Volleyball is back -- the team looks awesome

... predominently seniors, outlook is bright

from Don Norris and Dick Collis

By the time this photo is published (the October issue of the Mirror), the Raiders' all-womens' volleyball team racked up it's first five competitions -- frankly by overpowering any defense the opponents could put up. Totally undefeated, that is.

Going into the sixth contest, the Raiders spent a week on the road, three sets in five days, all in contention for titles: On a Monday evening the ladies traveled to Peabody to play Bishop Fenwick -- always a tough, polished team. From there, on Wednesday, they bussed over to Arlington to meet with women from Arlington Catholic -- always a team in contention. And finally, the squad moved into neighboring Stoneham -- not the threat the others presented, but
always ready to take a potshot at rivals from Melrose.

All three games were hotly contested, and while Fenwick and AC are non-league games, they provide the test of the Lady Raiders' metal -- are they really as good as the early record shows?

Melrose opened the week in Peabody against Bishop Fenwick, which literally came out swinging. The first ten-or-so points indicated a really close match, but Melrose took the edge and never looked back. Three straight wins left Fenwick licking their wounds, wondering where that tornado came from.

At mid-week the Raiders went to Arlington Catholic, whose gymnasium is compact to say the least -- the three rows of bleacher seats almost encroach on the court. AC took the opening few points before Melrose had a chance to get their machine in gear. But while the end scores were close -- 25-22, 25-22, and 25-19 -- the Raiders dominated play, displaying an outstanding defense.

The program at Stoneham Friday night was unspectacular -- compared to the two matches earlier in the week. Business-like, the Lady Raiders over-powered the Spartans, again in three straight games.

In earlier play, the Raiders downed Wilmington, North Andover (non-league), Belmont, Reading and newcomer-Woburn.

In spite of the Lady Raiders' continued success, the sport of volleyball is a recent one in New England -- and the bleachers are only half full at gametime. It is, nevertheless, a good sport for spectating -- no bodily contact between opponents -- where the emphasis is teamwork, athletic coordination, combined with practiced agility. It is fun to watch -- epecially if your team is a consistent winner. There is no fee to watch a game, just show up and grab a seat, then enjoy the show.

Home games are in the big new gym at the Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School -- a beautiful facility. Although schedules vary,  the team generally plays into November on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings: JV's at 4:00, Varsity at 5-ish.

That is outside hitter Jen Cain scoring against the Wilmington defense.

Coach Scott Celli (a teacher at MHS) provides direction during an early game.

The team opened the season with a starting line-up of five seniors and one junior -- all of whom were members of last season's divisional champions. At the net is 5' 10" Rachael Johnson, versatile both as a key blocker and a center hitter. In white, playing the defensive "libero" position, is Junior Jill MacInnis, while at the right is Jen Cain.

October 5, 2012

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