Salem High girls volleyball coach Craig Massey had barely finished talking about the high hopes he had for his own team this season when he passed out an unsolicited compliment to the Peabody Tanners.
“If you’re talking about the best teams on the North Shore,” said Massey, “then I’d have to say that Peabody is the team to beat. They have the returning (Northeastern Conference) MVP in Carolyn Scacchi. I think Scacchi and one of my own kids, Hannah Mullarkey, are the two best players in the conference.”
Lisa Keene, who is starting her 10th season as the Peabody coach, has an enviable record for consistency, guiding the Tanners to the state tournament for nine consecutive years. The team was especially good last season, rolling to a 17-1 regular season record, and Scacchi completed her junior year with her second straight conference MVP designation.
Still, the season left the Tanners wanting much more. Peabody was seemingly in an advantageous position with a first round bye in the Division 1 North segment of the state tourney, but when it was time to take the court, the Tanners were ousted by Central Catholic of Lawrence, 3-1.
Unfortunately for Peabody, that’s been the postseason pattern in recent years. The Tanners have won 39 regular season matches in the last three years but are 0-3 in the tourney (most of them against the Merrimack Valley Conference). The last time they made a splash in the postseason was in 2009, when 14-4 Peabody blanked Medford, 3-0, in the opening round before losing to Methuen by the same score in the Division 1 North quarterfinals.
While Peabody doesn’t intend to overlook any opponent in a regular season schedule that will include new varsity programs from Danvers, Marblehead and Winthrop, it clearly wants to establish itself as a dangerous postseason team too.