THE MELROSE volleyball team beat Winchester and Lexington this week.

volleyball team clinches playoff spot

MELROSE—The Melrose High volleyball team remains unbeaten in the Middlesex League and has guaranteed a playoff spot after back-to-back wins over Middlesex large teams Winchester and Lexington. The highly ranked team is now 11-1 with games eight games left in the regular season.

It was an epic 3-0 sweep over Winchester that set the tone last Thursday evening at Winchester High. Winchester was a team who knocked Melrose out of the ML playoffs last spring during the Fall2 season, handing Melrose their only loss. So revenge was sweet for Melrose, who beat the “Red and Black” for the first time since 2017. Melrose has not lost a set to a league team, with their only loss of the season to non league Div. 1 power Newton North on (date)

Melrose swept Winchester in sets of 25-15, 25-19 and 31-29. Melrose senior captain Elena Soukos wiped the floor with the Red and Black with 19 kills.

Melrose head coach Scott Celli credited Melrose after the game. “It was intense. Everything we thought it would be. I think the girls remembered our Fall2 game, so this was a game they wanted. We were tough all the way through.”

Melrose had a fairly easy time in set one, taking leads of 11-6 and 17-12 behind kills from Elena Soukos and Gia Vlajkovic. Sadie Jaggers had a strong game at middle and delivered numerous blocks to wear out Winchester hitters. In set two, Soukos and junior captain Chloe Gentile made for a tough pair up front with several blocks and kills. Gentile has proven to be lethal on the overpass and sure enough she responded to one by launching a dagger to end the set, 25-19.

But set three was what the fans came out for. Melrose took an early lead behind great serving from Gia Vlajkovic and kills from Soukos, Gentile and Jaggers, but took an uncharacteristic deficit of 15-10 that had Melrose literally scrambling for every point as they climbed back into the set, locked in ties at 17 and 18. Melrose would take another lead of 24-20 but the scrappy Red and Black would claw their way back and tie the game beyond the 25 points in ties of 25-25, 27-27 and 29-29. With the prospect of losing a set not on Melrose’s itinerary, two plays changed the outcome of the set. One was a mesmerizing pancake dig-turned-back row kill from senior captain libero Autumn Whelan (the defensive play of the year) and the other was the winning point of the night: a back row kill from server Elena Soukos who drilled the ball past Winchester’s strong defenders to clinch the memorable 31-29 set.

Soukos has probably locked in league MVP honors with her 150 season kills to date, which includes her 19 kills against Winchester and another 14 against Lexington this past Tuesday when Melrose hosted and beat the Minutemen at home. Hitters Chloe Gentile and Gia Vlajkovic both had seven kills. Setter Emma Desmond remains near the top of the division in assists and against Winchester and Lexington she had 29 and 24, respectively.

Coach Celli spoke of Soukos’ fantastic season. “It doesn’t surprise me what Elena’s doing, she’s that good of a player. It’s easy to get caught up in the hitting but it’s her all around game that’s so good. We’re lucky to have her.”

While being 11-1 and remaining ranked in the top 5 of the state has them sitting pretty, Celli notes the work is not even close to done. “We’re not who we want to be yet. I still think we have room to improve. We can get better, and come playoff time, we’ll be ready to rock and roll.”

Melrose hosts non-league Peabody tonight at 5:30 p.m.