THE WAKEFIELD High volleyball team is off to a 2-1 start this season, with victories over Arlington Catholic and Arlington. The Warriors host Woburn (1-1) tomorrow night and Danvers (1-3) on Friday night with both matches starting at 6:30 p.m. (WMHS Volleyball Photo)

Wakefield would love a playoff run in 2023

WAKEFIELD—The Wakefield Warrior girls’ volleyball team kicked their 2023 season off with an impressive 3-1 road win over a competitive Arlington Catholic team on Sept 5, in scores of 25-22, 25-23, 17-25 and 25-22.

Wakefield libero Sophia Anderson led in digs with 15 while setter Maddie Keohane led in assists with Tori Grace close behind. Outside hitter Mia Kenny led in attacks with 5 as the team ran a 6-2 during the match.

“Arlington Catholic was a strong opponent,” reports head coach Kayla Wyland. “They served extremely aggressive and had two very strong attackers that made it challenging for us to stay in system. We have never played them before until this year. They are a well-coached team and each set was close. Our consistency was what allowed us to go home with the win. We’re a well-balanced team.”

It was a perfect way to start the season, one year after the team fell shy of the playoffs after an 8-12 season. Shortly after their season opening win against the Cougars last week, they then fell 3-0 to Lexington, one of the tougher teams in the Middlesex League. 

The Warriors bounced back with a huge 3-1 win over Arlington yesterday. 

Of course, the strength of schedule that Wakefield faces each season leaves few nights off. Last year, the Warriors had the luck of playing Div. 2 Sectional champ Melrose twice, along with a tough Burlington twice, and that was in the Freedom Division alone. Liberty Division teams like Woburn, Reading, Winchester and Lexington will also return strong again. But expect Wakefield to look to take advantage of that schedule to factor in power rankings, which can help calculate better chances of playoffs later this fall.

Notes the coach, “I always tell the athletes that we are so lucky to be in such a strong league. It is such a privilege to play many of the top teams in the state to allow us to grow. While it is challenging, if it weren’t challenging, we would not be improving. As cheesy as it sounds, nothing worth fighting for comes easy. These girls are ready to fight.”

Those who’d love an appearance in a postseason include the captains, senior setter/OH Lea Carangelo, senior middle Savannah Cummings and setter/DS Maddie Keohane. All three have game experience that will help guide Wakefield to wins this year.

“Our three captains have been essential to our growth in this preseason already,” says Wyland. “Aside from their volleyball skills, their mentality, focus, and drive to be their best is a coach’s dream. They bring a calmness yet urgent energy to the gym. All of the athletes on the team look up to them, respect them and want to learn from them.”

Keohane is already off to 42 assists this season. 

“We are so excited to have Maddie back on the court being able to physically play this season,” says her coach. “She was pivotal in our mid-season swing of success last year with her off court leadership and insight during practices and matches. Having her on the court this year will be huge for our success.”

Multi-facted Leah Carangelo has already played as setter and outside hitter in their early season. Says her coach, “Leah has demonstrated flexibility and grit. She has developed not only into an extremely strong setter, but also attacker from multiple different positions. Her athleticism combined with passion has helped her become a top player in this league.”

And senior hitter Savannah Cummings has already notched 21 kills to the season, this after her 100+ kills last season. 

“Savannah has grown into a dominant middle who sets the tone for the front row,” says Wyland. “Her presence is known as soon as she steps on the court and helps control the energy of the team not just vocally, but with her gameplay. She changes the game with her blocking and thought-out attacks.”

In their early season, middle hitting duties have been split by Cummings and Emma Ickes but expect to also see time there from Lila Arkinstall. Sophomore outside hitter Mia Kenny had a strong game against Arlington Catholic with five kills in those sets, so she’s expected to have a strong season for the Warriors.

Seniors on the team include Cummings, Carangelo, Keohane, Meredith Morris and Emily Herson. Rounding out the roster are juniors Sophia Anderson (libero) Kathleen Gmelch, Brooklyn Calder and Konstandina Deleidi and sophomores Tori Grace, Lila Arkinstall, Mia Kenny, Emma Ickes and Morgan Jackson.

While early, it’s safe to say Wakefield has an idea of early goals. A focus on mental toughness is a must.

“We hold practices in which we work on mental toughness, team chemistry, coming up with ‘every day short term’ goals and ‘long term, season long’ goals,” says coach Wyland. “They create small groups and share them. Some include hitting percentages, communication goals, post season goals, records, etc.”

Wakefield’s win over the Spy Ponders yesterday was the first in program history. After dropping the first set, Wakefield won three in a row, 25-9, 25-23 and 25-19 to get the win on the road. Cummings had 14 kills, 2 aces and 2 blocks to lead the way. Arkinstall and Kenny both had 8 kills and Gmelch added 6. Keohane and Kenny both had 2 aces. Keohane had 16 digs and Kenny had 15. Carangelo had 37 assists. 

Although the early success is great, Wyland understands that it’s not where a team starts, but where it finishes that can matter in a season. It’s a long fall and this is one team with potential to do well.

“Overall, if our team is playing our best volleyball at the end of the season, that is the most important goal to accomplish,” says the coach. “We have so much potential. I’m lucky to coach these amazing athletes and am honored to help lead them in a successful season. I love this job and feel so fortunate to have this opportunity. Let’s go Wakefield!”