Whittier playoff win marks a milestone for Melrose ace

Published November 8, 2019


MELROSE—Hall of Fame volleyball coach Scott Celli earned his 400th victory as a Melrose Red Raider coach on Thursday, October 31 when his Melrose High volleyball team beat Whittier Tech, 3-0, in a Halloween victory during the opening round of the MIAA Div. 2 North playoffs at the MVMMS gym.

The win improved Melrose to 18-3 and punched their ticket to face Lynn Classical in D2 North quarterfinals (see accompanying story).

Melrose senior captain Emma Randolph led with 12 kills in the win. Melrose wiped out the Wildcats in sets of 25-6, 25-10 and 25-15.

After the game, Celli’s team greeted the coach with a banner to mark the occasion and serenaded him as he exited the locker room. In 20 seasons at Melrose, the coach has earned a stunning 18 Middlesex League titles, eight Div. 2 North titles and one state championship title in 2012. Celli, who has racked up a total of 550 career wins from his coaching tenure at Melrose, Avon and St. John Prep, reflected on a twenty-year journey as Melrose High’s volleyball chief and the milestone he knew was approaching.

SCOTT CELLI and his Lady Raider volleyball team celebrate 400 career wins for the coach. Pictured front row: Autumn Whelan, Mary Kate Mahoney, Nicole Abbott, coach Celli, Marie Maher and Caroline Kiernan. Back row: asst. coach Kelly O’Neill, Sophia Centrella, Claire Albuja, Abby Hudson, Chloe Gentile, Grace Sanderson, Erin Torpey, Emma Randolph, Emily Hudson, Grace Davis, Elena Soukos and Eva Haralabatos. (Steve Karampalas photo)

“I feel like this accomplishment is a reflection of the good teams we’ve had for 20-plus years,” he said after the game. “I’m just a small part of what we do. We’ve had great teams and they’re ones that do it. I’m a product of what they’ve done over the years.”

Earning Middlesex League titles and sectional titles is now the rule, not the exception. Most years Melrose hits and very rarely miss, and this season Celli wants to see his team go all the way as they battle in the Div. 2 North field. “If we get 20 wins, that means we are getting deep in the tournament, so that’s always a goal. It would be nice to get there this season.”

Since late August, during the early days of practice, the coach has noted steady improvement from an already loaded team. “We were pretty good at the beginning of the year, but better now. We’re a tough team and have a lot of weapons, so we do a lot of good things. We won’t beat ourselves in the end, but that said, we have a lot of volleyball ahead of us.”

LET’S HEAR it for coach! Members of the MHS volleyball cheer their coach, Scott Celli on earning his 400th win last week. (Steve Karampalas photo)

Personal highlights for Celli include Melrose’s State Championship in 2012, when Melrose enjoyed a nearly flawless 26-1 record. He concurs, “There’s been a lot of highlights: winning all those north titles with a bunch of different teams. But being able to share that with a bunch of different players is the best thing.”

Recently, his 2012 team was recently inducted into the Melrose Athletic Hall of Fame.

Over the last decade, the road to earning hardware has gotten increasingly difficult thanks to the vastly improved Middlesex League, arguably the toughest now in the state. Melrose has thus raised the bar and knows it needs to play flawless volleyball to earn titles.

“It might be the toughest in the state,” agrees Celli. “The Middlesex League finished 37-11 against non-league opponents this year. Can you find another league that can do that? I doubt. I think it’s a testament to the commitment the league has made to producing good volleyball.”

Melrose indeed was an ML pioneer that likely inspired neighboring communities to increase their skill level in the sport. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Concludes Celli, “We were one of those teams that were strong from the beginning and maybe some teams tried to emulate that. We’ve become better because of it. The competition is tougher so we rise to the occasion. It makes us a better program.”