Four straight Northeastern Conference championships, a 56-match unbeaten streak in league play and a squad that may been as powerful and deep as they’ve ever had. That best describes this year’s Danvers High girls volleyball team.
“These girls have very high goals for themselves — and they believe they can hit them,” said program architect and head coach George LeVasseur. “The communication in terms of what’s happening on the floor has been terrific. There’s already a great flow between the passer and the setter, the setter and the hitter. Everyone is working towards the goal of getting better and better, and no one is taking anything personally; they want those ‘W’s’ at the end of the day.”
Seniors Jianna Durand (right side) and Maddie Montanari (middle blocker) are the team captains along with junior Megan Murphy (middle blocker). Three other juniors with impressive resumes also return in Shayla Saad (middle blocker), Lily Eldridge (setter) and Carly Goodhue (outside hitter).
In addition, there are a bevy of other talented players who could also carve out a niche for themselves for the Falcons this season, including juniors Molly Clement (outside hitter), Hannah Golden (outside hitter) and Cassidy Malley (defensive specialist).
One of Danvers’ chief rivals will be Marblehead, a team that went 14-7 a year ago and has been a consistent contender in the league since coach Kileen Miller took over seven years ago.
Senior captain Anna Arbo, an NEC all-star last year, is a very capable finisher on the right side and setter Emme Smith, another captain, is ready to assume the lion’s share of the passing duties. It’s a junior-heavy roster for the Magicians, with six in all and four seniors (including Camille Comstock and Haley Lemieux), so expect good leadership and another competitive campaign from the Seaside spikers.
Peabody may be a team in transition with Northeastern Conference North MVP Tatiana Correia lost to graduation along with several other key starters. The Tanners typically reload, though, and with senior captains Olivia Kiricoples and Amanda Marmiani capable of increasing their kill totals at outside hitter they’ll be looking to do so again.
Having a setter or two emerge as reliable passers will be the biggest question the Tanners need to answer in the early part of the season, but with nearly 70 girls trying out for the program Peabody certainly appears to be in good hands.
Panther volleyball alumna Ashley Chalifour takes over in Beverly, where the Orange-and-Black are looking to make the final push that gets them back into the state tournament for the first time in five seasons.
Outside hitter Ella Speidel, setter Avery Barror and right side hitter Angel Deschamps are the senior captains that Beverly will lean on to help make that playoff push. Another senior, outside hitter Julia Erricola, also figures to play a critical role, as will junior libero Rory Harmon.
A talented group of sophomores who are ready to make everyday contributions, to go along with some veterans who are eager to make a run for the state playoffs, has Salem upbeat in this, head coach Craig Massey’s 13th season.
Presley Shairs, a gifted outside hitter, is one of those 10th graders who figures to make an immediate impact for the Witches. Seniors Kira Pinkham and Jenna Tremblay along with junior Fraysha Rodney are the team’s captains and will lock down the outside hitter and opposite spots on the court. Looking for Senior defensive specialist Dyanelis Mateo and junior setter Emily Melo to also emerge as standouts this fall.
Swampscott squeaked into the state tourney last year at 9-9 and lost in the opening round. New coach Emily Hollingsworth will look to build on that momentum and the team’s goals of making the state tournament and competing in the Northeastern Conference haven’t changed. There’s a good amount of returning talent with setter Cassidy Ryan being one of the area’s top passers and a true impact player.
The Big Blue boast seven seniors and since three of them have experience at the libero spot, defense and returning tough serves should be a strength.
Having a strong defensive presence, with good net play and blockers up front, will behoove Bishop Fenwick as it aims for another strong season. Moving 6-foot-3 junior Annie Murphy from the middle of the court over to right side hitter should certainly help in that regard, as she’s likely to see more sets and changes to negate Crusader foes from scoring points.
Middle hitter Nicole Fitzpatrick and libero Beth DeMarco are the senior captains for coach Sam Kelly’s squad, with junior Natalia Scolaro also expected to loom as a valuable weapon. Fenwick will be looking for the ability to finish off their foes when the opportunity presents itself and not take their proverbial foot off the gas pedal.
An Eastern Independent League title is the goal for Pingree this season, and with the amount of seniors they have and their knowledge of the game, that should be doable. “They’re ready to make this a season for the record books,” said head coach Lara Garrett.
Seniors Maddy Mandalinci at setter and captains Liv Burr (outside hitter), Jillian Falvey (middle and outside hitter), Molly Haltmeier (defensive specialist) and Abbey Skinner (middle hitter) have all played together for three years and bring cohesiveness, athleticism and a hunger to win onto the court each match.
The bitter memory of losing in last year’s Division 3 North semifinals has fueled Essex Tech into what the Hawks hope will be an even more successful campaign in 2019. Veteran head coach Pam Leete said that team chemistry and focus have been strong in the early going, and that the players are committed to the process of what it takes to be successful once again.
Serving as captains will be a pair of setters, senior Elianna Kimber and junior Ariana Magee. Senior middle blocker Emily Blaisdell, junior Emily Marshall (who can play opposite, middle blocker and outside hitter) and sophomore libero Maggie McQuade will also be counted on for their steady play.
Over in the Cape Ann League, Ipswich has the most experience coming back among the local entrants. The Tigers had an impressive 14-7 showing last year and made the Division 3 North final; with a team motto of “dig deep” in 2019, that’s a barrier they’re hoping to break through.
With seven seniors and three tremendous leaders — captains Abby Stanicek, Emily Davidson and Haley O’Connor — the Tigers have a great foundation. All three are strong motivators that bring high energy and intensity to go along with the mantra of pushing their limits. Ipswich also has multiple strong hitters that will lead to unpredictable offense.
Hamilton-Wenham’s Generals have a half-dozen players brand new to volleyball in the program in addition to a good-sized group of returning starters. It’s an exciting mix for longtime coach Jen Flynn’s always growing program that’s added new assistant coaches in Yvonne Rep (Beverly) and Staci Sonke (Endicott).
Outside hitter Evelyn Easdon is a two-year captain and brings excellent leadership to the table. She’s also got impressive finishing ability, having racked up 128 kills last year.
It’s a new era for Masconomet with coach Mike Scammon taking over for longtime coach Alyssa Schatzel. Scammon brings experience from helping get the program off the ground at Triton and inherits a strong program that’s a perennial playoff contender.
The Chieftains have are a few starters back in the fold and a number of dedicated volleyball players that have been honing their skills during the off-season. Expect a smooth transition and another pretty good showing from the Tri-Town team.