JUNIOR Abby Gerber is one of three captains for the NRHS volleyball team this season. (File Photo)
By STEPHEN MARTELLUCCI
NORTH READING — The North Reading High volleyball team played in the Fall 2 season last spring as they played only Cape Ann League opponents and went 4-6. The Hornets reached the CAL championship game before losing to host Lynnfield 3-0 back on April 16.
In the league playoffs, the Hornets beat Hamilton-Wenham 3-2 in the quarterfinal round and then won by forfeit over Newburyport in the semifinal round.
They finished with a 6-7 overall mark.
Seven seniors from that team graduated including a pair of CAL All-Stars as 12th-year head coach Mike Milone welcomed back only four veterans when practice opened a couple of weeks ago.
“It is basically a brand new squad because only two of the four players back saw a lot of playing time,” explained Milone.
Three of the four back are this year’s tri-captains: Rose Morelli (libero) and Megan Slattery (right side hitter) are the two senior captains while Abby Gerber (setter) is the junior captain.
The other veteran back is senior middle hitter Erin Scanlon.
“Our practices have been a lot about learning and seeing improvement each day,” said Milone.
North Reading had its lone preseason match last week when they played Wilmington.
“I used all 14 players,” Milone recalled. “ Winning the match was not the top objective. I wanted to see who is used to the speed of the game at the varsity level.”
Several of the new Hornets were on the junior varsity team last season as Milone tries to put together who will be his starters.
The Hornets will play an 18-game regular season schedule. They will play each CAL school twice and will also play four non-league games.
The four non-league opponents are Peabody, Marblehead and Medford, who they will face twice.
Milone feels that Newburyport and Lynnfield will be the teams to beat in the league this season.
Players will be required to wear masks but that is the only pandemic-related rule as all of the other rules go back to the pre-pandemic times.
North Reading, who won the AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association) Academic Award in June, was also dropped to Division 3 from Division 2.
The Hornets opened the season on Sept. 8 at home against Georgetown (results not available at press time). Their next game is Sept. 15 as they go to Lynnfield with that match starting at 5:30 p.m.