PEABODY – During the regular season Bishop Fenwick handled Arlington Catholic twice, but winning the Division 2 North semifinal against the Cougars wasn’t easy.
Fenwick withstood a big rally by the visitors to pull out the fourth game, 27-25 after AC fought from behind with six straight points to tie it at 24 all. The Crusaders scored the next point, but once again the Cougars knotted it up before Fenwick captain Kate Lipka took over with two kills to give her team a 3-1 victory and send Fenwick on to the finals against Melrose on Saturday at Lawrence High (3 p.m.).
“Emotionally we were still tired from Tuesday night’s win over Weston (3-0),” said Fenwick coach Adam DeBaggis after his team improved to 21-2. “We had to recharge our battery, and give the girls credit for being able to do it.
“It takes guts and determination to win games like this. In that last game we were waiting for them to lose rather than trying to win for a while, but these girls all have huge hearts.”
The Crusaders played with energy and had several big efforts. Lipka finished with 26 kills, and fellow captain Gianna Pizzano had seven. Madison Camelo came up with a huge game with seven blocks, and Lipka chipped in with six. Captain Jen Crovo had a team high 24 digs, senior Olivia Morsey had 23, captain Tessa McLaughlin 16, Lipka 15, and Pizzano 9.
“It was not easy; they’re a great team,” said Lipka. “We beat them during the regular season, but those games are long gone. We don’t think about the past two games, just what was happening in this one. They made a great run in game four.”
Fenwick is through to the North final for the first time since 2011, when they fell to Melrose.
“It feels great to be in the finals. We work so hard, and have such great chemistry on this team,” said Lipka. “During the summer we all worked out three days a week to get ready for this season. We’re the closest group of seniors ever; we love each other.”
Fenwick shot out to a 4-0 lead in the opening game, but Arlington Catholic sophomore middle hitter Demiana Fogarty, who was a great net presence, brought her team back before Crovo and Lipka pulled it out for the Crusaders, 25-17.
Game two was a see-saw battle with Arlington Catholic taking it, 25-23. That served as a wake up call for the Crusaders, who won the third game handily, 25-14 behind Lipka, who fired her team up with big play after big play on serves, kills, and digs.
“Kate’s amazing,” said Camelo. “She always picks us up. Our team has so much heart, and it’s so exciting to be in the finals.”
The Cougars didn’t make it easy, but big blocks by Camelo and MacKenzie along with a couple of big kills by Crovo and Lipka made the difference.
“My girls wanted to beat Fenwick so much,” said AC coach Rachel Reis. “We were flat in that second one, but we picked it up after that. We’re a young team, but we gave them everything we had. If Lipka wasn’t in the game I believe we had a good chance of winning; she is a very talented athlete.”
Eight seniors lead Fenwick and they have worked hard to reach this point. DeBaggis said Lipka, Pizzano, Crovo, and McLaughlin turned this program into a great one. He also praised Camelo and Morsey for outstanding defense.
“It’s tough to play defense against somebody as tall as Fogarty, who is hitting it that hard,” said DeBaggis. “The last two games Maddy and Olivia have been great.
“We’re going to have to get ready for Melrose because that team has expended a lot less energy in the first two tournament games than we have.”