Photo Essay: Women's Championship Volleyball team

from Don Norris

... Lady Raiders shine in a Stringer's pictures

Melrose ended a dramatically good season on November 19th when the Lady Raiders lost
to an obviously superior team from Marlboro, in the District Two State finals. The
game was a sellout, jamming the Algonquin High gymnasium, in Northboro as close to
400 Raider fans chose to drive the 55 miles to support their team.

These photos are taken during that contest and other pre-final games, and have
appeared (for the most part) in Dr. Ronald Sen's "Melrose Volleyball" website on
Blotspot. com. They were shot by Stringer Don Norris of Melrose, a former
national-level player who volunteers as the Lady Raiders' team photographer.

In that first photo, super-star Sarah McGowan slams the ball for a point against the
semi-final contestant Longmeadow High. It was a tough win, with MHS taking th first
game, Longmeadow games 2 and 3, Melrose bouncing back to win 4, and in the fifth
game (an abbreviated 15-point shoot-out) -- Melrose walked off victorious.

Alyssa DiRaffaele -- one of five seniors on the 14-person team -- drops to the floor
to cancel a potential point for Longmeadow. Number 5 hitter Racheal Johnson, 3 is
defensive specialist Amanda Committo and 15 is Kayla Wyland, playing strongside
hitter (15).

Setter Brooke Bell, a rousing 5-foot-five-feet tall, was an effective blocker
against Longmeadow -- and all season long. The Raiders had accumulated 22 wins at
this point -- the state semi-finals in Division Two -- versus one solitary loss.

Coach Scott Celli (a history teacher at MHS) had, on his opening organization, two
seniors (DiRaffaele and Jill Slabachevsky), five juniors and one sophomore -- Jill
MacInnis, a defensive player, seen saving a sure point.

Jill Slabacheski gets set to power the ball cross-court for another Melrose point.
At the left is Alyssa DiRaffaele (30), Jill MacInnis (16) and Jen Cain (10).

Near-twins Rachael Johnson (5) and Kayla Wyland (15) present a formidable wall to
the opposition's powerhitters. The two are both 5-10, both brunette, both tall and
slender -- and both excellent volleyball players.

The Raiders draw some 150 to 200 fans at a home game, but the number shoots up for
the division and state finals. A busload of supportive students appeared, pushing
the Raiders' cheering section to some 400. The sport of volleyball is growing in New

A very lady-like celebration at the semi-finals. It reminds one of the Iwo Jima
memorial, somewhat. But four days later, the season came to an abrupt halt, with the
Raiders falling before the well-oiled machine from Marlboro. But there's always next

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