The Panthers, who secured the Central-West sectional title in a dramatic five-set win, push the Raiders, champions of the South sectional, to the limit. But ultimately, Barnstable made one final run to come away with a 3-0 (25-17, 25-22, 25-23) win and a return trip to the D1 State Final.
“I couldn’t really ask for more,” said first-year Franklin head coach Kelsey Weymouth. “They knew they’d have to be matched up with [Barnstable] eventually so why not the state semifinals? We prepared them the best we could for them, and for [Barnstable outside hitter] Riley James. We knew blocking was going to be key today, and we had some really good moments for our blocks, we just needed a little bit more. But honestly, what the girls did, how hard they worked, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
The Raiders are a perennial power in the state, having won the D1 State title 13 times since 2000 and entered Tuesday night’s match without having lost a single set this year. While that didn’t change, Franklin gave Barnstable its toughest test of the season and scored more points (62) against the Raiders than any other team has in 2018.
“They are a good team,” said Barnstable head coach Tom Turco of the Panthers. “They have quick, fast athletes and they have nine seniors. We haven’t been pressed like that [this season]. We’ve played a lot of really good teams and they are one of them.”
Barnstable skated to a win in the South Sectional Final, beating New Bedford 25-3, 25-8, 25-16. It didn’t take long to see that Franklin was going to be a much bigger challenge.
Each time the Raiders tried to pull away in the first set, Franklin stuck around. Kills from Ellie Wisniewski, Allyson Bonnet-Eymard, and Hailey Sanders each answered a point from Barnstable to keep the deficit at three. Barnstable built a six point lead at 16-10, but a 4-1 run from the Panthers again made the lead three points.
But Barnstable senior Riley James, the state’s all-time leader in kills, showed off her skill. She had four kills (in the final eight points, giving the Raiders a 1-0 lead. James finished with a season-high 24 kills in the match.
Franklin continued to battle in the second set, with six ties over the first 16 points, including at 8-8. Barnstable attempted to pull away at 12-9 but Franklin responded with a 4-1 run to knot the score at 13, getting a big kill from Maggie Doyle.
The Panthers got a nice kill from Wisniewski from the back row after a nice dig from Riley Marino to pull within one at 18-17 but were forced to call timeout when the Raiders won the next point. Barnstable went up 22-19 on a kill from Ingrid Murphy (16 kills) but Sanders landed a kill from the middle to get within two. After Barnstable went back up by three, the Panthers forced a hitting error to make it a two pint game again.
But once again, James was in the front row when the Raiders needed her most and she had two kills over the final three points to put Barnstable up 2-0.
“We wanted to have four hands on [James] at all times,” Weymouth said, We wanted two girls to block her wherever she went. We were right there…right there. But it is what it is, the girls worked so hard, they did great.
Barnstable went up 3-0 early in the third set but Franklin refused to fold. Franklin won seven of the next eight points to seize a 7-4 lead, highlighted by kills from Doyle, Sanders and Bonnet-Eymard — all on assists from senior Lauren McGrath.
Franklin kept its lead, and stretched it to 14-10 on a big block from senior Lily Galluccio to force Turco to take a timeout. The Panthers let Barnstable back in the game with three errors over the next four points to knot the score.
But Bonnet-Eymard sandwiched a pair of kills around a nice kill from McGrath to give Franklin a 19-16 lead, and again forcing a timeout from the Raiders.
The Panthers led 22-19 after a kill from Doyle, and 23-21 after a service error from the Raiders, and were on the verge of giving Barnstable its first set loss of the season. Franklin’s Doyle and Sanders found a lot of success attacking from the middle spot.
“We knew coming that [Barnstable] wasn’t very effective from the middle,” Weymouth said. “Our middles were super effective I thought. You can only run your offense so well if your serve receive is in system. There were times when we wanted to run the middle but the serve receive was a little off and we were forced to go outside. But our middles were huge, they were unstoppable when they were swinging. I’m so proud of these girls for making it this far.”
A kill from Murphy and a Franklin hitting error tied the game, and Murphy used a perfectly place push just over the net for the final point and the win.
Franklin volleyball finishes the season at 20-1.