Published in the September 12, 2018 edition


WAKEFIELD — For a long time, the Wakefield High volleyball program has been working towards just being able to compete in a deep and talented Middlesex League.

Now, in the eighth year of the program, second-year head coach Sasha Duprey doesn’t just believe her team has the talent to win this year. She knows it. It’s time for the Warriors to believe too.

“It’s just a mental game for us,” said Duprey. “Our skill matches up against a lot of good teams we just have to believe in ourselves.”

To accomplish that, Duprey and the coaching staff are working on building confidence for the 2018 Warriors.

“Trying to instill confidence and mental toughness is a focus of ours throughout the program,” said Duprey.

That’s why picking up their first win of the season on Monday against Salem was so important. Wakefield knew they could win the game and they did. The key is believing they can win against teams they know are talented, especially when a set doesn’t go their way.

RACHEL DANZIG (9) sends one over the net against Salem on Monday. (Dan Pawlowski Photo)

“On Friday against Reading, we lost the first set 30-28 and we got defeated and didn’t play well in the next two sets. Now we can say, ‘we can win, we just did it, now lets roll.’ Hopefully that will serve us well moving forward,” said Duprey.

The Warriors beat Salem 3-0 behind a solid serving game and plenty of power up front.

Wakefield took the first set 25-18. Senior Hannah Butler got a quick kill from the middle off a pass from her sister, sophomore setter Clara Butler, who went on to serve two aces in a row to get the Warriors rolling early. Senior captain Eadeen Beck carried the serving momentum winning five straight points including two aces. One of the team’s most versatile players, Beck got a kill to give Wakefield a 16-8 lead. Rachel Danzig had a nice hit on the outside that couldn’t be handled and Hannah Butler later ended the first set with an ace.

After a slow start in the second set, the Warriors found their groove picking up five straight points to get a 10-6 lead. Junior Maddie Burke played well in the second set including a diving one-handed dig to keep a rally alive. Later another diving dig, this time from libero Jordyn Pugsley went to Burke who sent it over her head for a kill. Hannah Butler followed an emphatic kill with a block for back-to-back points to make it 21-11 before eventually winning 25-12.

Wakefield won the third set 25-13 with highlights including an ace and a kill from senior captain Sam Yandell which both got the Warrior bench going. It was a big win, not just for the team’s record, but because they believed they would win from the very first serve.

“It was good to get a win under our belt,” said Duprey. “We started off with two hard games against Reading and Winchester so its nice to just be able to spend some time to get in our rhythm.”

The 2018 Wakefield volleyball team will rely on their seniors. In addition to captains Beck and Yandell, Hannah Butler, Casey Kearney and Jaime Greatorex will be counted on to pass down some of that confidence to the underclassmen.

“The senior class is talented and they are really great leaders,” said Duprey. “We’ve been able to get on the same page really quickly so the team chemistry and team culture is coming top down. I spend a lot of time investing in my captains and seniors and they spend a lot time investing in the underclassmen so we’re starting to see a really big turnover in that.”

Coach Duprey is hoping for more progress in cultivating a winning culture in her second year at the helm.

“This year, it’s another step forward in our team culture and we’re really focused on loyalty and giving our full effort and accountability as we’re doing things so we’re much more united which is really positive.”

That unity is typically the difference between a good team and a great team. In Wakefield’s case, that unity will help them accomplish their goal of being more consistent. Losses are easier when you’re a close-knit group, and winning becomes contagious.

“Skill is great, but it has to be backed up by character and who we are as people and if we can unite and work together then we are going to play some really good volleyball.”

That skill has been cultivated in the offseason. Volleyball is a specialty sport where the best teams have players committed to the game year-round. The Warriors are starting to get more players like that in their program and Duprey is noticing.

As for the points in 2018, Wakefield will rely on Greatorex and Danzig to provide plenty of kills.

“Jaime Greatorex had a really great offseason,” said Duprey. “She’s swinging very consistently and powerfully from the right side for us. On the opposite side, Rachel Danzig is starting to swing really well and really consistently on the outside. It’s just a matter of getting them into their rhythm. When they’re confident they’re pretty unstoppable.”

Junior Maddie Melanson had a nice start to the season before coming down with an ankle injury. Wakefield is hoping the middle hitter will be back within the next two weeks.

That means even more reps for senior Hannah Butler who has clearly been working with her sister Clara in the offseason.

“Every once in a while I wonder ‘how’s this going to go in practice?’” joked Duprey. “No, they look good, it’s nice to have that connection there. They’re great, they’re both really good athletes and they want to do well.”

Wakefield’s strong junior class also includes outside hitter Katie Pearl, Pugsley, who the Warriors will count on as the libero and Abbie Coughlin who also plays the middle.

The WMHS volleyball program can no longer wonder if they’re good enough to compete in the Middlesex League. They are. As long as they stick together and believe it, Duprey knows they can surprise even more teams in the M.L. this year.

“We’re talented and we’re starting to play well together so there should be good things in the future.”