A team’s season is often defined by its final overall record or more importantly how far it goes in the state tournament. Other teams worry less about the wins and losses and more about the relationships they build over the course of the year.
The Bishop Fenwick volleyball team has managed to be wildly successful at both of these aspects.
The Crusaders have made the postseason the past three years, including two trips to the Division 1 North final. Last year they had an early upset against Weston in the quarterfinals and are using that loss as motivation during this season’s campaign.
“The greatest thing about this team (and the captains in particular), is that they have already achieved a lot in their career, but they still work unbelievably hard every day to get better,” said head coach Adam DeBaggis. “They’re incredible leaders and and inspiration to me and their teammates.”
The four senior captains Kate Lipka (middle hitter), Gianna Pizzano (outside hitter), Tessa McLaughlin (setter) and Jen Crovo (outside hitter) have all been together, with the exception of McLaughlin, since their freshmen year. While the Crusader squad is laden with veteran leadership, eight seniors on the roster, the quartet of captains play an integral role on the team. They only lost one senior from last year’s roster, so essentially the entire team is back with an even stronger bond.
“A few years ago these girls needed to be coached on all the fundamentals of volleyball; now they only really need me for small advice and encouragement,” noted DeBaggis. “We work on more advanced plays and our practices are as, or more, competitive than some of our games.”
Each of the four girls brings something different to the table. Lipka is one of the top players in the state and is able to make quick and smart decisions on the fly. She also leading the state in kills per set (4.9) and is hitting 56 percent. McLaughlin is a top setter and is essentially the quarterback of the team, by running the offense. She’s third in the state in assists per set with 9.5. DeBaggis calls Crovo one of the ‘toughest’ players he’s ever coached, as she will do just about anything to saves a point for the team. Pizzano is extremely reliable and consistent, and is calming influence to the team.
“To this point, these four girls have been the best group of captains I have ever coached,” DeBaggis added. “They are positive, hard working, and fun to be around. The team as a whole has a great attitude and they enjoy each others’ success as much as their own, which is what I like most about them.”
What’s more is that the girls have an understanding of what it takes to win. After being upset by Weston last season in the Division 2 North quarterfinals, they are determined to use that loss as motivation for this year. At 9-1, the Crusaders have just one minor blemish on their record, a non-league loss to Medfield (their first game of the season)— but remain undefeated in Catholic Central League play.
“We got nervous under pressure last year,” DeBaggis explained. “Weston came in and played great and we weren’t ready for it.
“Our focus this year has been to play one point at a time. We try to have a short memory if we make a bad play or a good play. The only point that matters is the next point. We have been much more calm and focused this year. And the girls are extremely enthusiastic and are enjoying the games more instead of getting nervous during them. We have been focusing on staying even keeled and positive all game, every game.”
This could very well be the year for Fenwick to make it to the state championship. The Crusaders are well equipped for a deep tournament run and have the team chemistry it takes. Now at the midway point of the 2013 campaign, the girls have a chance to put everything on the line for a title.