Friday, November 30, 2012

Kayla Wyland Highlights

The latest in the series of player highlights...Kayla Wyland...from Jeff Mate'.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Breakup Dinner Coming

The Melrose Volleyball postseason banquet comes up soon, December 6, 2012 at the Montvale Plaza.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Lost in Translation

Melrose volleyball fans sometimes hear cryptic commentary about curiosities like "dinosaur digs" or Al Hrabosky. Explanations are due.

At about 50 seconds into the video, you see Hrabosky (back to the hitter), turn and ascend the mound ready to 'serve' (see Amanda Commito). Hrabosky (a.k.a. The Mad Hungarian) was the Cardinals' closer in the early 1970s. 

Libero. A a libero is the backrow defense specialist, they are allowed to sub for any backrow player when the ball isn't in play without previous permission from the refs
Traditional digging drill. 

Melrose's rise parallels improvements at all positions but is readily visible in the back row digging and passing, the "platform skills". 

Cut shots. This is the best video I could find with instruction, although a beach video lesson. Key points are the contact, crossing the net, and landing point. The next generation of Melrose hitters can benefit from learning the cut shot. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Shot from Boston Globe sampler of pictures pertaining to fall sports championships.

Globe North Front Page Story Today

Melrose Girls Volleyball Makes History with Title

Lessons Relearned in 2012

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.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanks for the Memories

Don Norris shows us more faces of Melrose volleyball.

Click to see the whole images.

Giving Thanks

Followers of Melrose Volleyball have a lot for which to be thankful. Here's a look back at the past four years.

2009-2012 (Exactly 100 matches played)
Overall Record (92-8)
Home Record (48-4)
Road Record (37-1)
Neutral Record (7-3)
vs ML Teams (54-1)
vs Non-League (23-4)
Tournament (15-3)

4 ML Championships
4 D2 North Championships
1 D2 State Championship

5 Players selected to All-State teams (Brickley, Hanscom, Ziavras, Bell, McGowan)
Division 2 Player of the Year (Hannah Brickley)
Coach Scott Celli Inducted into Hall of Fame

2012 Team Records
Most games won in season (26)
Most games won regular season (21)
Most games won post-season (5)
Only Melrose team to win four sectional titles
Fewest sets lost (4)
Most players selected to Middlesex League All-Star Team (7)

Thanks for all you have done

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

MGVCA All-State Teams

Massachusetts Girls Volleyball Coaches Association  published its 2012 All-State teams.  We have seen a number of the players from the Division 2 roster.

Brooke Bell and Sarah McGowan are repeat selections, and the sixth and seventh players from Melrose to achieve All-State honors.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

More Championship Shots from Don Norris

Here are a smattering of some great shots courtesy of Don Norris.  As you know, click the images to see the full frame.

Red Raider Nation turns out for the Lady Raiders.
 Courtside seating that money can't buy.

No, Coach Celli can't say "missed it by that much" this season.
The defense never rested in 2012.
Teams succeed because of great 'habits', like covering up during attacks. Players are ready to play deflections and blocks. Here Kayla goes up for the smash.

Another player who had a huge playoff 2012 was Rachel Johnson who delivered a dozen kills in the title game.

The thrill of victory...

The team has just received their championship medals.
Trophy presentation to captains. 

This is your team!

600 Kills of Summer (For Young Players)

Successful teams seamlessly find ways to develop existing players to become extremely productive players.

Among their top three hitters, Melrose graduates over 600 kills. But this isn't fantasy volleyball where you can carry over players into the next season. A host of current and prospective players will compete to become the next offensive core.

Using video to correct your form using smartphones or tablet cameras/apps provides contemporary players a distinct advantage. But much of player development occurs during the offseason.

"Form begets function." In this edition, young players can review proper hitting technique from superior instructors.  It isn't easy. A lot of hitters take "baby steps" on their footwork and therefore cannot translate forward momentum into vertical momentum to get into optimal hitting position.

Here's an older post showing a couple of strong hitters from Melrose past with stills of the footwork.

I like this video of a three step approach where the hitter throws a ball over the net.

Slow motion video.

In this video, Gyulai shows the approach, hand position, jump position, arm swing ready position, and power generation.

  Common hitting mistakes and solutions.

Op-Ed : Culture of Success

What we really celebrate today is far more than a championship. We applaud a culture of success, of demanding expectations, of refusing to accept mediocrity.

Has anyone asked the question why Melrose hasn't won a team state championship in any sport since the 1960s and why no girl's sport has previously won one?

Yes, it takes a lot of ingredients to develop a successful program in education, business, or in the more mundane world of sports. In additional to passion and tireless effort, you need to get some breaks, but sometimes you also manufacture your own luck. Pasteur put it thusly, "chance favors the prepared mind." But whenever we accept mediocrity, we cannot even hope for exceptional achievement.

I am not so delusional as to define success in terms of championships. In every race, only one winner emerges, but as a community we want to foster the message that 'best effort' matters in the classroom, on the field, and in daily endeavors that count.

The legendary basketball coach John Wooden defined success as peace of mind, attained only through self-satisfaction and knowing you made the effort to do the best that you are capable.

That definition doesn't mandate championship performance, but insists on relentless effort and preparation.  Coach Dick Bennett instilled the pentad of passion, unity, servanthood, thankfulness, and humility in his players. Adopting those values might never win you a championship, but they create valuable people.

Applaud the achievement of the volleyball team...and examine and promote the lodestar that defines them within our students, our other teams, our citizens, and leaders.

Post-game Celebration

Net Noise

Boston Herald.

Boston Globe. (Western Mass)

Free Press (updated) with best team photo and more photos

Saturday, November 17, 2012

ESPN Boston View

Melrose wins volleyball state championship. 

Bracketology - Final

The ultimate validation of years of effort by players, coaches, and community support. Congratulations.

Post Game Interview - Jen Cain

Jen Cain on Boston Globe online...

According to Wicked Local, Rachel Johnson, Jen Cain, and Sarah McGowan all contributed double-digit kills in Saturday's championship match.

Wicked Local Summary and Photos

Wicked Local (Melrose Free Press) with recap and quotes.

Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Photographs courtesy of Don Norris. 

Melrose came in heavily favored over Longmeadow, based on rank, strength of schedule, and performance (losing only three sets all Newton North).  But Longmeadow remained unperturbed in taking the Lady Raiders to four sets...25-17, 24-26, 25-19, and 25-10 in their first state championship game.

One of Melrose's advantages was the blocking tandem of Rachel Johnson (5) and Kayla Wyland (15). Coming out of a sickbed with illness, Wyland goes high to stuff Longmeadow's star hitter Jen Hurwitz as Middlesex League MVP Brooke Bell looks on.

Melrose got off to its customary slow start, trailing 5-2 early in a set marred by service errors by both teams. The Lady Raiders rallied to lead 6-5 and were tied at six, before going up 9-6 with a Cassidy Barbaro ace and a Sarah McGowan winner. The Lancers never got closer than two thereafter, with Melrose going up 15-10 and 19-11 en route to an easy first set win.

Sarah McGowan had three early kills and Rachel a pair.

But Longmeadow came out energized for set two and quickly assumed a 6-0 advantage forcing a time out. Melrose closed to within 6-4 on a trio of Johnson smashes, as Rachel had five kills in the frame. But Longmeadow roared out to a 14-5 edge, a hole from which even the eventual state champions couldn't recover.

Melrose chipped away and facing disaster at 23-18 and 24-21, rallied to tie the set with a Johnson kill and a Longmeadow error. But Hurwitz found the corner and a another winner gave Longmeadow a tie at one set apiece.

Melrose seemed determined to reverse their fortunes in set three, leading 3-0, 6-2, and 11-5. But most of the early points came on Lancer errors, and they rallied from 13-6 to 13-10. But even as Melrose struggled to find its footing, they never allowed Longmeadow to get closer than three, abetted by two late service errors and three Barbaro aces in the set. Melrose managed only six kills for the set, a pair apiece for Sarah, Rachel, and Jen Cain.

Just as they had a week ahead against AC, Melrose got their game faces on for set four, and steamrolled the West regional champ. Melrose led 6-1 with three quick Cain kills, and then led 10-2, 13-4, and 18-6 and the crowd knew that Melrose had staked a claim to the title. Jen Cain and the rest of the seniors took over, as Cain had five kills, with help from Sarah, setter Brooke Bell, Rachel, and Kayla who simply took over.
(J-Mac made fewer spectacular plays today, but almost all the routine ones at libero).

The back row of Amanda Commito, Jill MacInnes, and Allie Nolan kept Longmeadow from scoring and either the Melrose offense, fatigue, or the increasing pressure of trailing late saw Longmeadow hitting a lot of shots into the net.

At 24-10 a Jen Cain tip found daylight and hundreds of Melrose fans celebrated the first trip of the championship trophy to the second smallest city in Massachusetts.

Game Analysis: Senior leadership, championship expericence, and more offensive guns (McGowan, Johnson, and Cain in particular) made the difference today. Cassidy Barbaro, with another monster serving day, also played a key role.

Coach Scott Celli knew when to lighten up and when to apply the whip to get high levels of play.

Longmeadow gave Melrose a taste of its own medicine (deep pushes to the corners), but the Lady Raiders simply had too much after they regrouped after a second set letdown.

It wasn't always the prettiest volleyball that we had seen against Central Catholic, Westborough, and Canton. But it was more than enough to bring home the title.

Picture Perfect

Always click to see the full photograph.

Tremendous credit to coaches, Scott Celli, Steve Wall, and Andrea Basteri

Championship Saturday: D2 Title Belongs to Melrose

Melrose wins four set victory, culminating with 25-10 fourth set win over Longmeadow.

Teaser pic.

Congratulations. Full story to follow.

Game Day: Melrose Versus Longmeadow

Get directions to Algonquin Regional High School

The Western Mass take from Masslive.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Melrose Middlesex League All-Stars

Melrose's Middlesex League All-Stars...congratulations

Brooke Bell (MVP)
Sarah McGowan
Rachel Johnson
Jen Cain
Amanda Commito
Kayla Wyland
Jill MacInnes Game Preview

Game preview from


it's physically impossible to be stressed and thankful at the same moment, #
 in The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy
Because every journey and ride begins with a desire to go somewhere and do something and if you have a desire then you also have the power to make it happen. #
 in The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy
Jonathan Livingston Seagull, who said, "You are never given a wish without the power to make it come true." #
 in The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy
Now, in today’s competitive environment, your passion and your purpose must be greater than your challenges. To be successful you have to be willing to work harder, learn more, practice longer, lead better, smile more, and love deeper, and this requires passion. Passion wakes you up 30 minutes earlier. It dials your phone one more time to make one more sale. It rallies your team together when times are tough. It moves you to see one more customer after a long day. It inspires you to help a struggling colleague. It provides legendary customer service. Passion transforms workplaces, powers champions,... #
 in Soup: A Recipe to Nourish Your Team and Culture
Culture drives behavior, and behavior drives habits. Culture influences what your leaders and teams think, say, and do each day. A lot of organizations focus on strategy and ignore culture, yet culture trumps strategy every time. #

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Process Thinking

There's plenty of crossover between sports and society. Process-oriented approaches that are solution-focused give teams, businesses, and other organizations the best chance for success.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bell, McGowan Named Boston Globe All-Scholastics

Brooke Bell and Sarah McGowan were named Boston Globe All-Scholastics. The pair follow in the growing footsteps of numerous Melrose volleyballers so recognized. I am sure that both would acknowledge the vital roles of their coaches and teammates in garnering the achievement and note that individual accomplishments are secondary to meeting team goals. Congratulations to the players, their families, teammates, and coaches.

Details to follow as available.

Globe Online Cover Pic

This isn't a prediction. It's just a great photograph of wonderful competitors.

Great Shot from Wicked Local

Link to celebration photo.

Feed the Dog*

*Jon Gordon writes success literature and is a motivational speaker. Readers might enjoy his eleven day plan...

Feed the Positive Dog

Maybe this can help resolve the 'cognitive dissonance' that sports brings to us.

Longmeadow's Road to the Finals

It's never easy.

Net Casts

The Melrose Free Press take.

Quincy Patriot Ledger

Boston Herald

Hockomock Sports

Melrose - Canton Photoessay - Doggone It

Melrose defeated the undefeated and excellent Canton Bulldogs 3-0 last night to advance to the State Championship. Don Norris works his photographic magic with some of his best shots of the season. Always click the frame for the full image.