Published in the October 24, 2018 edition
By DAN PAWLOWSKI
LYNNFIELD — Last Wednesday’s Masco game and Dig Pink fundraiser was always going to be an important night for the LHS volleyball team.
Most important was the dedication of the entire program including student athletes, coaches, family members and administration members who worked hard to make Lynnfield’s annual Dig Pink night a huge success.
Put aside the thousands of dollars raised for the Dig Pink Side Out Foundation. Tonight was about the foundation’s main goal of “providing meaningful and impactful experiences for athletes while inspiring and empowering them to come together in support of the stage IV breast cancer community.”
That was certainly accomplished.
“The community gives to us tremendously here, so this is our chance to make sure that we give back,” said Lynnfield head coach Brent Ashley.
Speaking of meaningful and impactful, the Pioneers just so happened to add to the heightened excitement with an impressive 3-1 win over Masco, the team responsible for Lynnfield’s only loss of the season.
“It was one of the better games we played all year,” said Ashley. “There were a lot of team-defining moments where we had to figure out what we were going to do, what we are going to be.”
One of those defining moments came after a second set in which Masco, down 24-21, went on a 5-0 run to win the set 26-24.
Lynnfield had won the first set 25-22 after taking control late during a pretty even opening set.
How the Pioneers would respond to the devastating loss in the second set certainly felt like a defining moment, not just for the game but for their season.
Sam Lebruska made a statement dig on a powerful Masco spike that could have been their best hit of the game. Mac Schena ended that rally by picking up one of her 10 kills and although it was just one point, it started a pattern of suffocating defense that clearly broke the spirits of the Masco attackers who couldn’t pick up kills even on perfectly executed plays. Lebruska later picked up one of her nine kills that led to an 8-2 lead and Masco timeout.
“We played angry,” said Ashley of his team’s response in the third set. “We just came in saying ‘this is our night, this has to be our moment,’ so we decided to put our foot on the gas and go.”
The coach mentioned pace as a big shifting factor. Lynnfield played fast in the first but Masco was faster in the second. Lynnfield made it a point of emphasis to turn it back up in the third.
Captain Melissa Morelli had two of her team-high 17 kills on two powerful swings to help the home team to a commanding 14-4 lead that they would maintain for an impressive 25-11 win.
Lebruska continued her balanced offensive and defensive plays in the fourth to help set the tone for Lynnfield. The junior finished with 16 digs.
“Sam Lebruska had a great night on defense, she was the rock,” said Ashley. “I’ve said this before, when Sam Lebruska has a great game we’re going to have a great game. She took so many of those hard crosses and middles, we just wouldn’t have won without her tonight.”
Also sound defensively for the Pioneers was Ashley Pagliuca (20 digs), Morelli (10) and libero Sofia Ciriello (10).
Masco came back and took the lead at 23-22 but after some wild rallies that players like Sophia Wilkinson kept alive with diving digs, Morelli helped her team finish with key kills and the Pioneers did what they couldn’t do in the second set: close.
“Those are big when it comes to playoffs we’re going to have a lot of those moments where we’re going to have to put away those final points,” said Ashley. “That was big for us to have that moment.”
The most important takeaway as they prepare for the postseason was that Lynnfield proved to themselves they can beat anyone. Their biggest problem was quite literal as they have a hard time with taller teams like Masco who play two middles. Lynnfield will face taller teams in the playoffs, but they now know for sure that they can beat anybody.
The Pioneers followed that up with big wins over Hamilton-Wenham and Arlington Catholic to bring their record to 17-1 overall. They finish the year tied for first in the CAL with Masco. While most teams are resting for the playoffs, Lynnfield will continue to challenge themselves with tough games against North Andover on Wednesday night and Winchester on Monday night. Tournament seedings will be announced on Oct. 30.