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.
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.
CANTON, Mass. – Canton knew very little about its opponent in Thursday night’s Div. 2 Central semifinal, so it focused on its own game. That was more than enough, as the Bulldogs needed only an hour to dispatch of North Middlesex, rolling to a 3-0 (25-12, 25-12, 25-19) sweep and a return to the sectional final.
“We’ve had our ups and downs this season, the Hock was a very strong league and every day we had to work hard,” said Canton coach Pat Cawley. “So we’ve been through the trenches, we’ve had so much adversity this year that I think they’re just so happy to be here and just want to do as well as they can.”
Cawley was impressed with the way that her team remained focused on the task at hand, despite dominating the match from the start and despite watching Westboro and Ashland play a five-set thriller in the evening’s first semifinal.
“We’ve really been working on that a lot this year,” she added. “It’s hard in this sport, it’s such a game of momentum and subliminally you let up sometimes but we’ve really, really been working hard.”
The Bulldogs got off to a perfect start to the match, jumping out to a 13-5 lead in the first and using a number of different players in the attack. Claire Quinn (eight kills and 12 digs) had a couple pf early points, one at the service line and one at the net, Angie Elias had a block, and Shannon Malloy had a kill during that stretch.
Elias, Malloy, and Liz Bickett (five kills, three blocks, and three aces) were strong in the middle and limited North Middlesex senior Sara Murphy, who was the top threat for the Patriots.
Each time that the Patriots tried to cut into the lead in the first, Canton had an answer. Quinn picked the right spot on a kill to make it 18-9 and Bickett added an impressive block to make it 21-10. Taylor Harris (team-high 13 kills and 12 digs) smashed a kill to make it 22-11, followed by a pair of Bickett aces. Harris closed out the first with another rocket.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Cawley said about Canton’s performance. “Obviously Taylor Harris is an amazing player and we’re riding her back, but everybody else contributes and does her job. If everybody does their job, then the sky’s the limit really.”
The second set was a carbon copy of the first. Canton jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. Harris was instrumental again on the outside, but the Bulldogs remained balanced thanks to the passing of setter Jackie Morrissey (21 assists and 12 digs). The Bulldogs never allowed the visitors to build any momentum in a 25-12 set.
North Middlesex stayed much closer in the third set, hanging around to the final point. Canton never led by more than five points in the third, until the final point of the match. Harris was unstoppable on the outside, with four kills in the set.
Canton (19-3) will face No. 4 seed Westboro in the Central final on Saturday at Wellesley High. The two teams last met in the 2015 final, which the Rangers won 3-0.
“We seem to run into them a lot. Westboro is a great team. They’re very well-coached, they have a lot of strong athletes, and they play a really tough schedule. They’re a fine-tuned machine. We’ll see what we can do on Saturday.”
CANTON, Mass. – While Canton had already secured at least a share of its 15th league title in 17 seasons, there was still a chance that North Attleboro could split and make it two titles in three years for Big Red, but that would require beating the Bulldogs for a second time this season.
North dropped the first set on Wednesday night, battled to win two close sets in a row, and was forced to a decisive fifth set before securing a 3-2 (18-25, 25-23, 26-24, 18-25, 15-7) victory and a season sweep over its Davenport rival.
“When the energy is up, we thrive,” said North coach Kim Hallahan. “So, it’s nice to play against great competition. They’re a great team and we like that competition, it boosts us and gives us a lot of energy. Luckily, they did it twice.”
The first set was back-and-forth at the start with North building a 16-13 lead behind strong play at the net from its front line, including Kylie Melanson, Joanna Collins-Bilyeu, and Grace Munley. Canton called a timeout to reset and whatever was said in the huddle worked because the Bulldogs rolled off seven straight points and finished the first on a 12-2 run.
After being largely held in check for most of the set, senior hitter Taylor Harris (20 kills) got going for the Bulldogs with three straight kills and then a block for a point. Claire Quinn closed out the set with a kill to put the hosts ahead 1-0 in the match.
“We’ve been fighting through a lot of injuries all year and we’ve been fighting back in matches,” said Canton coach Pat Cawley. “We’ve had a lot of different lineups and we find ourselves down a lot until they kind of get used to each other and come back.”
The momentum carried over to the start of the second, with Canton jumping out to a 4-0 lead, but North came storming back to take the lead. The lead switched hands five times and the score was tied 13 times in the set, as neither team managed to get any separation. Riding the hot hand of Munley (20 kills) and a big ace from setter Hayley Gaskin that gave them set point, North edged out a 25-23 win in the second.
North took charge in the third set, with Munley continuing to be tough to slow down and Melanson and Abby Gallagher adding alternatives on the outside. It seemed like all the bounces were going North’s way as well, with Munley getting a point on a hit that rolled down the top of the net and dropped into an unoccupied space and then following up a remarkable dig by Canton’s Angie Elias by smashing another kill that made it 20-15.
Just when it looked like the Rocketeers might roll into the lead in the match, Canton came storming back, eventually tying the set at 24-24. With the match on the brink, Gallagher had back-to-back kills to close out the third.
“These girls put in all the time, all the practice, they put in 110 percent and that’s all I’ve ever asked for as a coach,” said Hallahan. “When we go into timeouts, whether we’re down or up, I tell them you have this and you have to believe in yourselves the way I believe in you. They definitely did tonight.”
“We did get some points in the middle when we got our passing where we needed it to be,” Cawley explained. “I thought Liz had a great match blocking and hitting and she’s a six-position player for us, so she’s played well all the way around.”
North had the chance to seal the win, leading 16-14 in the fourth, but again Canton managed to rally. This time the Bulldogs scored 11 of the final 13 points in the set, including a seven-point series with Nikki Desjardins at the service line. Fittingly, it was Bickett that rose up with a blast to close it out and force a fifth and deciding set.
In the fifth, the Rocketeers stormed out of the gate, winning five of the first six points. Canton got as close as three on two occasions but North had the answer. Munley was immense in the final set, recording seven kills, and Melanson closed out the match with a blast.
“She was unreal,” Hallahan said about Munley. “She has grown tremendously. She has been the most improved out of any kid that I’ve coached before. She had so much fun tonight, so it’s really great to see that.”
Cawley was glad to see her team continue to fight back in the match and get the chance to perform in a playoff-like atmosphere. “It’s tough losing a match like that,” she said, “but I told the kids, this is what we want to do, this is the volleyball we want to play and unfortunately we couldn’t pull it out. We battled, it’s all I can ask for.”
Despite the loss, Canton (15-3, 12-3) will have the chance to win the title outright when it travels to Milford on Friday.
When Cawley was asked about maintaining the consistent level of success over the past 17 years, she replied, “People look at it because we put the Canton shirts on, we’re going to win, but many, many years it’s a puzzle until midseason and we don’t know how we’re going to do. I keep telling the kids that winning a league title is hard, it’s not expected, and you should enjoy it.”
North Attleboro (12-5, 11-4) will be rooting for Milford on Friday but to have a shot at splitting the title will also have to beat Foxboro in the regular season finale.
The Panthers, reigning champions of the Kelley-Rex division, and the Bulldogs, who won their eighth Davenport crown last season, went back-and-forth, trading wins in the first two sets before Canton pulled away for a 3-1 (25-20, 23-25, 25-22, 25-18) win.
Over the course of the first three sets, the teams were never separated by more than six points, and only once in each set did the lead reach that high. And the leads all came early as the teams were within a point (19-18) in all three of those sets.
After the Bulldogs finished the third set with a 7-4 run to get a 2-1 lead in the match, they came out and played their best set in the fourth game to clinch the win.
“I think we played the best [in the fourth game] because we had confidence because we were up 2-1, and we were in the driver’s seat,” said Canton head coach Pat Cawley. “We played better because we had that confidence. It was a great match, it could have gone either way easily. I felt like both teams were pretty evenly matched.”
After an even start to the fourth set, the Bulldogs pulled ahead after putting pressure on the Panthers’ defense, forcing a couple of errors. Claire Quinn (nine kills, five aces) came up with a big dig on a Franklin hit that helped Canton keep the play alive and eventually win the point to go up 12-5.
After Franklin closed the gap some, Franklin rattled off a quick 6-3 burst that featured a kill from Liz Bickett (10 kills, three blocks) and an ace from Olivia Chinsen to take a commanding 20-10 lead, the largest of the entire match.
The Panthers battled back to make it a six-point game at 22-16 but Bickett dropped in another kill and Taylor Harris (23 kills) slammed down the final point with a kill.
“I think at too many times we let an error turn into two, and then two errors turn into another one,” said Franklin head coach Kelsey Weymouth. “And that seemed to take a hit on our confidence. We’re inconsistent right now, and we have a young team with some inexperience at some spots.”
Canton built a slight lead in the opening set as Harris slammed a shot down the line to go up 8-4, and Bickett tipped a ball over for a kill for a 10-5 lead. Another Harris kill gave the Bulldogs a 15-6 lead but Franklin rallied to make it a one-point game on an ace from Allyson Bonnet-Eymard (nine kills, 11 digs) at 18-17.
The Bulldogs finished strong with Bickett and Harris getting kills, sandwiched around an ace from Quinn for a 25-20 win.
“Taylor is a reliable option,” Cawley said. “She’s coming into her own, feeling the pressure a little bit of being the senior leader on the team. But we’re trying to take that pressure off of her because we have some good options. She’s doing a nice job, you know, if she makes an error she comes back strong.”
Franklin evened the match with a win in the second set. The Panthers jumped ahead 20-18 on back-to-back Canton errors but the Bulldogs rallied by winnings five of the next six points to take a 23-21 lead. A pair of errors helped Franklin pull level, sophomore Cailyn Mackintosh (30 assists) landed an ace to put the Panthers ahead, and Bridget Jackson (11 kills, three aces, two blocks) slammed down a hard kill to even the match at 1-1.
Bonnet-Eymard and Harris traded back-to-back kills early in the third set, the latter from Harris putting the Bulldogs up 12-7. After a Franklin timeout, the Panthers rallied to tie the set (15-15) on a kill from Brigid Early and their first lead on an ace from Mackintosh. Harris landed two kills to give Canton a 21-18 lead but back-to-back Canton errors helped Franklin get within one at 22-21.
A service error, a kill from Quinn, another Franklin error, and another kill from Quinn secured a 25-22 win in the third set.
“Today was Claire’s first start of the year playing outside and she did a super job,” Cawley said. “Angie [Elias] usually plays outside but we put her at the weak side and I think that helped us a lot because she had a lot of touches on the block.
“We switched to a 5-1 [rotation] in the second set and I think it just took a little time getting used to having the one setter. All of the setters are new to varsity, but I think that changed worked for us because the kids seemed to know what to expect, and they didn’t have to figure out who was setting.”
By HockomockSports.com Staff
2019 Hockomock Volleyball Preview
2018 Record: 2-17
2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Courtney Durocher
The Attleboro Bombardiers are determined to improve on last year’s season and are planning to use a lot of effort and hard work to do so.
Attleboro has key pieces back in key spots for head coach Courtney Durocher to use. It all starts with junior setter Ana Leonardo, who enters her third year playing at the varsity level. After splitting time as a freshman, Leonardo shined as the lone setter for the Bombardiers last year. Having that experience in such an important position will help the Bombardiers offensively. Durocher is looking for Emily McGovern to get a lot of swings at the outside hitter position while Hailey Thake should get opportunities on the right side. The defense will be anchored by libero Jessica Matheson.
“I feel we could have a breakout season this year with the group of girls we have,” Durocher said. “It will take effort and time, but know we can do it.”
2018 Record: 19-3 (Davenport Division Champions)
2018 Finish: Reached D2 Central Final
Coach: Pat Cawley
After missing out on the playoffs in 2017, the Bulldogs were back with a vengeance last year with a terrific season that resulted in a division title and a trip to the sectional final.
The Bulldogs were back atop the Davenport after a one-year hiatus, picking up 19 wins overall. Canton graduated a lot of key pieces from last year’s successful squad, but expectations are still high for 2019 as the Bulldogs look to defend their Davenport title. Senior Taylor Harris will give the Bulldogs a lot of power at the net as one the league’s best hitters, and she will also be a key piece of the defense. Junior Liz Bickett is back as one of the middle blockers, and junior Olivia Chinsen will be tasked with some of the setting duties as well as an attacking option on the right side. Junior Angie Elias will be another option on the outside while junior Shannon Malloy has stepped up to take on the other middle spot for the Bulldogs. Head coach Pat Cawley is looking for seniors Emily Morrison and Rosana Cho to anchor a relatively inexperienced group of defensive players to try and fill the void left by last year’s libero Meghan McDonough. Junior Jackie Morrissey and sophomore Taylor Reynolds are also in the mix for the setter spot.
“While we have a totally new look this year, the preseason has shown there is great potential,” Cawley said. “We have several good defensive candidates and I am excited to see who steps up and wins the starting roles. Our setting is inexperienced but hardworking and improving every day. I am fortunate to work with a great group of fun, determined and dedicated athletes looking to elevate their game!”
2018 Record: 1-19
2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Vicki Santana
Former Canton standout Vicki Santana takes over as head coach of the Foxboro Warriors and is aiming to help her team improve over the course of the season.
The Warriors are hoping 2019 will be a turnaround year after just one win last season. O’Brien brings a wealth of playing experience, winning multiple Hockomock League championships with the Bulldogs and setting multiple records while at Worcester State. She holds two single-season records for digs and is second in program history in total digs (1,271). Santana has a strong core of players back to work within her first year including senior captains Grace Boudreau, Sara Addeche, and Maddie O’Brien. Boudreau gives the Warriors experience at the net as an attacking option while Addeche and O’Brien both provide strong leadership on and off the court. Junior Kelsey Treweek will anchor the defense as the libero while newcomer Shakirah Ketant should factor in defensively at the net.
“We are focused on developing the team as a whole and strengthening the camaraderie on and off the court,” Santana said. “Volleyball is a mental game and building our team culture around trust, positivity, and motivation is a priority for the year.”
2018 Record: 20-1 (Kelley-Rex Division Champions)
2018 Finish: Reached D1 State Semifinals
Coach: Kelsey Weymouth
It’s going to be a completely new look Franklin squad this fall, but second-year head coach Kelsey Weymouth is still expecting a strong season from the Panthers.
Coming off the best season in program history which featured an undefeated regular season, a D1 Central West sectional title, and a trip to the D1 State Semifinals, the Panthers will look to new faces to try and orchestrate another successful season. Allyson Bonnett-Eymard picked up valuable experience last season, registering 102 kills, and will be one of the go-to options on offense for Franklin this year. Weymouth also expects Bonnett-Eymard to be involved in the setting game as well. Other returners include Bridget Jackson and Emma Chase, both of which will play in the middle. Weymouth expects Chase to hit from various spots at the net this year. Sophomore Cailyn Macintosh had a strong offseason and will be in the mix for setting duties, junior Jill Benoit will be a key piece of the back row defense as the libero, and senior Sarah Jackson will see an expanded role at the net this season. The Panthers will be relying on their height to lead the defense at the net.
“We are more of a younger team this season but each player has made huge improvements,” Weymouth said. “Most of the team has not played together before, so our chemistry will be key. I love having a lot of variety on my team because that means I can move a lot of people around playing different positions.”
2018 Record: 11-11
2018 Finish: Reached D1 Central/East Quarterfinals
Coach: Kristen Geuss
After an up and down season in 2018, King Philip is looking to compete for the Kelley-Rex title again this year.
The Warriors have a strong mix of starters and experienced players due back this season so there is a lot of potential for this season. The heart of the offense returns with both senior Catherine Waldeck and junior Nicole Coughlan (the 2018 HockomockSports Underclassman of the Year) back as the team’s middle blockers. Both had over 130 kills last season and combined for 77 blocks so the Warriors will certainly be strong up the middle again this year. Senior Kristen Masse will complement them as one of the outside hitters, the Warriors having their top three attack options back this season. Senior Kiley Sullivan and junior Lauren Peterson (both over 100 assists last year) are back to run the offense from the setter position. Juniors Lily Carlow and Emma Brooks bring experience to the back row defensive unit. Head coach Kristen Geuss expects juniors Ali McNamara, Paige Kannally, and Tori Claypoole to all factor in as well.
“There is a great deal of potential on the team,” Geuss said. “Many have put in the time in the offseason to improving their game. They are working hard in practice and are improving each day.”
2018 Record: 7-13
2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Melissa Heeden & Cindy Conquest
There is a lot of excitement surrounding the 2019 version of the Mansfield Hornets, and for good reason with a lot of returning players back this season.
While the Hornets missed out on the playoffs a year ago, there is a lot of talent back that gained valuable experience and will be looking to compete for a division title this season. Last year’s inexperienced group is now ready to show off what they learned last season. There are five seniors that will lead the charge for Mansfield: outside hitter/defensive specialist Julia Buiser, outside hitter Emily Dardinski, setter Olivia Fernando, libero Sam Sternburg, and setter Stephanie Walker. Having a senior at almost every position gives Mansfield an edge in both leadership and experience. Junior Olivia McGrath, sophomore Julia Kelly, junior Alina Nowakowski, and junior Ashley Santos all saw valuable match time last year and will be looking to take the next step this season. With such a well-rounded team, head coach Melissa Heeden has been moving the pieces around looking for the right combination heading into the season. Heeden is hoping that the combination of more experience and a balanced team will translate into success on the court.
“I am really excited about our team this year,” Heeden said. “The girls have worked really hard and we have a lot more experience this year than we did last year. We have a great team with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. We are well balanced and I am really looking forward to seeing what they can do!”
2018 Record: 9-10
2018 Finish: Reached D2 Central First Round
Coach: Tammy Webber
After just making it into the state tournament a year ago, the Scarlet Hawks return an experienced group that is aiming to compete for the Davenport division title.
Milford has been in the mix before, their best chance at the division coming in 2016, but should be a serious contender in 2019. The Hawks bring back two talented middles in Allison and Lauren Corsini, Julia Riordan returns as the starting setter, Alyssa Williamson is back at the outside hitter spot, and right side hitter Elise Faurerbach has solid varsity experience. Sophomore Sarah Brogioli should see an expanded role as an outside hitter after getting some swings last year as a freshman. The Corsini sisters combined for over 200 kills and over 100 blocks and should give Milford an edge both offensively and defensively. Riordan dished out 420 assists a year ago and has plenty of weapons at her disposal, including Williamson (108 kills in 2018). The challenge early on will be replacing defensive specialists Sydney Sutton and Nina Pinto, who combined for the majority of the team’s digs and serve receives last year.
“We have the offensive pieces, but are working on the consistency we will need, especially in our passing, to be in the running for a Hockomock championship,” said head coach Tammy Webber.
2018 Record: 10-9
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Kim Hallahan
With 10 seniors on the roster, North Attleboro coach Kim Hallahan is excited for upcoming season.
It all starts with the two senior captains for the Rocketeers, with seniors Hayley Gaskin and Brook Street leading the way for North Attleboro. Gaskin returns as the starting setter after a very strong junior campaign in which North Attleboro qualified for the state tournament. Street will step in to anchor the defensive line in the back row as the libero while Gaskin, who had 416 assists last year with just 10 ball handling errors, will have a lot of the same options back again this year. One of those options will be senior Kylie Melanson, who was second on the team last year with 124 kills, and junior Joanna Collins-Bilyeu, who is set to see an expanded role at the net this year. With a strong group of well-rounded players, the challenge now for Hallahan is finding the right combination of players and the right rotations heading into the season.
“I have a really good feeling about this year,” Hallahan said. “The girls all have good spirits and work really, really hard, but most importantly work really well together. I’m really excited for this season.”
2018 Record: 14-8
2018 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinals
Coach: Chelsea Cunningham
Oliver Ames is riding a three-year streak of qualifying for the state tournament and is looking to make it four this season.
Head coach Chelsea Cunningham has two of her top players back from last year’s 14-win squad in senior outside hitter Jordan Bosse and setter Allie Kemp. Bosse was one of the top hitters in the league and led the Tigers with 240 kills, so having a strong, experienced player back at the outside hitter position will be a big boost early on. And on top of that, Kemp (the 2017 HockomockSports Underclassman of the Year) is back to distribute the ball so there should be an early connection between the two. Cunningham is also looking for senior Alison Barth to step into the libero role, Ryley McNeeley to get some swings both in the middle and right side, junior Caroline Flynn to play the other outside hitter role, and sophomore Hadley Rhodes (setter/opposite) to play a variety of roles.
“We are hoping to learn from every practice, game, and everything in between,” Cunningham said. “The girls are flexible in their roles and all have something to offer on and off the court. Offensively, we have many options this year and hope to utilize everyone on the roster. Defensively, we have some holes to fill but continue to adjust to each team we face. With this particular group, expectations have been set, and they have to work for everything. With all the different factors that play a role, I could not have asked for a better group of student-athletes to work with.”
2018 Record: 7-12
2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Andrea Lovett
Sharon has a lot of returning players with experience at the varsity level which has head coach Andrea Lovett excited for the upcoming season.
The Eagles will look to use their strength and experience at the front row to pace the offense. Juniors Sara Fandel and Leah Fandel are back after picking up good experience a year ago, and senior Jada Johnson returns after one year off. Johnson had a terrific sophomore campaign and could be a big difference-maker for the Eagles. Senior captain Maya Aidlin-Perlman and junior Brynne Aidlin-Perlman will provide the power from the outside hitter spots. Senior captain Ally Brown brings quickness and intelligence to the setter spot and will be a leader for the Eagles both on and off the court.
“Over the last several years, Sharon has been gaining skills, experience, and a renewed drive to win,” Lovett said. “We are looking forward to carrying that trend into the season.”
2018 Record: 16-5
2018 Finish: Reached D2 South Semifinals
Coach: Erica Batchelder
The Black Knights have put together back-to-back 16 win seasons and have graduated two straight strong classes, so expectations are high for the upcoming season.
With some key losses to graduation, the Black Knights will be changing up some tactics and strategies this year to best take advantage of the players they do have returning. There will be a lot of focus on the defensive side of the ball, with a strong emphasis on hustle and eliminating unforced errors. Senior Alexa Quinones will be changing positions to take over as the setter. Her experience as an attacking option makes her a dual-threat alongside middle blocker Amaya Morris. Morris had a strong season a year ago and will be a key piece of the net defense this season. Senior Sasha Hyacinthe will be one of the main offensive options after a breakout junior campaign. Stoughton will be turning to senior Veronica Noe to anchor the defense in the back row, junior Shanice Landrum will be stepping into one of the middle roles, and junior Camille Firmin will give the Black Knights an attacking option as both an outside hitter and on the right side.
“We have strong players filling gaps from last year,” said head coach Erica Batchelder. “I am excited for this season for Stoughton to show other teams not to ever count us out. We have a lot of heart, hustle, communication, and talent to back it up.”
2018 Record: 5-15
2018 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Toby Chaperon
There will be a learning curve this season for Taunton, which features an overall young team with limited varsity experience.
Head coach Toby Chaperon had a busy preseason with over 100 girls trying out for the program. Senior Alyssa Turcotte, an outside hitter and a middle hitter, will see a lot of time at the net for the Tigers this year as well as senior outside hitter Hailey Sullivan, who has “a tremendous feel for the game” according to Chaperon. Junior Ella Dunderdale brings a strong skill set so she can play in a variety of roles during the season while classmates Sonya Fernandez (middle) and Jaelyn Fernandez (setter) could emerge as top players this season. Fabian Pereira will be in the mix in the back row while sophomore Mikayla Clearly is likely to factor in in some capacity for the Tigers.
Today’s games are listed below.
Milford, 27 @ Franklin, 34 – Final – Click here for a recap and photo gallery from this game.
1st Quarter: (F) Thomas Gasbarro 38 yard pass to Jake Davis, Parker Cheuvront XP good; (M) Luke Rosa 15 yard rush, CJ Cerrella XP good.
2nd Quarter: (F) T. Gasbarro 23 yard pass to Jack Nally, P. Cheuvront XP good.
3rd Quarter: (F) T. Gasbarro 23 yard pass to J. Davis, XP failed; (M) Colby Pires 56 yard pass to Dan Farrell, XP failed; (F) Cole Lakatos 73 yard kick return, P. Cheuvront XP good.
4th Quarter: (M) C. Pires 26 yard pass to Carter Scudo, C. Carrella XP good; (F) Mack Gulla 4 yard rush, P. Cheuvront XP good; (M) C. Pires 22 yard pass to Matt Varteresian, C. Cerrella XP good.
Stoughton, 35 vs. Framingham, 16 – Final – Click here for a recap and photo gallery from this game.
1st Quarter: (S) Christian Georges 84 yard rush, XP failed; (S) C. Georges 11 yard rush, Christopher Ais 2pt rush good.
2nd Quarter: (F) Akye Boston 2 yard rush, Jack Beverly 2pt pass to Sam Stubbs good.
3rd Quarter: (S) John Burke 8 yard pass to Christopher Ais, Anthony Girolamo XP good; (S) Clayton Rahaman 19 yard rush, A. Girolamo XP good.
4th Quarter: (S) J. Burke 2 yard rush, A. Girolamo XP good; (F) A. Boston 53 yard rush; J. Beverly 2pt pass to Antonio Rivera good.
Canton, 0 @ Marshfield, 0 – Final – Canton senior goalie Alejandro Correal made 11 saves to help the Bulldogs earn a point on the road in the season opener for both squads.
King Philip, 4 @ Sharon, 0 – Final – King Philip scored twice in the final five minutes of the first half and then twice more in the final 10 minutes of the game to earn a win on the road over Sharon. Wes Orzell scored the game-winner, putting KP ahead 1-0 with an unassisted strike in the 39th minute. Three minutes later, Orzell set up senior Brian McCarthy to make it 2-0 just before half. In the 71st, Cam Lawrence deposited a free kick (earned by Evan McEvoy) into the net for a 3-0 advantage. Stephen Griffin added a fourth (assisted by McEvoy) in the final minute. Aidan Lindmark and Grant Orzell combined for the shutout in net for KP.
Attleboro, 0 @ Canton, 3 – Final – Locked in a one-goal game, Canton freshman Ellie Bohane scored her first two varsity goals inside the final five minutes to secure the win for the Bulldogs. Meg Aldrich put Canton up 1-0 off a corner with 10 minutes left in the first half but the Bulldogs couldn’t solve Attleboro goalie Ava Haggerty (22 saves) until Bohane’s tally with four minutes to go.
Mansfield, 1 @ Foxboro, 1 – Final – Click here for a photo gallery from this game – Foxboro sophomore Kate Collins scored with five seconds left in the game to salvage a point for the Warriors in their season opener against Mansfield. Collins scored off a corner with Molly McElhinney and Ella Waryas factoring in before Collins got the final touch. Stori Rounds put Mansfield up with just under five minutes to play in the first half while Kayla Hunter made six saves for the Hornets.
Franklin, 13 @ Milford, 0 – Final – Amanda Lewandowski and Leila Frankina each scored twice in the first half as Franklin rolled to a win to start the season. Lewandowski finished with three points, including an assist on Elizabeth Clark’s first varsity goal. Neilee Hess earned the shutout for Franklin. Paige Reisman had 20 saves in net for the Hawks.
King Philip, 3 @ Sharon, 1 – Final
Oliver Ames, 6 @ Stoughton, 1 – Final – After a scoreless first half, Oliver Ames scored five minutes into the second half and tacked on five more to record a win on the road at Stoughton. Cassie Gennis and Georgia Costello (assist) each scored twice for the Tigers while Sofia Anestam and Hannah Stryke (assist) each found the back of the net once for the Tigers. Haley Nelson scored for Stoughton while Kayla Laboy had an outstanding game in net, making 10 saves.
Taunton, 3 @ North Attleboro, 1 – Final – Taunton went on the road and picked up a win in the season opener at North Attleboro. Kennedy Thielker scored twice for the Tigers, both assisted by Kat Robinson, while Alana Tavares added an unassisted tally. Emily Gannon made five saves in net for the win. Jocelyn Pagliuca and Kathryn Baptiste also had strong games for Taunton.
Attleboro, 0 @ Canton, 3 – Final – Canton opened the season with a 3-0 sweep (25-16, 25-19, 25-16) to give head coach Pat Cawley her 200th victory with the Bulldogs. Senior Taylor Harris led the offense with 15 kills while adding 12 digs and three aces in the win. Angie Elias also had a strong day with seven digs, six kills, and a pair of aces, Liz Bickett added four kills and 11 digs and Nikki Desjardins had a solid defensive showing. Attleboro junior Ana Leonardo dished out 11 assists and sophomore Delia Barthel had three kills and two blocks.
Mansfield, 3 @ Foxboro, 1 – Final – Mansfield started the 2019 campaign with a 3-1 (25-11, 25-22, 23-25, 25-21) win on the road over Foxboro. Sam Sternburg paced the Hornets’ defense with 20 digs and added 12 service points while Olivia McGrath had 11 kills and Emily Dardinski added seven kills. Foxboro had a strong defensive game to keep the match close, with Pam Nelson (10 digs), Grace Fortune (nine digs), Sara Addeche (nine digs) and Kelsey Treweek (six digs) leading the way.
Franklin, 1 @ Milford, 3 – Final – Milford bounced back from dropping the first set to secure a 3-1 (24-26, 26-24, 25-20, 25-21) win at home against Franklin. Julia Riordan paced the Hawks offense, dishing out 28 assists. Lauren Corsini had a strong game in the middle with 11 kills and six blocks, Alyssa Williamson added six kills, and Sarah Brogioli anchored the defense with 15 digs.
King Philip, 3 @ Sharon, 0 – Final – King Philip went on the road and picked up a win in its first game of the season, 3-0 (25-13, 25-12, 25-13) over Sharon. Middles Catherine Waldeck (nine kills, three blocks) and Nicole Coughlan (nine kills, two aces) both had strong games for the Warriors, Kristen Masse added four kills, four digs, and three aces, and Emma Brooks chipped in with six digs and four aces.
Taunton, 0 @ North Attleboro, 3 – Final – North Attleboro defended home court with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-16, 25-18) win over visiting Taunton. Haley Gaskin dished out 22 assists to pace the Rocketeers with Kylie Melanson (six kills) and Joanna Collins-Bilyeu (five kills) leading the offense. Alyssa Turcotte had five kills and a block for the Tigers while Sonya Fernandez added four kills and a pair of aces.
Oliver Ames, 3 @ Stoughton, 0 – Final – Oliver Ames senior Allie Kemp dished out 27 assists to lead the Tigers to a 3-0 (25-12, 25-21, 25-16) win over Stoughton. Kemp moved within two assists of the 1,000 mark. Junior Caroline Flynn added 10 kills while senior Ryley McNeeley added eight kills and five aces. OA senior Alison Barth had a strong game defensively with 21 digs, 23 serve receptions, and a pair of aces.
Oliver Ames, 151 @ Attleboro, 164 – Final – Oliver Ames bounced back with a win on the road over Attleboro at Stone-E-Lea. Sam Becker paced the Tigers with a medalist round of 35 while Brad Powers (38), Justin Shapiro (39), and Jo Jo Gaultier (39) all shot under 40 for Oliver Ames.
Stoughton, 194 @ North Attleboro, 156 – Final – North Attleboro’s Jillian Barend shot a one-under round of 34 at the middle course at Heather Hill to pace the Rocketeers to a win. Jake Gaskin added a round of 39, Aidan Weir carded a 40, and Brett Dusel and Sam Gallagher each finished at 43. Max Huminik led Stoughton with a round of 46.
Franklin, 158 vs. Nipmuc, 173 – Final – Jack Paterson led the way for the Panthers with a team-low round of 38 while Quinten Faro was right behind him with a round of 39.
WELLESLEY, Mass. – Momentum is a key to any high school volleyball match. Teams build up confidence and go on scoring runs, which is amplified when that run closes out a critical fourth set and keeps a season alive.
Groton-Dunstable went on that type of run in the Div. 2 Central final on Saturday afternoon at Wellesley High, winning nine of the last 11 points to pull out the fourth set 25-19 and force a decisive final set. The momentum from that run to keep the season alive, helped the Crusaders take control of the fifth and deny Canton its first sectional title since 2012.
The Crusaders won the fifth set 15-7, including eight of the last nine points, to beat the Bulldogs 3-2 (20-25, 25-14, 16-25, 25-19, 15-7) and claim the Central title.
“It’s a game of momentum, but unfortunately in the end they had the momentum,” said Canton coach Pat Cawley. “They did carry it over [from the fourth set] and we didn’t have an answer for it. We played a little tight on serve-receive…we didn’t get our offense going at all.”
Canton got off to a strong start to the match in a back-and-forth opening set. Despite dealing with the strong hitting and blocking abilities of Crusaders star Lily Blodgett, the Bulldogs were able to get into a groove with Taylor Harris and Theresa O’Brien on the outside. The five-point edge that Canton ended the set with was the largest lead for either team in the first.
Groton-Dunstable answered right back with a dominant second set. Blodgett was in total control and had the Bulldogs out of sorts at the start, particularly middle hitter Erin Devine, who had a couple of hits blocked in the first and had to be creative to get good looks.
“She (Blodgett) blocked her a lot, but I was proud of Erin because she scored a lot of points in different ways,” Cawley said.
Devine and the Bulldogs bounced right back in the third and had their strongest set of the match. Devine got things started with a kill and then Harris added two on the outside, as Canton jumped in front 10-2. After the Crusaders cut the lead to five points, Harris again found a hole in the G-D defense for a big points and a 12-6 lead.
Everything seemed to be working for the Bulldogs in the third. Olivia Chinsen and libero Megan McDonough each had an ace, Rose Hazam came off the bench and was able to scramble a ball over the net that dropped in for a point, Bailey Shea had a kill in the middle, and Liz Bickett snagged a point for Canton as well.
The fourth set was also back-and-forth, as the two teams were within no more than three points of each other until the final stretch. Groton-Dunstable built an early 6-3 lead, but Canton answered right back with kills from Shea and Harris. Harris also earned a point with a block and setter Nicole Brown (who Cawley called the “glue of the team”) stepped up to the net for a block that made it 11-10.
With the score tied at 16-16, the Bulldogs won the type of point that had its fans thinking the trophy was heading to Canton. After a long rally between the teams, Harris managed to dig a tough hit, Brown hustled to keep the play alive and then McDonough not only bumped the ball back across the net from outside the court but also saw it drop in for the point and the lead.
G-D looked unfazed, winning the next three points to regain the advantage and force a Canton timeout. The set was closed out on back-to-back aces by Crusaders libero Peter White, who was a defensive stalwart for the Groton-Dunstable back line.
“Obviously, they didn’t let the ball fall on their side, so they could run their offense,” Cawley explained. “Their defense was better than just about any we faced this season.”
The fifth and deciding set started out even, with the teams trading the first six points. After a pair of Crusaders kills, Harris stepped up and found space down the line to make it 5-4. Carolyn Mullins, who stepped up in the middle when Blodgett was on the bench, had a kill and a block to extend the lead.
A kill from Shea and a mishit got Canton back within one and gave the Bulldogs hope that they could turn things around, but three straight points, including a pair of aces from White, put the Crusaders in the driver’s seat.
“We hung in their in the first half of the fifth set and then we had some trouble with serve-receive and we just couldn’t get out of it,” said Cawley.
Canton’s struggles with serve-receive continued down the stretch as the Crusaders won two more service points before Blodgett put an exclamation point on her night with one final kill to seal the championship.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my team tonight,” Cawley said. “None of them had played in the tournament before. This was the first time for every single one of them. Their growth from last year to this year has been amazing.”
For Canton (19-3), this was an impressive bounce back year. The Bulldogs regained their spot atop the Davenport division and reached the sectional final through a complete team effort.
Cawley said, “It was big growth in their confidence level as well as their skill level. They put all out there and it just didn’t go our way.”
She added, “I carried 18 kids on my team and I can honestly say for the first time ever all 18 of them I could put in there and feel confident. Every day someone new stepped up.”
In fact, in 18 of the 20 matches played prior to Wednesday night’s D2 Central semifinal matchup with #5 Medway, either Devine or Harris led Canton in kills.
But this time around, both players had it going offensively for the top-seeded Bulldogs, each recording double-digit kills to pace Canton to a 3-1 (21-25, 25-23, 25-19, 25-9) win over the Mustangs.
“Both Erin and Taylor had super games,” said Canton head coach Pat Cawley. “We really haven’t had a day like that this year, it’s usually either Erin or Taylor. But tonight they both were on.”
Devine had a team-high 16 kills (with just two hitting errors) and added seven blocks while Harris added 15 kills, 12 digs, and four blocks. It’s just the second time this season that both players reached double-digit kills in the same match.
Even though Canton was the top-seed, the match took place at Medway High, which was a predetermined site by the MIAA. However, it wasn’t selected as the location until the semifinalists were set.
“They worked really hard on not letting the crowd get in their head,” Cawley said. “You have to beat the best to be the best, we’re going to be on the road from now on anyways. Granted we won’t be in someone else’s home gym, but we’ll still be on the road. And if you want to win it all, you have to be good on the road.” g
While both players had strong games offensively, the key to the game came down to matchups. After the Mustangs took the first set, Cawley did her best to figure out how to get Devine matched up with Medway star Maegan Hladick, who had eight kills in the first game alone.
Canton actually had a strong start to the first game, jumping out to a 6-2 lead but Medway worked its way back into the match and rattled off a 10-3 run to take a 12-9 lead. The Bulldogs responded with some strong play, including a couple of nice serves from Megan McDonough (12 digs), and took a 20-16 lead.
But after a Medway timeout, the Mustangs won five of the next six points to tie the first set 21-21. Despite a timeout from Canton, Medway won the next four points, including a pair of kills from Hladick, to secure a 25-21 victory to go up 1-0.
Cawley elected to try and get Devine and senior Bailey Shea on the opposite side of the net to try and get a block on Hladick.
“We didn’t change after the first game but we matched up better because they changed their rotation,” Cawley said. “When they started with the serve, they changed it and it was a better matchup for us. Going into the third, I had a feeling he was going to switch his rotation so I moved mine and luckily we matched up. We were lucky with the rotation, it’s a lot of guess work.
“We were trying to get Erin and Bailey, our two best blockers, to line up with [Hladick]. Because she plays the outside, she’s not blocking Erin so I wasn’t really too concerned who was blocking Erin, I just wanted to block [Hladick].”
The matchup change worked well for the Bulldogs, as Hladick finished with just four kills in the second set. While Canton led for the majority of the match — going up 12-6 after a big kill from Devine, and 16-10 off the hand of Devine again — Medway continued to battle back.
The Mustangs got within three 18-15, and then notched four straight points to go up 19-18 to force another Bulldog timeout. Canton came out with renewed energy, but the Bulldogs trailed 22-21. Devine landed a kill to tie it, a strong serve from Julia Minichiello resulted in a 23-22 lead, and Devine landed a big block on Hladick for a 24-22 lead. Medway got within one but saw its final hit go into the net with Devine and Shea ready for the block.
The third set was close throughout, with nine ties in the first 26 points, the last coming at 13-13. But Devine landed a kill and blocked an attack, and Harris landed back-to-back kills for a 17-13 lead. Canton kept the lead the rest of the way, but Medway did get close at 19-18, but before the Mustangs could tie it, Cawley called a timeout.
“I just reminded them that we have the lead and we have to play like we have the lead,” Cawley said. “We have to play aggressive and strong, and to their credit they did it. It was such a back and forth match. We battled so hard last year, we had a rough year but they stuck together and they deserved this. They gained a lot of confidence by sticking together. We’re really a team.”
Coming out of the timeout, Canton won six of the final seven points, getting a kill and an ace from Harris in the span to win 25-19 and take a 2-1 lead in the match.
Harris finished with eight kills, a block, and an ace in the third game.
“We need that second option if we’re going to win,” Cawley said. “Taylor hits the ball the hardest, she’s just trying to find her groove and keep it in play while still being aggressive. She’s working really hard on it, and she’s also a really good defensive player. She plays all six spots for her, she’s upped her game for us. She played well against Holliston too so I think she plays well under pressure.”
The momentum from the win in the third set carried over into the fourth set. Devine landed a kill and had a block, Shea, Rose Hazam, and Nicole Brown (28 assists, 11 digs, six kills) all had a kill, and Harris added two kills as Canton raced out to a 12-2 lead.
The strong beginning was all Canton needed as the Bulldogs went on to win the fourth set 25-9 to secure a 3-1 victory.
Canton volleyball (19-2) advances to the D2 Central Final and will play the winner of #2 Groton-Dunstable (18-2) and Westboro (17-3) on Saturday at Wellesley with a time to be determined. It marks the fifth time in the last seven years that Canton has reached the sectional final.