Published June 30, 2021
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — Town Meeting recently honored the Lynnfield High School volleyball team for athletic and academic excellence.
Select Board member Joe Connell, whose daughter Natalie is a member of the Pioneers, noted that the volleyball team overcame a number of challenges during the Fall 2 season that was played during the winter and spring. The volleyball season is usually played during the fall, but the MIAA Board of Directors voted to move the season this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Lynnfield High School girls’ varsity volleyball team has achieved the distinction of winning the Cape Ann League 2021 championship with a regular season record of 9-1,” said Connell while reading a citation from the Select Board. “The Pioneers defeated Ipswich in the semifinals 3-1, and North Reading in the finals 3-0.”
Connell said the Pioneers have a number of reasons to be proud of the successful Fall 2 season.
“This regular season and playoff performance is a reflection on a remarkable team effort and is a reflection of the dedication of the athletes, coaches and parents whose commitment and efforts is necessary for such high achievement,” said Connell. “Under the direction of coaches Brent Ashley and Emily Babon, players Jillian Babine, Ava Buonfiglio, Daniella Colarusso, Olivia Murphy, Vanessa Torosian, Natalie Connell, Sarah Foley, Grace Davie, Ella Gizmunt and Celia Carbone demonstrated the highest levels of skill, dedication and sportsmanship that stand as a credit to the team, Lynnfield High School, the league and the community of Lynnfield.”
Connell said the spikers had the highest GPA of all of the teams at LHS last year.
Pioneers head coach Brent Ashley said he “could not be prouder of the incredible effort, energy, commitment and passion that this team has provided day in and day out, and throughout the entirety of the 2020-2021 season.”
“Since I began coaching volleyball at Lynnfield High School eight years ago, there is no doubt that this has been one of the most challenging seasons that I have been a part of,” said Ashley. “We knew entering the fall that the chances of us having a full competitive season was going to be incredibly slim. I often mentioned to our student-athletes that we shouldn’t get our hopes up because at the time literally anything could happen.”
Ashley said he urged the Pioneers to “remain positive” and to “trust the process” heading into the Fall 2 season because he knew school officials and the entire community was supporting the spikers.
“The guidance and direction that Superintendent Kristen Vogel, Principal Bob Cleary and our School Committee gave us in February was an absolute gift,” said Ashley. “We cannot thank our School Committee and our community enough for the opportunity to play, to compete, to build life lessons and friendships on the court, and to remain one of the top 15 competitive volleyball teams in the state.”
Ashley said he and assistant coach Babon were “shocked” that 35 girls wanted to try out for the volleyball team in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When life gives you 35 student-athletes, you do everything in your power to make sure that every student-athlete gets the chance to play,” said Ashley. “After having watched both Lynnfield basketball programs figure out how to compete indoors fully masked 100 percent of the time, I felt that we had a pretty good idea of how to compete, how to stay safe and how to create meaningful experiences for all of our student-athletes, even if it meant asking our coaching staff to coach until 7 p.m. most nights.”
Ashley said the Pioneers showed “an unbelievable commitment to each other, to our team and to our history of culture and expectations.”
“Our banner behind you is one of our program’s greatest accomplishments,” said Ashley. “Our student-athletes sacrificed time with their friends, vacations with family and so many other activities that might have increased their risk of bringing the novel coronavirus into our school community and our program. Because of their commitment to our school and our team, we did not miss one practice or one game due to concerns of spreading the virus. I cannot thank our student-athletes enough for putting our community, our families and our schools first when it came to their actions throughout the school year and our athletic season.”
Ashley was incredibly proud of the Pioneers’ accomplishments during the Fall 2 season.
“Without the support of our leaders and our community, we would not have brought home a 13-1 record, both the Cape Ann League Conference and Tournament Championships, four Cape Ann League All-Star athletes, one American Volleyball Coaches Association Massachusetts High School Player of the Week, and one Boston Globe All-Scholastic Athlete,” said Ashley.
Ashley also noted the Pioneers raised close to $5,000 for the spikers’ annual Dig Pink Cancer Research game despite not having “the resources typically given to them during a normal school year.”
“On top of that, knowing that academics will always be one of our top priorities, our varsity team managed to maintain a 3.51 GPA throughout the entirety of this school year and enroll in over 20 Advanced Placement and Honors courses throughout their coursework,” said Ashley. “And you better believe that I expect that same GPA when quarter four finishes.”
Ashley said coaching the Pioneers “has been an absolute gift this year.”
“I know I speak on behalf of our team when I say thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving us the opportunity to play this year,” said Ashley. “We really do have some incredibly special student-athletes in our community, and these volleyball players are only a small part of everything that our school has accomplished this year.”
In closing, Ashley said the Pioneers are looking forward to the 2021 fall season beginning in September. After Ashley concluded his speech, Town Meeting gave the Pioneers a round of applause.