CANTON, Mass. – Prior to Thursday night’s game, senior setter Nicole Poole took the microphone and addressed the large crowd of students, family members, and friends sitting in the Canton High gym. She spoke about her best friend Alaina Goodwin, a fellow senior who was stricken with a rare spinal cord stroke that has left her immobile from the waist down and who was the inspiration for Ace It For Alaina.
Poole and the other Canton captains presented flowers to Alaina’s parents and to her twin sister Darria before posing for a photo. When the pregame ceremony was done, the Bulldogs took the emotion of the evening and channeled it into a dominating sweep of visiting Oliver Ames, winning 25-15, 25-16, 25-11.
It was fitting that on match point, Poole toed the service line and fired her sixth ace of the night to seal a victory in honor of her good friend. She added 17 assists, 10 digs and five kills in a stellar all-around performance.
“Alaina is really important to me, especially, and all the girls on this team,” said Poole after the game. “She’s an amazing girl. I can’t describe in words how important she is to all of us. I think it definitely motivated us a lot.”
Canton coach Pat Cawley added, “Nicole plays like that everyday. She’s solid. We’ve had great setters, athletic setters, but she’s pure hands and she has the best attitude, she never complains, she runs down every ball and she did it again tonight. She is the calm in every storm.”
It definitely felt like a storm at the start of the game, as a raucous student section echoed through the gym to spur on the Bulldogs. OA jumped out to a 3-0 lead to start the game, but Canton would start to take control behind senior middle hitter Casey Shea, who had five of her seven kills in the opening set. OA’sKatie Flynn kept it close with three kills and Kayla Raymond added two of her nine kills in the first but Poole closed out the set with a quick kill of her own.
“We’re kind of a different look this year,” said Cawley. “We’re trying to cut down on our unforced errors. We have some solid hitters, but we don’t have any ‘wow’ hitters this year. We have a great setter and great defense.”
The game stayed close in the second set, until Poole stepped to the service line with the Bulldogs leading 11-10 after a kill by OA’s Emma Petrillo. Canton would win the next six points, three of them on Poole aces and one on a kill by Emma Murphy. Despite three kills from Raymond down the stretch of the set, Canton pulled into a 2-0 lead in the match.
“Our serve-receive has been on for two weeks and they chose tonight to not have it on,” said OA coach Chelsea Correia with a chuckle. “I’ve switched my liberos so my sophomore is getting a lot of playing time, but it shouldn’t be a problem if I switch one player in. We’re working on connection and chemistry.”
The crowd got even louder in the third set and the Bulldogs continued to feed off the energy in the gym. Although OA would get 20 assists from senior setter Bridget McCarthy, the Tigers struggled to get a rhythm going. Outside hitter Erika Lum had a couple of kills for Canton and libero Julia Panico and Emily Lynch kept the plays alive defensively. Sophomore Theresa O’Brien added two kills in the final few points.
Poole stepped up to win the match with a grin that stretched from ear to ear and sent in another solid serve that the Tigers could not return. “It was an overwhelming feeling when the final shot went in,” she explained.
“You really felt like you made a difference and we learned that this is a community that relies so much on each other and you feel like when you do it for someone it means so much more.”
The players put back on the purple t-shirts made for the occasion and, after making a video to send to Alaina, gathered around the Goodwin family for a moment with Alaina’s parents.
“Volleyball is important, we work hard, we want to win the Hock, we want to win a state championship, but when you have a kid that is paralyzed it put everything in perspective,” said Cawley, who praised her team for being able to refocus on the game in the midst of everything.
“They gave everything they could to make this the best night they could for Alaina.”
After the game was over, Alaina’s sister Darria took a moment to speak about what the night an the response from the Canton community meant to her. “At first I was nervous because I don’t like the attention and it’s been hard to talk about,” she admitted, “but I’m happy all of this was put together and all the support, all the people rallying behind her makes it easier.”
Darria continued, “Everyone has been so supportive. I have a lot of great teachers and classmates. Everyone is really understanding.”
A fundraising page has been established for the Goodwin family to help while Alaina remains at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown, where Darria said there have been noticeable improvements. To support the Goodwin family, visit https://www.gofundme.com/2m29n9y4.
Canton (10-1) will play again on Friday in its first non-league game of the season against defending Div. 2 state champion Notre Dame Academy (Hingham). Oliver Ames (7-7, 6-5) will have three home games next week beginning with Franklin on Monday.
The Bombardiers are hoping to take a step forward and make a dent in the very competitive Kelley-Rex Division. Attleboro picked up a pair of non-league wins last season and is hoping that success can start to translate to league play. Head coach Lindsey McDonald noted the offseason work of juniors Lexi Pereira and Sarah Lynch. Both Pereira and Lynch will play as outside hitters and McDonald said she expects both to bring a lot of power to the attack. Liz Howe, a captain, will be in charge of getting the attack going from the setter position while captain Julya Carlson will anchor the defensive effort for the Bombardiers.
“I am anticipating an improved season for us,” McDonald said. “[Our] captains are providing solid leadership on and off the court and the team has been gelling nicely.”
2015 Record: 16-5 (Davenport Division Champions) 2015 Finish: Reached D2 Central Final Coach: Pat Cawley
Canton has had a dominant run in the Davenport division over the past six years and the Bulldogs are looking to continue that tradition in 2016. Canton has a dozen seniors on the team and will be relying on their experience and leadership to make another run at the division title and in the playoffs. Nicole Poole returns as a second year starter at setter and will be the catalyst for Canton’s offense. Emma Murphy and Casey Shea both have varsity experience and will be important pieces at the middle of the net. One spot that Canton has to fill is at outside hitter and the Bulldogs have a handful of players in the running including seniors Emma Gobbi, Erika Lum, Cassie Loftus, Kelsey Irons, Malia Claiborne and Maria Mackie. Canton is hoping for another year of strong defense with seniors Julia Panico, Kehla Minkin and Emily Lynch all vying for time in the back row.
“We are a senior laden team although most have not seen significant playing time at the varsity level,” head coach Pat Cawley said. “CHS volleyball is a proud tradition and I am confident that this year’s squad will do they can to keep this team competitive and make their senior experience one which they won’t forget.”
2015 Record: 6-12 2015 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Dan Damish
Foxboro is hoping its upward trajectory continues in 2016 after making great strides a season ago. Head coach Dan Damish and the Warriors will rely on its three senior captains – Lindsay Greer, Julia DiCenso and Julie Bridges – to continue to push the program in the right direction. DiCenso will be the starting setter for the fourth straight season and will have Danielle Conlon, the team’s leader in kills last season, at her disposal. DiCenso will also have Greer, Bridges, Ana Sanchez and Molly Crocker as offensive options. Junior Delya Lorquet could emerge as a big threat as a middle hitter as well for Foxboro this season.
“I’m very encouraged with the way the team came into the season in great volleyball shape,” Damish said. “Our top goal is to improve everyday and compete at a high level.”
Coming off the program’s second Kelley-Rex division title in the past five seasons, Franklin will be relying on youth to stay near the top of arguably the most competitive division in all of the Hockomock League’s sports. Senior Erin Skidmore (28 kills in 2015) is making the transition from the middle to the outside and will be a go-to attacking option at the net. At 6’3, junior Meaghan Maguire saw valuable time last year and will be a defensive leader at the net. The Panthers will look to sophomore setter Lauren McGrath to step in to set up the offense.
“This is the youngest team we have had since I started coaching,” head coach Kate Horsmann said. “We have five sophomores who could all be impact players for us this season. The outcome of our season will really depend on how quickly they adjust to the speed of the varsity game and how quickly we gel as a unit.”
King Philip had another strong campaign a year ago and are looking to repeat it in 2016. The Warriors have six returning seniors and all are expected to play important roles for KP this season. Senior captain Carly Adams will set the offense in motion from the setter position, senior captain Emma Lopez will be a key piece in the attack from the outside hitter spot and senior captain Angela Vellante will be a defensive specialist in the back row for KP. Senior Amanda Loewen will also be a key piece to the defense as the team’s libero. Senior Liv Balduf will help balance the offense as a rightside hitter while Molly Croke will help bolster the team’s defense. Junior Sydney Phillips, another returner from last year’s squad, will be an attacking option as an outside hitter.
“I expect us to be a strong team once again this year,” head coach Kristen Geuss said. “We have lost significant depth at the outside hitter position from last year but am encouraged by how our returning players have stepped up and progressed during our practices.”
The Hornets will look to follow up a historic one with another strong showing and they have some experienced players to do so. It will start with defense for Mansfield, who return one of the top liberos in Jess Haradon and one of the top middle blockers in Meg Hill, the 2015 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year. Mansfield will have to replace some key pieces but senior Chloe Peters will be tasked with setting up the offense while junior Julia Harrison, who saw some minutes as a sophomore a year ago, will be one of the Hornets’ outside hitters.
“We have five great seniors who have been working hard to lead the team,” head coach Melissa Heeden said. “They are a great group of girls. We have some work to do to fill in from the six seniors who graduated last year, but a are really looking forward to the season.”
2015 Record: 9-11 2015 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Linda Zacchilli
The Scarlet Hawks just missed out on the playoffs a season ago but with Linda Zacchilli back on the bench, Milford could be right in the mix for the Davenport title. Offensively, Milford will need some need faces to step up after its top three kills leaders graduated. Junior Kelley Reichert is back after 66 kills last season and senior Stefani Chiarelli and junior Juliana Tracy will both factor into the offense as well. Both of Milford’s setters – Lauren Zouranjian (301 assists) and Allie Collins (198) – are back for 2016, which should help the Scarlet Hawks’ offense flow. Libero Kyra Alves is back after being a strong point in the defense last year as well.
2015 Record: 11-11 2015 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinal Coach: Jeff Crins
The 2016 season will be a bit different for North Attleboro compared to a year ago. The Red Rocketeers now compete in the Davenport division and their attack has been bolstered by the addition of Amelia Murphy. Murphy was a top offensive player in the league a year ago at KP but has since transferred to North Attleboro. Murphy will be an attacking option along with junior Katie DeMontigny (100 kills last season) and Tori Melanson, who will also be a presence defensively at the net (82 kills, 70 blocks in 2015). North Attleboro will need to fill in the role of setter with Taylin Shultz graduated. Gabby Duva and Lindsay Howlett will be two key defensive players for the Rocketeers this season.
2015 Record: 7-12 2015 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Chelsea Correia
Oliver Ames has a strong mix of experienced players returning this Fall and are looking to take a trip back to the postseason after missing out in 2015. Senior captain Bridget McCarthy, in her fourth year on varsity, returns as the starting setter while fellow captain Alyssa Gavin returns as a top defensive option in the back row along with Rachel Foley. Junior Emma Petrillo will be one offensive option for the Tigers as an outside hitter, junior Katherine Flynn will be another as a right side hitter. Juniors Maya Fetcho and Kayla Raymond will rotate as offensive threats from the middle of the net while sophomore Sadie Homer will be the Tigers’ starting libero this season. Other names to keep an eye on include juniors Caroline Cavanaugh, Jacqueline Kander and freshmen Allison Kemp and Jordyn Vella.
“If we commit to it, I think we can rise to many challenges, prepare for all possibilities, and make the most of everything,” head coach Chelsea Correia.
2015 Record: 2-16 2015 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Andrea Lovett
New head coach Andrea Lovett is excited about the direction the Sharon volleyball program is headed and is hoping 2016 will be the first step in the right direction. Senior captain Faythe Gomolka returns this year as this the team’s versatile setter and has a great rapport with senior captain and middle hitter Natalie Kane. Seniors Marni Heitin, Luba Korn, Gesi Molla and Jonathan Dickerman will all factor in for the Eagles this season as well. Junior Jess Allan, now in her third year on varsity, will be an attacking option as an outside hitter while classmate Cori Jermyn will be an attacking option from the right side.
“As a new head coach, I am excited to work with the team on developing a more aggressive mindset and working on some more complex offensive systems to raise our level of play and be competitive in the league this year,” Lovett said.
2015 Record: 10-11 2015 Finish: Reached D2 South First Round Coach: Erica Batchelder
The Black Knights had a handful of talented players graduated from last year’s team but there is hope for optimism because of who is back this year. Stoughton’s kills leader junior Val Whalen is back for her third year of varsity after registering 129 kills a season ago. Junior Jordan Motley and senior Riley Bagley will also be big pieces of Stoughton’s attack this season after slamming 84 and 77 kills, respectively, in 2015. The biggest challenge for Stoughton will be finding players to step up in other areas. The team’s ace and assists leader from last season, Bianca DeSousa, the team’s leader in blocks and digs, Bridget Whalen, and the team’s leader in serve receives, Ava Siegel, all graduated. First year head coach Erica Batchelder will be looking to players to step up into those roles.
2015 Record: 15-9 2015 Finish: Reached D1 South Final Coach: Toby Chaperon
Taunton turned a successful regular season and a fourth place finish in the Kelley-Rex into one of the more memorable seasons in Tigers’ history. Taunton made a run all the way to the D1 South Final before falling to eventual state champion Barnstable. It will be a tough task to repeat with the amount of players that Taunton graduated, but the Tigers are up for the challenge. Taunton will need a new setter to step up after graduating Tatum Speicher, one of the top in the area at the position. Offensively, Emily Moor (team-high 254 kills in 2015) is back for her senior season while junior Sam Reaume (69 kills), senior Abby Waldron (69 kills) and senior Delaney Powell (26 kills) are all back after making an impact at the net a season ago.
Players to Watch
Players are listed alphabetically
Carly Adams, King Philip – King Philip was a dangerous attacking team a season ago and Adams, the team’s setter, was the big reason why. Adams will be a catalyst in getting the Warriors’ offense going this season.
Julia DiCenso, Foxboro – There aren’t many players in the league with the experience that DiCenso has. Now a senior captain, DiCenso is in her fourth year as the starting setter for the Warriors and will be a key piece of the offense this season.
Jess Haradon, Mansfield – Haradon really impressed defensively in her first year on varsity and looks to do the same in 2016. The senior will look to continue as a defensive specialist after leading Mansfield with 264 digs a season ago.
Meg Hill, Mansfield – As just a sophomore, Hill led the Hornets in kills (222), and blocks (74). Now a year older, expect another strong attacking year at the net for the 2015 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year.
Bridget McCarthy, Oliver Ames – McCarthy is another four year varsity player and will likely eclipse a setting milestone this season. OA has a handful of young attacking options but things will be easier for them with McCarthy as the setter.
Emily Moor, Taunton – Moor had the most kills in 2015 for players returning this season, which is good news for Taunton. As the Tigers look for new names to emerge in other spots, they can rely on the consistent offense of Moor.
Amelia Murphy, North Attleboro –North Attleboro graduated a great attacking threat in Sara Youssef but now have KP transfer Amelia Murphy at the net. Murphy has the ability to hit around the block, which is very difficult for defenses.
Nicole Poole, Canton Canton has been the team to beat in the Hock for a good stretch now, including last season with Poole setting up the offense. Canton will need new names to step up as attacking options but having Poole as the setter will make things easier.
Erin Skidmore, Franklin – Franklin is in need of some players to step up as attacking options and Skidmore is looking to be one option as she moves from the middle to the outside. The Panthers have a good balance this year and Skidmore looks to be one of their top attacking options.
Val Whalen, Stoughton – The junior returns after leading the Black Knights in kills a year ago. If the Black Knights can find a replacement at setter, Whalen could be a tough player to stop this season.