The Canton volleyball team battled through the ups and downs of a wildly competitive match to earn a 3-2 (25-22, 21-25, 25-23, 16-25, 15-13) win over previously unbeaten Danvers to claim its first-ever D2 State Championship.
The Bulldogs, who have won a Hockomock-best 15 league titles, will be adding a new state championship banner after overcoming a late deficit in the fifth set to earn the win.
“Honestly I go in every year thinking this team can do it,” said Canton coach Pat Cawley, who has been with the program for 19 years as either the head coach or an assistant. “That’s the way I coach…we’re going to win the Hock, we’re going to go deep in the state tournament, and we’re going to win the state championship.
“Until we got into the tournament did I really believe we could go all the way. I believe in these girls, they have a chemistry that is uncompared. They really care about each other, they don’t get mad at each other on the court…you have to the skill but you have to have the chemistry too and I think this team had that.”
Canton won the first and third sets but Danvers, who entered the match at 25-0, answered each time, including the biggest win by either side in the fourth set that forced a decisive fifth set to decide the state champions.
Like the entire match did, the fifth set went back and forth with ties at 2-2, 4-4, 5-5, and 7-7. An ace from senior Taylor Harris (29 kills, 19 digs, four aces) gave the Bulldogs the slight edge at the switch.
But Canton’s lead quickly evaporated behind two Danvers kills and a play error, putting the Falcons up 10-9 and just five points away from a title. After Cawley called timeout, Canton came up and answered.
A line violation on a serve tied it 10-10, junior middle Liz Bickett (18 kills, 12 digs, two aces) smashed a kill over a block after a nice pass from Nikki Desjardins, and a Falcon hitting error put the Dogs ahead 12-10. A hitting error made it a one-point game but Bickett slammed another kill that brought Harris back into the front row. Danvers’ Carly Goodhue and Harris traded kills to put the Dogs up 14-12. A kill from Madelyn Montanari kept the Falcons alive at 14-13.
But Claire Quinn (eight kills, 19 digs) handled the serve with a nice pass right to setter Jackie Morrissey (49 assists, 12 digs), who pushed a set to the outside and Harris rose up and smashed the ball over the block and to the floor in the heart of the Falcon defense, securing a 15-12 win and the state championship.
“When I saw it was a good pass and we could set the ball I was thrilled because Taylor was feeling it in that fifth set,” Cawley said. “And I was feeling it for her. Just get the ball to Taylor [in the fifth set] and luckily she was able to put it away.”
“It felt really good to get the last point. Coach always tells us to play to the last point and that’s what we did. Coach Cawley has worked so hard all of these years for this to happen.”
Canton led from straight to finish in the opening set. A kill from Bickett and an ace from Steph Trendell (who combined with Desjardins for 22 digs) gave the Dogs an early boost. A kill from Angie Elias and another ace from Trendell pushed the Dogs’ lead to 12-8 but Danvers continued to hang around, forcing a tie at 13-13, 18-18, and again at 20-20.
But the Davenport champs never relinquished the advantage as a service error, a strong Bickett hit, and a kill from Harris pushed Canton to a 23-21 lead. Danvers got a kill out of a timeout to get within one but Harris dropped a shot in front of the back row on the second hit and Bickett sealed the first set with an ace.
“The first set was actually a good set, we got off to a good start,” Cawley said. “Then I think the pressure started creeping in. I knew a couple of key players were playing tight. We just had two tough matches with Westboro and Minnechaug. We’ve played from behind and we’ve played from ahead, and I just had to remind them this is what we’ve done all year.
“The records today didn’t matter. I think sometimes the pressure is on the undefeated team. You learn a lot through losing and we learned a lot from our losses this year (to KP and twice to North Attleboro). I kept reminding them that we have been here many times and we can do this.”
Danvers answered by opening the second set with a quick 7-2 burst. Canton slowly got back into the set and used an 8-2 run that featured three kills from Bickett and Harris and an ace from Quinn to jump ahead 16-14 in the set. But Danvers responded with a 6-1 run for a 20-17 lead, and then won five of the next six points to even the match at 1-1.
The third set started in similar fashion to the second with Danvers building an early five-point lead, this time taking advantage of two net violations and three Canton hitting errors to take a 9-4 lead.
But similar to the second, Canton rallied to keep it close but couldn’t overtake the Falcons for the majority of the match. Trendell had a key ace, Bickett landed a kill, and Harris had three kills in a four-point span that kept Canton within striking distance, down 16-14.
A roll shot from Quinn brought the Dogs within one but a kill off the block from Goodhue and two play errors put Danvers up 21-17. After Cawley calmed the troops during a timeout, Canton won three straight points that featured a huge solo block from Elias on Goodhue, and another block from Bickett to make it 21-20.
Canton tied it out of the break, and then again at 22-22 but Danvers moved within two points of going ahead in the match after Goodhue dropped a perfectly weighted tip over the Canton block for a 23-22 lead.
But Bickett got a kill after a partial block saw the ball hit the floor, junior Shannon Malloy went up and put down a loose serve receive, and Bickett landed another set-sealing ace to give Canton a 25-23 win and a 2-1 lead in the match.
“I think Liz Bickett carried us, got us into that fifth set,” Cawley said. “She was amazing. As well as the defense, I think we played pretty well, we got a lot of balls up to where we could set them. To get the ball to Liz, we have to have some good passing, and Liz was phenomenal.”
It was deja vu in the fourth set for the Bulldogs as Danvers once again raced out to a five-point advantage at 8-3. This time, Canton didn’t have much of an answer and had to use its second timeout down 12-7.
“We were really up and down in this match, I don’t think we played our best volleyball until maybe the fifth set,” Cawley said. “There were a lot of nerves out there and I’m sure Danvers had them too. Taylor had some nerves, she was a little tentative and hit some balls out. She was up and down but really worked through it, and after her first swing in the fifth set, I said ‘she’s back.’ The whole confidence of the team rises up when they see that.
“Danvers is a great team, they had strong defense and #6 [Carly Goodhue] killed us. We couldn’t get the timing of the block because it’s a different type of set than we’ve seen this year. We did touch a lot more [swings] in the third and fourth sets once they adjust. [Danvers] was a good team, but we had to focus on our game.”
Danvers’ extended its lead to as much as 10 before Canton finally got its footing in the fourth set. Senior Katie Lynch came off the bench and landed an ace and got another point for Canton after a strong serve never made it back over. Harris added a kill off the block to halve the deficit, now down just 19-14.
But Danvers finished the set strong out of a timeout, winning six of the next eight points for a decisive 25-16 win, forcing a fifth set.
“We went back into the huddle and just talked about [the fifth set] being a fresh start, a whole new game,” Harris said of Canton’s ability to bounce back from its rough fourth set. “We just had to believe in ourselves and we did.”
While Canton didn’t win the fourth set, Lynch’s serving helped stem the Falcons’ momentum some and showed off the depth the Bulldogs have.
“That definitely sums up this team,” Cawley said. “I carry a big roster and they play against each other every day in practice. They are digging Taylor and Liz in practice and those kids are all ready to go. And they are ready if I call on them at any time. They’ve been on the bench for the tournament and never complained. They are totally involved. If they didn’t push the starters every day, we wouldn’t be here. The non-starters are so important to our program.”
While Harris and Bickett were the standouts and came up with a lot of key plays for the Bulldogs, the win wouldn’t have been possible without the strong play of everyone around them according to Cawley.
“Taylor has a very good supporting cast,” Cawley said. “My other outside Claire is very consistent and she gives us a kill when we need it. I can’t say enough about Liz Bickett…Angie, my opposite [hitter], gives us a lot of blocking, it’s a very unheralded position but she really does a great job. Shannon Malloy in the middle is coming into her own, and our defense did a good job. We’re not a one-dimensional team even though Taylor is a superstar. We need everybody to win in a place like this.
Canton volleyball finishes the season at 22-3.
By HockomockSports.com Staff
Canton senior Taylor Harris has been selected as the HockomockSports.com Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, for Nov. 3 through Nov. 9. Harris is the 10th player chosen as Player of the Week for the 2019-20 school year.
Harris was the star performer for Canton during its run to the Div. 2 Central title, starring in all three of the Bulldogs’ playoff games, including the Central final against Westboro at Wellesley High. With Harris showing off her all-around game, the Bulldogs reached a second straight Central final and beat the Rangers 3-1 to secure the program’s second sectional title.
“Taylor is an amazing player,” said Canton coach Pat Cawley. “She’s one of the top players I’ve ever coached. Offensively, defensively, blocking she is really a great player…Taylor is certainly in a class of her own.”
In the playoff opener against Tantasqua, Harris sparked the Canton offense with 16 kills. She was also the top hitter in the dominant win against North Middlesex in the Central semifinal, leading the team with 13 kills and adding 12 digs. Against Westboro on Saturday afternoon, Harris demonstrated her overall game to help Canton go a step further than 2018 and secure the Central title. She finished with 20 kills and nine digs in the final.
For the season, Harris led the league with 332 kills and was in the top 10 in the league with 161 digs, while helping the Bulldogs earn yet another Davenport division title. She was also recently selected as the Hockomock League MVP.
The Player of the Week, presented by Morse Insurance, is selected by the HockomockSports.com staff. Nominations can be submitted throughout the week up until Saturday night at midnight. There may be a poll posted on every Sunday with the nominations. The results of the poll influence the selection but do not strictly dictate the decision.
But just making an appearance wasn’t enough for the fourth-seeded Tigers. In fact, Oliver Ames did something that very few teams have been able to do in the South Final over the last decade: they pushed the Red Raiders to the limit.
Oliver Ames twice rallied from one-set deficits, including a late comeback in the fourth set to force a decisive winner-take-all fifth set. But second-seeded Barnstable showed why they are considered the best program in state history, grabbing an early lead in the final set and never looking back to secure a 3-2 (25-17, 23-25, 25-22, 23-25, 15-9) win and the program’s 10th straight D1 South Sectional title.
“I told them to take it one point at a time and to enjoy it because this could be it,” said Oliver Ames head coach Chelsea Cunningham. “Even though it was, this was the best they have ever played. I’m so proud of all of them. I couldn’t ask for anything more. They played so calm, they celebrated together and they picked each other up. And every set was close. After the first set, we evaluated every situation and how we wanted to approach it. The girls persevered under a lot of tough pressure. To even go to five, it was phenomenal to watch and we got to entertain the crowd.”
In their decade of dominance, Barnstable has dropped a total of just three sets in the sectional final game. New Bedford forced the Raiders to five in 2010 while Bishop Feehan grabbed one set in the 2014 final. Barnstable hadn’t dropped a set in the sectional final in the past four years.
“We’ve gone to five every match, I couldn’t believe it,” Cunningham said. “We’ve just taken it one point at a time in every match. We switched it up on the offense to makes sure everyone was an option and to just prepared that the ball was going to come back over. They were feisty, they were prepared…we were an underdog, no one expected us to go this far. And the girls just fed off that energy.”
OA showed early on they were ready to compete by keeping pace as junior Jordan Bennett placed a tip over the block for a kill, then forced a two-touch on a strong serve, and junior Caroline Flynn (10 kills) forced an error after a good hit to bring the Tigers within two, down 11-9.
Barnstable responded with a 6-2 run and ended up taking the first set 25-17.
But the Tigers responded in a big way, opening the second set with a 7-0 run, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the game. Senior Ryley McNeeley tossed a kill off the block, senior Allie Kemp (36 assists, 11 digs, two aces) landed an ace, and senior Jordyn Vella (six blocks, five kills) came up with back-to-back blocks to give the Tigers the early lead and the momentum.
The lead ballooned to 14-6 when senior Jordan Bosse (11kills, two aces) landed two kills in a three-play span, and Flynn hit above the block and to the floor for a kill, forcing Barnstable to take their second timeout early in the set.
Barnstable made it interesting early by cutting the deficit to three at 14-11 but Oliver Ames answered with a 7-3 that included two blocks and kill from Vella, another ace from Kemp, and a block kill from Bosse that denied a right-side attack from the Raiders.
Oliver Ames looked primed to even the score at one apiece when it went up 24-17 behind a net call, but the Raiders showed why they are so difficult to beat with flawless play over the next six chances. Barnstable won all seven of those points, helped along by a pair of OA errors, to get within one down 24-23 but a service error allowed OA to clinch the point and the set, making it 1-1.
“That’s a great program, Chelsea has done a great job,” said longtime Barnstable coach Tom Turco, who won his 700th game with the victory. “This is probably one of the biggest sectional championships that we’ve won.”
Barnstable built an early 8-5 lead in the third set but OA wouldn’t break, responding with a 6-2 run that featured a kill and ace from Bosse and two kills from Flynn to take an 11-10 lead. The teams traded points for a good chunk of the set, with the teams tied at 11, 12. 13, and 15. Barnstable gained the slightest advantage with a quick 5-1 run as junior Caroline Kiehnau gave the Raiders a huge boost with a handful of kills off Tiger blocks.
Oliver Ames got with three on three occasions, down 21-18 after a nice tip kill from Bennett after a big dig from Alison Barth (40 digs), down 22-19 after a kill from Flynn, and down 23-20 on a nice spot push from Flynn. The Tigers even got within two at 23-21 when Sarah Morley delivered an ace and at 24-22 behind a Bosse kill, but a nice dump by the Barnstable setter on the second touch caught OA off guard for a 25-22 win in the third set.
The fourth set played out similarly to the third, but even closer throughout. Barnstable led by two early on by an ace from Bosse, two kills from Bennett, and a kill from Flynn on a nice back set from Kemp helped OA tie it at 11-11.
OA jumped in front by two on a huge block from McNeeley on an outside attack from Barnstable and a kill from Flynn for a 13-11 advantage. OA remained a point ahead while the teams traded points but Barnstable finally earned consecutive points helped by a service error to make it 20-20 to force a timeout.
“I just told them its a game to five, and I asked who’s going to get there first? They told me that they were and that’s exactly what they did,” Cunningham said. “We committed to it as one and it was awesome.”
Barnstable took three leads, 21-20, 22-21, and 23-22 but the Tigers refused to give up. Bosse and Bennett had black to back strong swings for kills, and then Bosse got a kind roll off the top of the net, falling over into Raiders’ territory for a 25-23 win, forcing a fifth set.
The experience of Barnstable paid off as they picked up an early lead. After Vella put OA up 1-0, Barnstable won eight of the next points that featured two blocks from the Raiders and two balls that fell just out of the reach of OA defenders.
The Tigers played well after the switch with Bosse getting a kill and Bennet landing a big block and a kill, but Barnstable also played well and extended its lead to 13-6. In true fashion to how they played the entire match, OA still didn’t fold as a hitting error and a double block from Vella and Flynn got the Tigers within five, down 13-8.
But Barnstable was able to grind out two more points and secure their 10th straight sectional title.
“I think [the underclassman] are even more committed to continue persevering and making these seniors proud,” Cunningham said. “I think they are ready to work hard to fill the big shoes that are leaving this program and I think next year will be just as exciting.”
Meanwhile, the senior class leaves behind a lasting legacy that includes bringing the program to new heights. That group includes Jordan Bosse, Ryley McNeeley, Allie Kemp, Alison Barth, Jordyn Vella, and Mary Davenport.
“This is my first group to graduate as head coach,” Cunningham said. “I saw them as freshmen, I saw the potential, and I knew they were going to be something special and they didn’t let me down in that aspect. We’re going to miss them dearly and they know they left such a prominent and positive mark on this program. They should be nothing but proud of themselves.”
Oliver Ames volleyball finishes its best season in program history with an 18-5 record, its first-ever Kelley-Rex title, and the furthest the team has gone in program history.
WELLESLEY, Mass. – Canton volleyball has a long history of success. The Bulldogs have won 15 league titles in the last 17 seasons and have reached nine sectional finals. But, heading into Saturday afternoon’s Div. 2 Central final against Westboro at Wellesley High, Canton had only one sectional title to its name.
Last year, the Bulldogs had a 2-1 lead against Groton-Dunstable but were unable to hold on, as the Crusaders rallied to win the five-set thriller. Only two players (one starter) were back from last year’s squad, but the Bulldogs were right back in the same spot on Saturday. Canton edged the first two sets and then the Rangers pulled out the third to stay alive.
“At the end of the third set, we looked like scared little kids compared to them,” said Canton coach Pat Cawley. “We were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I was like, come on, we’re up! We’re good and luckily in volleyball a set ends and you get to start again.”
It turns out that Cawley had nothing to worry about. The Bulldogs have been through a lot this season, including a rash of injuries that forced players to adapt to changing lineups. No one expected Canton to be back in this position, so the Bulldogs were unfazed by dropping a set.
Canton came right back in the fourth, jumped out to an early lead, and closed out a 3-1 (25-23, 26-24, 18-25, 25-21) victory.
“We kept saying don’t let up, keep pushing through, and finish it,” said senior Taylor Harris. When asked what the Bulldogs learned from last year’s final, Harris explained, “We learned that if we win the first two then we can’t let up and we have to keep pushing through and we did that today.”
Cawley said, “Half of these kids were on JV last year, so no matter what happened today we were leaving this place with our heads held high. It’s been a journey and I’ve watched these girls improve. Some of these kids who are on the court right now we weren’t even sure we were keeping at tryouts, so to watch them improve so much is amazing.”
The match was even from the start, with neither team able to build a big lead in the first set. Canton’s block, led by juniors Angie Elias, Shannon Malloy, and Liz Bickett, was disrupting the Westboro attack in the early going. Elias and Malloy had back-to-back blocks to end rallies and give Canton the 8-6 lead.
Westboro grabbed its only lead of the set at 11-10, but Bickett (14 kills and 22 digs) answered with a hit from the middle. It took a little while to get her into the game, but Harris (team-high 20 kills and nine digs) came up with two straight kills to push the Canton lead to four. Westboro got the lead back down to just one at 24-23, but Harris rose up again to smash the final point of the first.
The second set was much like the first, with Canton grabbing an early lead by neither team taking full control of the match. Claire Quinn had a kill on the outside and Harris continued to be the most dynamic attacker on the floor, stretching the Canton lead to 14-11.
“Taylor is an amazing player,” said Cawley, who earned her 200th career win in the season opener. “She’s one of the top players I’ve ever coached. Offensively, defensively, blocking she is really a great player but the other kids have to do their jobs too. Taylor is certainly in a class of her own, but without the players that surround her we wouldn’t be here.”
Bickett came through with another point after a long rally and then Harris showed off her defensive ability with a block for a point. The Rangers came right back, scoring two straight and tying the set at 19-19. A Bickett kill made it 23-20 and put the Bulldogs on the brink, but Westboro got two straight before a Harris kill made it set point.
Again Westboro tied it but two errors handed Canton a two-set advantage.
Considering Canton’s history in sectional finals, a two-set lead hardly felt comfortable and the Rangers turned things around in the third to add to the pressure. A Harris kill tied the set at 17-17 and a two-touch put the Bulldogs in front, but the Rangers scored the final eight points of the third to stay alive in the match.
If a dropped set was supposed to heap pressure on Canton, the Bulldogs didn’t show it in the fourth. They jumped out to a 7-2 lead behind an ace from Stephanie Trendell, a kill by Quinn, and a block by Bickett.
“It was really good,” Harris said about the quick start in the fourth. “That let us have momentum to finish out the game.”
Setter Jackie Morrissey (35 assists) has grown into her role this year and she was spraying the ball to several different attackers and adding points from the service line. Quinn had another kill and Bickett added two more points, but a Westboro run put the Rangers ahead 15-14. Quinn sparked a rally with another hit and a Bickett ace and a Harris kill had Canton up 21-17.
Fittingly, it would be Bickett in the middle that would get the final swing, as she buried another shot that Westboro couldn’t handle and sealed a first Central title since 2012.
Cawley said, “Liz is a big softball player. I twisted her arm to play last year. That kid has only played six months of volleyball in her life. She is without a doubt the most improved player, the quickest, I’ve ever coached. She’s just amazing.”
When asked what it meant to win a second sectional title, Cawley said, “I feel really happy for the kids. They work hard and to have this result, I couldn’t be happier for them.”
Harris added, “It means so much. We went through so much this year. We lost 10 seniors from last year, so it’s a really big deal to be back. I think working hard everyday in practice, we never gave up and we wanted to prove everyone wrong who thought we couldn’t make it this year.”
Canton (20-3) will face the West champion, either top seed Minnechaug or No. 2 seed Longmeadow, in the state semifinal on Wednesday at a time and location to be determined.
WELLESLEY, Mass. – After falling behind by a set in Saturday morning’s D1 Central/East final at Wellesley High, King Philip turned the tables on No. 4 seed Boston Latin and won two sets in a row. The Warriors were returning every shot and asserting themselves in the middle, playing to their strengths, but then the match turned again.
KP couldn’t close out the Wolfpack. Boston Latin dominated the fourth set, winning 25-15, and then kept that momentum going into the decisive fifth set as well, winning 15-8 to seal the comeback and the title. This was the second Central final for KP in the past three years and the second time that the Warriors were denied a first-ever sectional title.
“I think definitely their hitters were starting to come on stronger,” said KP coach Kristen Geuss about the Boston Latin comeback. “We had a hard time blocking (Breann Cleary) and blocking (Ashley Rooney). We worked on it in practice, but I just think we weren’t strong enough to keep the ball in. We were getting there, we were getting touches on it, but just hitting it out.”
Geuss added, “I think we played great. They played their hearts out. They worked very, very hard and it was good volleyball.”
The two teams spent most of the first set feeling each other out, trying to find the weak spots to attack. Neither team led by more than three points and the set was tied at 22-22 after an ace by KP libero Emma Brooks. Latin won the final three points of the set, two of them on kills by Cleary.
Boston Latin jumped out to a 4-3 lead early in the second after a Cleary block, but then KP rattled off eight straight points on the serve of Lauren Peterson (four aces) to grab control of the set. The Warriors started spreading the ball around with Nicole Coughlan (15 kills, two blocks) and Kristen Masse (five kills, six digs) each getting hits during that run.
After a hit by Ali McNamara put KP up 18-10, but Latin showed its resiliency by scoring five straight points and getting back within three. Needing a response, Peterson set middle hitter Catherine Waldeck (14 kills, four blocks) and she blasted a hit to regain a four-point lead. Brooks followed with an ace and KP was back in charge.
“They’re huge,” Geuss said about Coughlan and Waldeck. “They generate our offense. They’re our leading point scorers all year long, that’s the way we built our offense. The two outside hitters, Kristen and Ali, if Nicole and Catherine are off they step up to the plate. We had a couple weapons we could use.”
KP won the second set 25-20 to level the match. In the third, the Warriors put themselves in position to bring home the Central title.
Coughlan buried a pair of kills to make it 6-4 early on and then added another to regain the lead at 10-9. Waldeck and Coughlan both had blocks to make it 16-13 and the KP defense continued to excel with Peterson and fellow setter Kiley Sullivan and Lily Carlow keeping everything up and Brooks dominating from the back line.
“She’s all over the place. She throws her body to the ground day-in, day-out at practice. She goes for every single ball,” said Geuss about Brooks. “Lily Carlow as well, they’re like Energizer bunnies, they’re non-stop. They set up our offense. They’re there to pick up every single ball.”
Latin got back within two at 19-17, but a couple of errors and then a precise tip by Waldeck and an ace from Coughlan put KP on the brink of a 2-1 lead. After a long rally, Waldeck blocked another hit and then she closed out the set with a kill.
The Warriors were rolling and the excitement was palpable from the home bench, but then things flipped around in the fourth. Latin jumped out to a 12-5 lead with KP making uncharacteristic mistakes and its serve-receive game struggling for the first time in the match. The Wolfpack was suddenly getting every bounce, as kills were slamming off blockers and serves were hitting the net and landing for points.
KP just never really got going in the fourth, as Latin led throughout. The lead was pushed to 20-12 on a Cleary kill off the block, 21-13 off another hit that went off a KP hand, and then once more off the block to finish the set.
“I felt our passes were too close to the net and our setters were too close to the net and we had a lot of net calls, which we never get those calls like that,” said Geuss.
In the semifinal against Quincy, KP faced similar circumstances and was able to win the fifth set and the match. On Saturday, the energy that Latin built up in the fourth was too much to overcome.
The Wolfpack won five of the first six points in the fifth and never relinquished control. Waldeck had a tip drop in for a point to make it 7-3 and Carlow snuck a shot down the line to get within three, but another run made it 10-5.
Trading points was not going to be enough for the Warriors, who got kills from Waldeck and McNamara, but just never got close enough to put real pressure on Boston Latin. An ace finished off the win for the Wolfpack and sent KP home with its second runner-up trophy in three seasons.
King Philip finished the season with a record of 18-5.