, as it was today as Melrose toppled the Cougars from the ranks of the undefeated with a 25-22, 25-22, 25-17 win to move to 8-0.

AC roared out with four early points as Melrose looked to find its footing in the back. Ever so gradually, Melrose assumed control. Brooke Bell's leadership and play, despite a recent painful illness led Melrose back to ties at 4,5,6, and 7.

Once again the first set displayed Sarah McGowan's formidable skills as she drilled home seven of Melrose's fifteen kills.

From 7-7, AC struck back to lead at 12-10, 15-12, 17-15, and 20-18. But Melrose kept hammering away with strong contributions from Amanda Commito in the back, and a pair of late kills apiece from Rachel Johnson (4 kills) and Brooke Bell (2) including the final deflecting off the tape.

Melrose was service error-free during the set.

The Lady Raiders came out stronger in set two, with 5-1 and 8-3 leads, but AC rallied back with excellent setting from Victoria Reis and hitting from Allie Whitney. But with AC making a comeback at 9-7, a costly service error propelled Melrose into a rally when they took an 11-7 edge to a 21-14 lead. Coach Celli's charges never went soft, even as AC continued to apply pressure triggered from solid defense. From 22-17, AC rebounded to trail 24-22 before Rachel Johnson delivered another crushing blow to the deep corner to ice the hosts.

Sarah added another three kills, Jen Cain, Sydney Doherty, and Rachel a pair apiece.

AC burst out of the intermission with another quick 4-0 lead. Once again Melrose chipped away, coming back to trail 5-3 and 6-5 before Melrose earned ties at 7 and 8 before pulling away. The latest version of "Three Slamigos", McGowan, Johnson, and Cain unofficially delivered sixteen kills in the final stanza, six from McGowan, five for Rachel with another monster match, and four for Jen. Kayla Wyland blocked effectively and Jill MacInnes stiffened in the back row. Annalisa DeBari came on late to provide some excellent defense.

Game analysis: Melrose went into the Cougar's den and dealt with occasional adversity in a constructive manner. The small AC gym and hostile crowd presents a tough environment, but the Lady Raiders provided a double dose of mental toughness to remain unbeaten. Both teams had seven seniors battling for bragging rights today. Melrose's seniors deserve a lot of credit for their resilience.

Images courtesy of Don Norris.

The thrill of victory...
Rachel delivers the coup de grace.
Brooke Bell letting her teammates know how she feels.
This shot captures the intensity of the match as Brooke and Sarah go up to block Allie Whitney.
Jen Cain hammers away from the strong side.

Melrose-Fenwick Highlight Video

From Jeff Mate'

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

At AC Tomorrow

Melrose travels to Arlington Catholic tomorrow for a battle of the unbeatens, with both teams an unblemished 7-0. previews the game.

Both teams are ranked in the top 25 in Massachusetts.

Brooke Bell and Sarah McGowan remain high on the statewide leaderboard in kills and assists.

JV Versus Fenwick

Photos courtesy of Jeff Mate'.


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Monday, September 24, 2012

First Looks

Sometimes I can't help but add the courtesy of Don Norris...always click to see enlarged images

This is the real "Big Mac Attack"...girl got ups.
 There must be a story behind this...
New kids on the block.
More 'ups' from Jen Cain.
A picture of concentration

Game 7: Melrose 3 Bishop Fenwick 0

Melrose traveled to Peabody to face once-beaten Bishop Fenwick, and departed with a hard fought three set win to remain undefeated at 7-0.

Fenwick Coach Adam DeBaggis, who coached Melrose's Brooke Bell, Jen Cain, and Sarah McGowan at the Bay State Games, had his team ready and able.

Fenwick went with a heavily strong-side oriented attack early, forging a quick 6-2 lead in set one. But Melrose had other ideas with a five point run behind a McGowan service run. Melrose took the lead for good at 9-7, and the Crusaders never got closer than one, although battling Melrose to a 25-22 set.

McGowan dominated the first set with eight of Melrose's dozen kills. For Sarah, it was one of the most dominant hitting performances in Melrose history. Melrose had a solitary service error in the frame.

In the second set, Fenwick again came out strong, leading 6-3. But the Lady Raiders rallied behind more McGowan magic and Rachel Johnson's best game since Central Catholic last year. Rachel repeatedly stuffed Crusader attacks and came up with four kills of her own, a couple of the thunderous variety.

Fenwick led as late as 9-8, but Melrose then had a mini-run to score eight of the next nine points to go up 16-10.  Melrose expanded the lead to 21-12 and closed out the set 25-18.

Meanwhile McGowan continued to hammer away adding another five kills. The back row including Amanda Commito, Jill MacInnes, Allie Nolan, Jen Cain, and at times McGowan passed extremely well, giving Brooke Bell to setup another dozen kills.

After a pair of hard-fought sets, Fenwick had to feel like Motley Crue.

But they didn't go away easily in the third set, despite Melrose jumping out to a 6-3 lead. Jen Cain warmed up her formidable shooting arm in the third set, becoming the chaos co-conspirator for Melrose. Leading 8-5, Melrose then hammered home three of the next four Melrose points to keep Fenwick from seizing momentum.

Melrose expanded the lead collectively with some key contributions from Rachel and Kayla Wyland, whose length frustrated the Fenwick hitters. Kayla also dropped in a couple of her specialty attacks from the weak side.

Melrose kept fighting off Crusader attacks as the home team battled back from 20-14 and 23-19 deficits to pull within two at 24-22. Melrose abetted the Crusader battle with four final set service errors.

McGowan continued her siege with another seven kills and Cain delivered four including the coup de grace as she delivered a wonderful blow from far off the net to avoid the block and tear the back row asunder.

Unofficially, Melrose added fourteen more kills in the final set.

Game analysis: From an entertainment standpoint, the volleyball was terrific today. Bishop Fenwick played terrific defense as the athletic and well-coached Crusaders fought off savage Melrose attacks. The keys for Melrose were superior passing and refusal to 'go soft' as they punished the Fenwick back row until the final point.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Melrose-Fenwick Preview

Melrose travels to Bishop Fenwick to play a Division 2 top 20 team.

Fenwick lost to the Lady Raiders in the D2 North final last season and is capably coached by Adam DeBaggis, who coached the Melrose contingent during the recent Bay State Games.

Fenwick is led offensively by Kate Lipka and defensively by Olivia Morsey with 141 digs.

Fenwick comes in at 5-1, riding a three game winning streak.

Sarah McGowan stands in fifth spot in kills/game on the attack standings.

Brooke Bell remains in the top ten in assists.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

JV Action

Sometimes selectivity matters. You don't want to choose defective O-rings on space shuttle boosters or defective computer chips. But when it comes to athletic programs, inclusiveness adds value. Role players have meaning as do developmental programs.

Jeff Mate' sends over images from the Junior Varsity. With seven seniors graduating this season, great opportunity exists for determined players competing for a bigger role. With injuries a factor, sophomore Ashley Harding already achieved "field promotion" to varsity status.

Still photos don't show results, but they do show body positioning, concentration, and focus on the ball. Good form (process) begets better results.

And with over twenty players in the system playing off-season volleyball, we know that our experienced and younger players and their families have made a major commitment to improvement.

Snaps from Melrose-Wilmington

Don Norris' lens and sharp eyes see everything. Always click the image to see the full frame...sometimes there's more to see.

 The best things in life are free.

 Kayla. Chicks dig the long ball (inside joke).

 You're not going to eat that, right?
 Hey Abbott!


 Kayla still hitting 'em where they ain't.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Game 6: Melrose 3 Wilmington 0

Melrose hosted Wilmington at the MVMMS Gym and proved inhospitable en route to a 25-12, 25-14, 25-10 victory.

Melrose needed to prepare for a three game road swing next week against Bishop Fenwick, AC, and Stoneham. They tuned up well against the Wildcats with solid play.

They dominated the first set with leads of 6-0 on a Jill MacInnes service run, then led 14-3 and 20-5 along the way. Melrose had 13 kills for the set including four apiece for Sarah McGowan and Jen Cain.

Melrose had a bit of lull in the second set, but four service errors for the Cats cost them an opportunity to close the gap. The Lady Raiders held leads at 6-2, 9-3, and 15-5 before coasting to an eleven point margin. Rachel Johnson and Sarah added three kills, Sydney Doherty and Jen Cain a pair, and sophomore Ashley Harding had her first varsity kill.

Melrose played its best volleyball by far in the final set. After trailing 1-0, they responded with 5-1 and 16-3 leads with liberal substitution to follow. The fans relished the Cain and McGowan show, as Wilmington couldn't catch up to the mustard the dynamic duo provided. Unofficially McGowan had seven kills and Cain a pair, and Sydney Doherty finished the set with a flourish.

Game Analysis: Melrose rolled on with solid front row defense and attacking but struggled a bit with overpasses in the back row. The defense recovered for the third set with dominating play.

Some players look as though they were born with a volleyball attached.
No doubt about the attention provided to Coach Celli.
Cain delivers.
The defense never rests as Jen Cain slips past the defense.
Wilmington had some height, too.
Melrose fans left satisfied with a 6-0 start. is out with its enigmatic ranking system. Suffice it to say, strength of schedule has a huge contribution.