By Matt Jenkins
---- — TEWKSBURY — Bishop Fenwick volleyball coach Adam DeBaggis and his Crusaders knew all about Notre Dame Academy’s height, hitting and overall strength heading into last night’s Division 2 state semifinal.
Seeing it across the net last night at Tewksbury High School gave the Crusaders a different perspective, however.
The Cougars took care of Fenwick in three games — 25-19, 25-10, 25-16 — to advance to the state final.
“We’re better than we played, but they just played better than we did,” DeBaggis said after his team wrapped up its best season in program history with a 22-3 record.
“They have everything. I’d be surprised if they don’t win the whole thing. They’re the real deal for sure.”
Senior outside hitter Julia Flynn is one of the best players in the state, and she came as advertised. A powerful player with a big hit, Flynn proved to be an excellent defensive player for Notre Dame as well.
Avery Spaziani, Casey Thorbahn, Megan Barrett and Flynn combined to give the Cougars a noticeable height advantage, and as a team Notre Dame had a little more power than Fenwick expected.
“They had the best overall hitting team. They didn’t have the best hitter we’ve ever seen, but they had four really good hitters,” DeBaggis said. “We haven’t seen four really good hitters on one team all year, so that’s really, really hard. (Fenwick’s) Kate (Lipka) and Maddy (Carmelo) can block a really good hitter, but it’s tough to block three at once.”
Fenwick played tough in the opening game but Notre Dame asserted itself in Game 2, going on two separate six-point runs to take complete control.
“That was unbelievable,” Notre Dame (21-2) coach Josh Shepherd said. “Volleyball is a momentum sport; anytime you can showcase that momentum and really harness it, it works well for you. I thought they did a good job of establishing rhythm, getting it going and then continuing it. We certainly saw a lot of activity in Game 2.”
Fenwick put up a good fight in the third game, but Notre Dame closed it out with the final four points for the win. The Crusaders led 3-2 and pulled even at 7-7, but couldn’t pull ahead.
Fenwick was clearly hurt by Notre Dame’s height and may have struggled with the game being officiated so tightly.
“It definitely hurts because errors are points in volleyball,” DeBaggis said. “Basketball you can turn the ball over and it’s not necessarily two points, but in volleyball it’s a point.”
Flynn ended up with 13 kills (including one very emphatic blast for a 20-14 advantage in Game 3) and five digs. Spaziani finished with 11 kills and three digs and Corinne Cox contributed 34 assists.
Lipka produced nine kills for the Crusaders while Jen Crovo added four and Gianna Pizzano chipped in with three. Tessa McLaughlin had 15 assists for Fenwick, despite suffering an injury in the second game.
The loss was difficult to stomach for the Crusaders, but the team achieved many of its goals. It was the first team in program history to win a sectional title and DeBaggis credited the eight seniors for that, especially the four captains — Lipka, Pizzano, Crovo and McLaughlin.
“This is the best season in Fenwick volleyball history,” DeBaggis said. “Not even how it will affect our team in terms of wins and losses, but just I’ll miss coaching (the seniors) more than anything else.”