SHARON, Mass. – As his team met in the hallway prior to Monday night’s Hock Cup quarterfinal, first-year Mansfield coach Mark Ledwich had a sense that the players were ready to build on the momentum of four wins in the final six games of the regular season and put in a good performance.
The Hornets did just that, sweeping Sharon 3-0 (25-10, 25-17, 25-18). Mansfield didn’t trail at any point against the Davenport division runners up, earning the impressive road win and booking a spot in the semifinal.
“Going into the game, we knew that if we could serve spots it would lead them in directions that would really help our defense,” Ledwich explained, “and all we did was practice where we needed to sit on defense to make that happen. It was a great game by all the kids to go out there and do their jobs.”
Sharon has not had much experience with a playoff atmosphere, even one with a limited crowd, and the Eagles looked a little tentative out of the gates. Mansfield jumped out to a 10-3 lead, then doubled it to go up 20-6 as the Eagles struggled with unforced errors.
“Someone used the term high-stakes game before the game and I think they were a little bit nervous about that,” said Sharon coach Andrea Lovett. “A lot of people were playing against people they play with in club a lot and their club coach, which also makes them a little nervous. They just didn’t execute the way they needed to. It was all fundamentals.”
Veiking had an early kill followed by back-to-back swings from Olivia McGrath, who also added a block and ace during the first set. Yvette Nau had an ace and Leah Fandel added a kill from her middle position but Ashley Santos followed with a kill to end any chance of the hosts going on a run. Nowakowski and Santos went back-to-back with kills to end the first.
“One of the things we said was that whatever happened we had to play at our energy,” said Ledwich. “Although we have restrictions for fans, our bench brings it and makes it feel like every one of our games is a home game.”
The Eagles tried to regroup between sets, but again the Hornets came out flying. Mansfield scored the first six points of the second, behind McGrath’s strong service game. Three times Sharon would battle back within one, but each time Mansfield grabbed a crucial point to make sure it stayed in front.
After Sharon cut the lead to 11-10, McGrath scored with a well-placed tip and setter Christina Lydon scored with a quick leap and spike. Sara Fandel finally got free for a blast to make it 21-14, but Nowakowski continued to find the right angle on the outside and scored with consecutive swings. Nicole Santos added a kill in the middle and the Hornets were up 2-0 with a chance to seal the match.
Sharon needed to get off to a good start in the third, but it was the Hornets that scored the first three points and got to play from in front yet again.
Lovett said, “I’ve noticed a trend for us in the last few matches that we get down a little bit and then sort of kick in and this wasn’t a team that we could kick in against.”
The Eagles kept battling. Brynne Aidlin-Pearlman had an ace and Fandel a kill, but McGrath was proving tough to stop and Santos had a big block for an 8-5 lead. Like the second set, the Eagles were able to get within a point but couldn’t get over the hump.
“They’re good blockers and I don’t think our hitters took advantage of their knowledge and ability to hit around them, over them, mix things up,” said Lovett. “I was saying in the huddle that you can’t just pound it into their hands, you’ve got to figure something out. We didn’t adapt well.”
Down 16-15, the Eagles saw a shot drop long. It would be as close as they could get. Nowakowski followed with an ace and McGrath fired one off the block for a point. Veiking knocked one off the blockers’ hands and McGrath closed out the match with another ace.
Mansfield (6-5) will now get its third shot at co-champ Franklin in the semifinal on Wednesday. Ledwich said, “We have yet to play Franklin at full strength. We are where we need to be and a full strength Mansfield looks like this and we’re ready to come back at Franklin. Third one’s the charm.”
Sharon (8-3) will host North Attleboro in the consolation round to close out one of its most successful seasons in years.
SHARON, Mass. – When the final serve hit the net and dropped to the court, the Sharon players started to celebrate, clapped a little, and then calmly walked over to the sidelines. Maybe they didn’t realize just how rare it was for the Eagles to earn a win against Canton.
Sharon took control in the opening set and never let go, sweeping Monday night’s match 25-13, 25-19, 25-17 to stay unbeaten this season. It was the first win for the Eagles against the Bulldogs, who have won 13 of the last 14 league titles, since at least 2002. (Records aren’t definite for the 2002 season, but Sharon beat Canton at least once in 2001, the Bulldogs’ first season as a varsity program.)
Not only did the Eagles win, but they were the better team in all facets of the game. Senior hitter Sara Fandel gave Sharon a constant outlet on the outside and, even without Sara’s twin sister Leah, the Eagles dominated play at the net. Brynne Aidlin-Pearlman added a second hitter and setters Yvette Nau and Sonya Gray consistently delivered the ball to the right spots.
“If it was only Sara, then I’d be like, okay we have this one amazing player, but everybody is just falling in,” said Sharon coach Andrea Lovett. “I don’t know if she’s bringing them up to her level? Brynne is super strong with what she’s doing. It’s just so exciting to see it.”
The Eagles got off to a quick start, leading 4-1 in the opening set, but Canton rallied with a pair of Angie Elias kills to grab an 8-7 lead and it looked like usual service was restored. Sharon got an ace from Savannah Gray and a point from Nau to restore the lead and then a pair of kills by Fandel, the second after a long rally, put Sharon ahead 13-10.
After Canton had tied the set at 9-9, Sharon won 16 of the next 20 points to take a lead in the match. Fandel had six kills and an ace and Erin Schustek added a point during the run. The Bulldogs had no response.
“[Fandel] was amazing and we just didn’t have an answer,” admitted Canton coach Pat Cawley. “We’re still trying to figure ourselves out after losing our outside hitters and they brought it to us. Volleyball is all about passing and we couldn’t pass the ball tonight and it all broke down from there. They deserve all the credit, they put the pressure on us.”
In the second set, Sharon had an early lead, but tips by Sydney Gallery and Liz Bickett put Canton up 9-8. Elias and Bickett followed with kills, sandwiched around a big hit by Aidlin-Pearlman to make it 12-9. That would be the largest lead for Canton in any set in the match.
Sharon stormed back with eight straight points before a bump by Nikki Desjardins dropped in for a point. The Eagles never trailed again in the match. Fandel smashed a cross-court kill and Schustek served an ace to make it 23-14. Elias had back-to-back kills but the Eagles never lost their composure and Aidlin-Pearlman smashed a kill down the line to seal the set.
“It’s a ton of confidence,” Lovett said about the impact of having strong hitters on the outside. “Between Sara and Brynne and Leah when she gets back, it’s the same story. They know, I can play full speed because if I make a mistake then I have five people who can cover for me. They know that and it makes them really good.”
The Bulldogs were hoping to regroup and build some momentum in the third set, but the Eagles never let off the gas. Sharon won the first seven points of the third and Canton wasn’t able to get any closer than five points in what turned out to be the final set.
Fandel was again the spark with six kills in the third, but it was an all-around effort that kept the Eagles in front. Libero Emily Rubenstein, Nau, and Gray were all excellent defensively and Aidlin-Pearlman was able to defend and score from the net or the back line.
“That’s normally our weakness,” Lovett said, “but their serve-receive was excellent tonight. I tell them all the time, that makes all the difference. You can’t do any of this without a good serve-receive.”
Gray stepped up with a big point to make it 19-10 and Nau seemed to shock ever herself with a big block that made it 23-15.
Canton tried to hang around, but struggled to get the ball to Bickett in the middle or Elias on the outside. Anna Verille had a kill and Jackie Morrissey had a bump drop in front of the Sharon defense for a point at 21-15 but the Bulldogs never looked like getting back into it.
“We couldn’t block them, we couldn’t dig them,” said Cawley. “They deserve all the credit in the world. I thought Angie played great the whole match but other than that we got in a hole early and we don’t have the confidence [to come back].”
After the win, Sharon (3-0) is now tied with Oliver Ames atop the Davenport division and Lovett is sure that her team will be ready to go on Wednesday when the Eagles visit Canton (2-1) for the rematch.
“This group of kids, especially our seniors, are really centered on volleyball,” Lovett explained, “and I think that I would normally be like, oh god we’re probably going to come back and do terrible on Wednesday because we’re over-confident, but I don’t think they’re that type of kids. They know that it can change at any minute, so let’s get out there.”
There is a new level of excitement in the gymnasium at Attleboro High as Mary Katherine Runey takes over as the varsity coach for the Bombardiers.
Attleboro has a mix of returners with experience and new faces to the varsity level, and Runey believes her squad has a tremendous amount of potential. It all starts with senior Ana Leonardo, a four-year starter at the setter position for the Bombardiers. Attleboro has plenty of depth at the setter position with freshman Natalie Brojek joining the mix right away. Leonardo and Brojek will have some experienced hitters to work with including senior opposite Krista Greening, senior middle Kosi Igbobi, and junior outside Delia Barthel. Junior captain Lilly Boedeker brings a lot of energy and experience to the defensive end as the libero, anchoring the Bombardiers’ back row.
“Our program is very excited to be back on the court,” Runey said. “We have a great mix of returning players as well as athletes new to the varsity level. I believe our team has a tremendous amount of potential, and I cannot wait to see what we accomplish this year. Ana and Natalie will certainly bring an intensity to our offense and Lilly matches that defensively.”
2019 Record: 22-3 (Davenport Division Champions) 2019 Finish: Division 2 State Champions Coach: Pat Cawley
The 2019 season was a banner year for the Bulldogs, claiming the Davenport division, the D2 Central sectional crown, and the program’s first ever D2 State Championship.
The returners have been eager to defend their championships, and after waiting just a little bit longer, the Bulldogs have their chance to at least battle for another Hock title. There’s an obvious void in the lineup with the graduation of HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Taylor Harris, one of the most feared hitters in the entire state. But longtime head coach Pat Cawley has an arsenal of weapons at her disposal that makes Canton the team to beat again this year. Senior middle Liz Bickett gets it done both offensively and defensively at the net and is a reliable option in the back row. Senior outside hitter Angie Elias is a reliable option at the net as well as senior middle Shannon Malloy. Senior Jackie Morrissey stepped into the setter role last year and really improved as the season went on while classmate Olivia Chinsen, a captain, is another option at setter after returning from injury. Seniors Nikki Desjardins (libero) and Stephanie Trendell will anchor the Bulldogs’ defense in the back row.
“We are excited and grateful to be back on the court,” Cawley said. “Although we have big shoes to fill at the outside hitter positions, we return several experienced players at middle blocker, setter, and defense. Senior captain Olivia Chinsen and junior Sydney Gallery are back from season-ending injuries and will help make us a stronger team. We are concentrating on building better chemistry and communication, always striving to be the best we can be!”
2019 Record: 11-10 2019 Finish: Reached D2 Central First Round Coach: Vicki Santana
In head coach Vicki Santana’s first year in charge, the Warriors won 11 games and reached the postseason and Foxboro will hope to build on that momentum this season with 10 seniors on the roster.
Defensively, the Warriors should be tough. Kelsey Treweek returns at libero along with defensive specialists Pam Nelson and Grace Fortune. Nelson and Treweek were among the league leaders in digs in the 2019 season. Leading hitter Grace Boudreau graduated, but Santana is counting on several players to provide points with versatile hitters Emma Keefe and Shannon McDonald in the starting lineup. Underclassmen Sami Sloan and Mallorie Meyer will add depth at the net and have the potential to provide an instant impact
“Tryouts and practice were a little bit of a challenge to make sure we are following the Covid guidelines while still having fun and being competitive,” Santana said. “The girls have been so great and are staying positive through all of this. They are taking all of the guidelines seriously because they are so happy to be back in the gym!”
Franklin is coming off back-to-back Kelley-Rex division titles and is in search of their third straight this season, but will be doing so under new guidance. Sam Elliott takes over as head coach of the Panthers after Kelsey Weymouth moved on to the collegiate level after two successful years at the helm.
Elliott is familiar with the program after serving as an assistant last season and she knows she has the pieces to make a push to hang another division title banner in this abbreviated season. Senior captain Ally Bonnet-Eymard enters her fourth year with the team and is among the most dangerous hitters in the league (205 kills) from the left side. She’ll be flanked by senior Emma Chase, who is back for her second straight year starting at middle and gives Franklin a weapon both offensively and defensively. Junior Cailyn Mackintosh really impressed in her first season last year and will be the starting setter while Jill Benoit returns as the starting libero. Elliott is also looking for some younger faces to push for time including sophomore Meghan Linkkila and freshmen Taylor Lacerda and Grace Lacerda.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to play this year, with six seniors it is important that they were able to have their final season,” Elliott said. “As a program we are excited to compete and improve, our group is a mix of returners and new players so it will be fun watching them all come together.”
There will be a lot of familiar faces on the court this season for King Philip, who is looking to ride a strong senior class and an experienced group of players to a second straight Kelley-Rex crown.
Head coach Kristen Guess has weapons all over the court, starting with her three senior captains. Middle Nicole Coughlan has been a force at the net for the past two years and will be one of the toughest players to stop this year. Fellow captains Emma Brooks and Lily Carlow, who both have a lot of experience at the varsity level will anchor the Warriors’ defense from the back row. Senior Giovanna Fruci will be one of KP’s top options at the net as well as sophomore Ahunna James, who had some impressive swings in limited action last year. Guess is looking for seniors Paige Kannally and Camryn Buckley to step up and help with blocking at the net while senior Lauren Peterson will set the entire team in motion from the setter position. Junior Stella Bailey and sophomore Sami Shore have played well in preseason and should be in the mix as well.
“This the most experienced team I have coached, we have depth on the team with strong newcomers,” Guess said.
We are excited to have a season and are ready to play.”
2019 Record: 8-11 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Mark Ledwich
Longtime head coach Melissa Heeden stepped down over the offseason so the Hornets enter this season under the guidance of their new head coach Mark Ledwich. Ledwich is familiar with volleyball in the area as the director of the sport at Mass Premier Courts and brings experience from the collegiate level to the job.
Ledwich has an experienced group to work with during his first year with six players back from last year’s team, most of which saw either starting or at least valuable minutes at the varsity level. The Hornets will have a variety of weapons on the offensive end with its top four attackers back from last year. Junior Julia Kelly (124 kills) led the squad in kills as a sophomore and will be one of the most dangerous hitters in the league this year while Alina Nowakowski, Olivia McGrath, and Kacey Veiking all provide legitimate threats at the net. All four will start the Hornet defense will their blocking with Veiking (35 blocks) among the top returners in that category.
“Our focus this season is on error management and when to stretch a point,” Ledwich said. “We have a lot of heavy hands this year, so knowing when to utilize them in each situation has been a huge focus of the pre-season. With the consistent height we have available in the front row this season we are spending a lot of time discussing approach paths of opposing attackers and how we should funnel each attack to best utilize our attacking strengths.”
2019 Record: 10-10 2019 Finish: Reached D2 Central First Round Coach: Tammy Webber
The Hawks have reached the postseason in each of the past two seasons, and while there isn’t a state tournament this year, Milford is aiming to attain the success that comes with a playoff berth.
Making the switch to the Kelley-Rex will be challenging, but one the Hawks are ready for. With a strong mix of returning players with varsity experience and some new players looking to make a splash, Milford could surprise some teams along the way. Elise Fauerbach returns for her senior season after missing significant time last year due to an injury. Fauerbach will patrol the right side, giving the Hawks a good option defensively with her size, and has a high volleyball IQ. Milford has two key defensive players back with senior Eva Parson (106 digs), who took on the role of libero last season but is in the mix to step into the full rotation, even getting swings as an outside hitter. Junior Sarah Brogioli can play just about anywhere on the court, a reliable option in the back row (106 digs) while also capable of stepping up to the net and connecting on some big swings (96 kills). Lexi Stark is an athletic option at middle that can move side-to-side to help with blocking in all three spots at the net. Sophomore Emily Crouteau is penciled into the setter role to start the year while Aliza Syed will be an option at the net for the Hawks.
2019 Record: 13-6 2019 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round Coach: Kim Marshall
North Attleboro has been one of the biggest challengers to Canton’s reign atop the Davenport division in recent years, and the Rocketeers are going to be right back in the mix again during this Fall 2 season.
Head coach Kim Marshall has four returning seniors that all have valuable experience at the varsity level and then a strong junior class with consists of eight players ready to make a splash at the varsity level. Senior Joanna Collins-Bilyeu is one of the most experienced players in the league and will be a cornerstone at the net for the Rocketeers after putting down 67 kills a year ago. She will be joined by classmates Annie Grunewald and Jasmine Anderson along the net to give North a formidable attacking trio. Belle Clarkin will anchor the back row that features some new faces so the Rocketeers will be learning as the season goes on. Junior Katherine McHoul is stepping in to take over at the setter position to run the offense.
“I am really excited for this season to start, I just wish it wasn’t so short,” said Marshall. “I am very fortunate, again, to get a wonderful group of student-athletes who continually work so hard, support each other and are so much fun to be around.”
2019 Record: 18-5 2019 Finish: Reached D1 South Final Coach: Chelsea Cunningham
Oliver Ames made a run to the Div. 1 South final in 2019 and pushed perennial power Barnstable to a decisive fifth set and, after moving to the Davenport division this season, the Tigers have the potential to give defending state champ Canton a serious challenge for the league title.
Senior Caroline Flynn will be one of the team’s primary attackers on the outside and will get help from classmate Jordan Bennett, who is recovering from an injury but can play multiple positions along the front line. Senior Tori Harney is back after missing all of last season with an injury and will compete for a starting role as a middle hitter. Senior Sarah Morley will transition from defensive specialist to libero this year with senior Allie Zwerle providing leadership in the DS role. Junior Hadley Rhodes will step in as the setter this season, replacing the program’s all-time leader in assists, Allie Kemp, while sophomore Maddie Homer will add athleticism on the back row.
“This team has so much potential to build off of the best season this program has had to date- and we have work to do,” said OA coach Chelsea Cunningham. “With this season being so short, we are hoping to make every moment count in the gym. From bonding with everyone on the team, to mixing up the lineups, and everyone being ready to compete- it’s exciting to FINALLY play after the long wait.”
2019 Record: 6-13 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Andrea Lovett
The foundation of the Sharon volleyball this season will be its senior class, a strong group of experienced players hungry to make some noise in the Davenport division this season.
The Eagles have four returning seniors in Brynne Aidlin-Perlman, Yvette Nau, Leah Fandel, and Sarah Fandel; all four can play in a variety of roles for Sharon. Aidlin-Perlman is a leader both on and off the court and provides the Eagles with solid defense plus a strong swing from the outside hitter position. Nau is back for another year as the team’s setter and will quarterback the offense, having all three of her classmates as good options at the net. Sara Fandel put a lot of work in during the offseason and has improved greatly at the net and provides the Eagles with a reliable defensive option in the back row while Leah Fandel is a two-way threat at the net from the middle position.
“We have four returning seniors that provide a very solid base for a talented team,” said Sharon head coach Andrea Lovett. “The team is rounded out with talented juniors who will be taking us into next year. Sharon expects to be a threat in our “Hock Bubble” this season.”
2019 Record: 2-14 2019 Finish: Missed playoffs Coach: Felicia Baptista
The Black Knights are looking to bounce back in a big way during the Fall 2 season. Felicia Baptista is moving up from subvarsity to take over the varsity squad.
Baptista will have a lot of new faces that are new to the varsity level so she plans to rely heavily on her two returners, especially in the early going. That means senior Shanice Landrum and senior Camille Firmin will be key leaders both on and off the court this year as Stoughton looks to battle for the Davenport division crown. Landrum led the team in kills last season with 86 and was one of the best blockers in the Hockomock League with 63. Firmin should see an expanded role at the net as the Knights look to integrate new faces into its lineup under Baptista.
“Even though it is a big building season for us, our team dynamic seems like we have been playing together for years,” Baptista said. “Every day I see big improvements with communication on the court and our defense is looking solid. This year is unique for us because we do have a few boys on our roster and, not only do they bring talent, but they add a light and fun atmosphere to the gym.”
With a large group of experienced players returning this season, the Tigers are eager to put last season behind them and make a splash this year.
Taunton has 10 seniors in total, with nine of them returning players from last season along with one returning junior, so experience will be a strength for this year’s squad. The Tigers will be looking to turn their experience at the varsity level into success on the court in the abbreviated Fall 2 season. Senior captain Jaelyn Fernandez will put the offense into motion from the setter spot and will have some weapons to work with along the net. The Tigers have all three of their top attackers back from a year ago, including senior captain and outside hitter Ella Dunderdale, who led the Tigers in kills last season with 89 kills. Senior Sonya Fernandez (83 kills) and junior Mikayla Cleary (63 kills) will also give the Tigers options from the middle and opposite spots. Seniors Makena Travers, Kailara Andrade, and Fabiana Pereira will anchor the back row for the Tigers. With experience in multiple spots, depth will be key for Taunton this year.
“We are just looking forward to the competition but as we know in the Kelley-Rex you have to be focused and be ready to bring it every night as every team is tough,” said Taunton head coach Toby Chaperon. “We are just hoping we can rise to the challenge each and every match and hope that our execution is sharp.”