Published in the October 3, 2018 edition
By DAN PAWLOWSKI
LYNNFIELD — The LHS volleyball team doesn’t study their impressive record so much as their weaknesses.
Every great team does it.
One of those weaknesses is their confidence against great teams. The Pioneers know they have the talent to beat seven CAL foes. They just need to believe it’s eight.
Yes, Div. 1 Masconomet has a great team in 2018, and while being matched up against two 6’2 middle blockers would be imposing to anybody, Lynnfield is working on cultivating the mindset that they can beat whoever lines up across the net. It’s a mindset that will pay off in the playoffs, and one the Pioneers had while hosting last year’s CAL champion Hamilton-Wenham on Monday.
Lynnfield (8-1) put together a complete performance for a 3-0 win, bouncing back from their 3-1 loss to Masco on Sept. 26.
Against the Generals, there was no getting down after a missed opportunity; the Pioneers created their own momentum, which was not the case against Masco.
“We’re an emotional team,” said Lynnfield head coach Brent Ashley. “We have high expectations for ourselves and if we don’t live up to those expectations we get down on ourselves a little bit too long.”
Amongst all the strategy and teachable moments, Ashley wants his team to always improve, but also recognize their own abilities. Sometimes the winning team is the one who knows they’ve got it before the first serve.
The Pioneers were led by captain Melissa Morelli against Hamilton-Wenham. The junior had 15 kills and 14 assists. The stats don’t lie when it comes to Morelli’s involvement on the attack but the Pioneers are looking to alleviate some of the pressure that the captain puts on herself.
“Melissa needs to be Melissa,” said Ashley. “She needs to be able to set the ball when she’s back row and hit the ball when she’s front row. I think she’s trying to own a lot of the dig attempts or lack of communication and it’s exhausting her.”
Morelli had plenty of help against the Generals as Mac Schena (eight kills) and Sam Lebruska (six kills) were both hitting very well on the outside.
Lebruska was also a force with her serves, hitting back-to-back aces in the first set to account for two of her three aces on the day. Those first-set serves helped Lynnfield pull away to a 21-11 lead and later a 25-16 win.
“Sam Lebruska had a little power to her serve today and Ashley Pagliuca had a little power to her serve today, that was good,” said Ashley.
Morelli set the tone with a strong kill for Lynnfield’s first point of the second set and a kill from Lebruska led to a 15-6 lead and a timeout from the Generals. Sophia Wilkinson had one of her 21 assists later in the set as made a great pass to Morelli for a 20-14 lead. The Pioneers let the Generals back into this one, but Morelli stopped the rally and Lynnfield won 25-22.
The Pioneers fought back from a slow start in the third set thanks in part to a key kill from Schena to get their first lead at 8-7. Lynnfield never looked back, getting a kill in the middle from Kayla Mortellite and getting into a groove, winning long rallies that the Generals were taking earlier in the game.
“Hamilton-Wenham has always had a scrappy team who plays well defensively so trying to pick apart a defense like that is tough,” said Ashley.
The Pioneers were much more decisive in closing the third to a 25-15 score.
They had the stats to back it up, but the biggest difference between this game and the Masco loss was Lynnfield’s confidence.
As Ashley points out, the stats were there against the Chieftains. The team had 20 kills after all, led by Lebruska (nine), Morelli (eight) and captain Sam DeGeorge (six). DeGeorge (three blocks) and Mortellite (2 blocks) fought hard against those two middle hitters, but Lynnfield wasn’t strong enougth in the back row defensively and Masco made them pay.
The response against Hamilton-Wenham is proof that Lynnfield knows how to move forward. How you return from a loss defines your character. But even during wins, the Pioneers know you can always get better. That mentality will bring them a long way.