Undefeated Melrose emerges as Div. 2 North favorite

Published in the October 6, 2017 edition

THE MELROSE Lady Raider volleyball team is 11-0 after an impressive win over Division 2 rival, Arlington Catholic. (Steve Karampalas photo)


MELROSE—Each season, the Melrose Lady Raider volleyball team must wrangle with some familiar foes en route to a Div. 2 North final appearance. One of those teams is Arlington Catholic, who beat Melrose in their last MIAA Div. 2N appearance two years back. The other is Burlington, last year’s Div. 2 North semifinalists. But revenge was sweet when #6 ranked Melrose swept Arlington Catholic, 25-7, 25-19, 25-14 for a 3-0 victory at home and followed that up with a 3-0 sweep over Burlington on Tuesday, a victory that punched Melrose’s ticket to playoffs. The wins keep Melrose unbeaten at 11-0, and a favorite in the Div. 2 North field.

Melrose’s sweep of Arlington Catholic on Friday was undoubtably their most complete win of the season, an all-around effort that saw every Lady Raider contributing with key moments. Coach Scott Celli echoed those thoughts after the game. “I liked how we served and put them on the defensive right away. I was really happy with our back row defense. Jill [Mercer], Lydia [Lombardo] and Nicole [Abbott] were awesome. Overall I think we did a lot of good things today. [Arlington Catholic] were a good team, but I think we were more aggressive and took them out of their game.”

Melrose was led in offense by Saoirse Connolly (11 kills) and Emma Randolph (9 kills) but saw a balanced attack by all players in front and back row play. Melrose held a decisive edge as the game progressed, never at a threat of losing a set to the Cougars (7-1). Melrose took an early lead of 13-1 thanks to a great run on the service line from Lily Fitzgerald (includes aces) and kills from Lydia Lombardo and Emma Randolph. It took the Cougars until Melrose’s 14th point for them to return service for a kill, thanks in part to Melrose’s Lombardo, who also dominated at the service line. Jill Mercer had a crazy save on the floor to help give Melrose a 16-2 lead and her rotation in serving led to more service points and a 19-3 lead. Saoirse Connolly delivered the 20th point of the game and the Cougars remained overwhelmed when Mary Kate Mahoney helped end things on the service line with an ace and Erin Torpey and Connolly hit the final points, 25-7. 

The Cougars battled to a more competitive 25-19 score in set two (in Melrose’s favor) but Melrose had control of the set thanks to another great service run from Fitzgerald and tremendous kills from Lydia Lombardo and Emma Randolph. Melrose ran to a lead of 9-5 after three straight Randolph spikes. Saoirse Connolly added to the Cougar misery with two straight points, but some Melrose service errors, combined with a resuscitated Cougar offense, including Erika Kenney, brought the game closer to a tie of 17-17. But a solid service run by Lombardo (2 aces) and some kills by Erin Torpey gave Melrose an edge, and Connolly had the set closer with a kill that ended set two, 25-19. 

In set three, the two teams remained toe-to-toe while Randolph and Connolly earned kills for Melrose and Fitzgerald earned a service point to give Melrose a 5-3 edge. Randolph powered for Melrose while Nicole Abbott and Grace Davis tapped well-timed kills to help make it a 15-8 set. Lombardo was back on the service line and helped Melrose stretch their lead to 19-10. Some impressive kills by Torpey, Connolly, Randolph and Lombardo closed it out at 25-14. Victory, Melrose, 3-0.

After the game, Celli expressed confidence  but cautioned against post season speculation. “We are a well conditioned team, built to play five games. It’s a good win for us, but I told them 11-0 is nice, but it doesn’t give you a championship. We have work to do. They [Arlington Catholic] could be a team we see in playoffs, and they could use this as motivation. We have to be ready for them next time around.”

Melrose then traveled to Burlington on Tuesday and took victory in sets of 25-22, 25-16, 25-22. At press time details were limited.

With these wins, Melrose has emerged as a Div. 2 North favorite, having beaten an Arlington Catholic team who already bested Melrose foe Bishop Fenwick (last year’s Div. 2 North Champ). However, the Lady Raiders will face the Red Devils again this season, and potentially in playoffs.

For now, Melrose next hosts Reading on Monday at 5:00 p.m. 

Freedom League Standings

                     League      All       Home      Away


Melrose           8-0        11-0      6-0       5-0

Burlington       5-3        6-3       4-2       2-1

Wilmington      3-5        6-5       3-3       3-2

Stoneham          1-6        1-8       1-4       0-4

Wakefield          2-7       3-8       1-5      2-3

Watertown        0-7      0-8       0-4       0-4

 Liberty Division Standings

Winchester        7-0        8-0       3-0         5-0

Woburn              6-1         9-1       4-0        5-1

Arlington            4-3         4-5       0-4        4-1

Reading              4-3         4-5       1-2       3-3

Belmont             3-4        4-4       1-1       3-3

Lexington           2-5         3-6       2-4       1-2