Statement win as Melrose (6-0) earns 1st win over 3-time state champs

Published in the September 22, 2017 edition

SAOIRSE CONNOLLY leads the Melrose Lady Raider volleyball team in kills. This week Melrose knocked off top seeded Notre Dame of Hingham. (Donna Larsson photo)


MELROSE—The Melrose Lady Raider volleyball team gave notice to the rest of the Div. 2 field this week after a 3-0 victory over Notre Dame of Hingham on Sept 14, recent winners of 3 state titles. It was a first victory of its kind for Melrose, who topped the Cougars by sets of 25-13, 25-14, 27-25, a sign that undefeated Melrose (6-0) may have the ingredients for a deep post season run.

Melrose coach Scott Celli was thrilled by the girl’s performance against a very tough Notre Dame squad. “They [Notre Dame] are a great team and we’ve had recent experience playing against them. So we were ready for today.”

They say in order to go deep you should have three power hitters. Melrose has that in front row hitters Saoirse Connolly, Lydia Lombardo and sophomore Emma Randolph who have all dominated opponents with mega hitting. Melrose coach Scott Celli praised all three. “Saoirse is our leader in kills, Emma has become a real force and a special player and Lydia just has this fantastic read on the room. She is a player who takes matters in her own hands.”

Against the Cougars, the trio registered nearly 30 kills, with Connolly and Randolph having ten a piece and Lombardo with nine. Erin also Torpey found the floor several times for Melrose. Meanwhile, setter Lydia Fitzgerald’s finesse in her position puts her among the top of setters in the division but her well timed, smartly located kills have often made the difference in close sets. 

Conversely, Melrose’s defense is playing at the top of their game. “We lost Caitlyn [MacInnes] this season but Jill Mercer has been doing fabulous and our sophomore back row players Nicole [Abbott ]and Mary Kate [Mahoney] have done a phenomenal job back there, they’re patient and work hard.”

Overall, Melrose’s athleticism is used for advantage. Said Celli, “Many of our players are multi sport athletes used to high pressure games. And we have 4-5 starters who faced Notre Dame last year, so there was no intimidation going in. I think we just played a little better and served aggressively to make it harder for their passing game.”

Indeed, Melrose’s servers were spot on, with Lombardo, Mary Kate Mahoney, Saoirse Connolly and Nicole Abbott all flawless at the line. Having all the ingredients from top to bottom was key to victory. 

Only a day letter Melrose traveled to Wilmington and was forced to four sets but came up victorious 3-1 in sets of 23-25, 25-11, 25-10, 25-22. Melrose was led on offense by Saoirse Connolly with 14 kills and Emma Randolph with 12. Lily Fitzgerald at setter registered 26 assists. On Tuesday, Melrose earned another 3-0 victory over Stoneham, 25-12, 25-5, 25-11. As Melrose remains undefeated at 6-0, coach Celli is pleased at what he sees. 

“There is a good chemistry on this team,” he says. “Our players know their roles. I always say attitude and effort are the two things you can control, and it’s important to keep that attidude. Overall, they enjoy themselves on the court and it shows.” 

On Saturday, Melrose travels to South Deerfield, MA to face perennial Div. 3 state champs Frontier Regional (5-0) in what could shape out to be a must-see volleyball. Melrose bested the Red Hawks last season 3-0 in regular season play. 

 Middlesex Freedom League Standings


          League  Overall 

Melrose   4-0    5-0

Burlington 2-2   3-2 

Stoneham  1-3  1-4 

Wilmington 0-4  2-4 

Watertown 0-4   0-4 

Wakefield  0-4    0-4