Ask DeBaggis to describe what made his Bishop Fenwick squad so successful this fall, and his answer is simple: “extremely focused from start to finish.”
No one who had to stand across the net from the Crusaders would disagree. They dominated from their first match on, piling up a school record 22 wins, capturing the program’s first-ever North championship title and reaching the state semifinals before falling. Their 22-3 overall record is tops in Fenwick volleyball history.
When DeBaggis became head coach of the team five years ago, he admits he didn’t know much about the sport. Now he’s totally immersed himself in it and that shows in how strong his program has become in such a short time. A perfect blend of enthusiasm and hard work, he said, contributed mightily to the Crusaders’ on-court success this season.
The 33-year-old from Peabody, an English teacher at Fenwick, has coached high school athletics for nine years. He thanks this year’s seniors and captains for their tremendous leadership.
Second year Ipswich field hockey coach Sarah Merullo actually played in high school for the Tigers’ rival Manchester Essex where Merullo and the Hornets went to the North Division 2 semifinals three straight years and the North D2 finals her senior season.
Now Merullo is working her post season magic with Ipswich.
This past fall, Ipswich finished the regular season at 13-2-3 and reached the state tournament for the second straight season. The Tigers lost to Merullo’s former team Manchester Essex in the semifinals.
“Our successful season was due in a large part to our core group of senior leaders. Many of them were varsity starters last year and had absorbed all that I had taught them, and were able to take it to the next level this year,” explained Merullo, who teaches Spanish at Ipswich High. “The majority had played together since middle school. They were a truly passionate and driven group who strove to do the best that they could, which also meant creating and fostering an environment that encouraged younger players.”