Before the Fall II season, the last time the Concord-Carlisle girls’ volleyball team had walked off a court after a match was Nov. 6, 2019.
The Patriots had just endured one of the most devastating losses in program history. Matched up against eventual Division 1 state champion Needham in the Central-West semifinals at Framingham High, Needham easily won the first set, 25-19, and Concord-Carlisle dropped an extended nail-biter in the second set, 33-31. C-C rallied, taking the third, 26-24. Needham.
Needham won the fourth set, 25-23, to take the match, 3-1.
More than 16 months later, the match is a faint memory.
“I think the good thing about teenagers is they can have pretty short memories,” C-C coach Jim Crandall said. “They were ready to move on, they knew half their team was going to be new … I think it was easy for them to [turn] a new page.”
C-C’s roster is smaller this season. The program graduated eight seniors after the 2019 campaign and has just 12 players in uniform this year, down from 18 in 2019. Many players from the team’s 2019 core — including libero, captain, and Globe All-Scholastic Mary Kate Murphy, setter Davis Farrow, and outside hitter Maddy Koenig — are gone. But two players from that team — Corinne Herr and Lily Sills — are impressed with how well the Patriots — now 7-0 after sweeping Westford, 3-0, on Tuesday — have performed in what was expected to be a rebuilding year.
“We didn’t expect to think we’d have the outcome we’d have so far,” said Herr, a junior outside hitter who leads the team with 109 kills entering Tuesday’s match with Westford Academy. “It’s turned out to be a lot more than [a rebuilding year] and it’s been really rewarding for everyone on the team.”
C-C dropped just three sets entering Tuesday’s match and its largest set loss was 25-18 at the hands of Acton-Boxborough in the first set of last Tuesday’s match. Sills (the team’s only player at least six feet tall) and Herr combined for 51 kills, 5 blocks, and 9 aces in that 3-1 victory.
Like many volleyball players in Massachusetts, C-C’s group focused on improving skills with club teams in the pandemic-lengthened offseason. Herr played club volleyball for SMASH and also participated in its first beach volleyball program. The program worked out during cold-weather months at The Beach House, an indoor beach volleyball facility in Natick. When the weather warmed up, the program went to Carson Beach in South Boston. Herr’s beach partner was Annika Lindstrom, a volleyball player at Shepherd Hill and sister of Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom. Herr’s beach training sessions, which were two five-hour sessions per week, sharpened her communication skills on the indoor court.
“On the beach there’s only two of you so you have to be constantly talking. That can get lost in an indoor game because there’s so many more people on the court,” Herr said.
“Playing club, doing clinics like Corinne did and working on our general skills was important to have as much of a foundation before our upcoming season,” Sills added.
C-C’s new setter, junior Raimey Little, averaged 32.8 assists per match entering Tuesday and the transition at the position from her mentor, Farrow, has been smooth.
“Raimy has done a really amazing job stepping into her job because the setter is such a crucial role for running a strong offense … [She] and Corinne connect really well and she can talk with each hitter to get them the best hit for them,” said Sills, who has 65 kills and a team-leading 26 aces.
Before this season, C-C was 50-11 in the last three seasons, including the postseason. The Patriots did not reach a sectional final over that span, and were robbed of that chance this year due to the pandemic.. Even though there is no sectional tournament this year, the ghosts of Needham have been exorcised.
“Seeing these younger players having this mind-set of ‘We want to win and we won’t back down,’’ that’s been really cool for me to see,” Herr said.
▪ Pentucket, which was a co-op last season with Georgetown, defeated its former counterpart, 25-21, 25-15, 25-13, last Thursday to pick up its first win in program history.
▪ There’s a swap on the sidelines at Lincoln-Sudbury. Judy Katalina, who was the Warriors’ head coach for 29 seasons, became the assistant coach at the start of the season and will retire at the end of the season. Her previous assistant, Greg Falcone, has been the head coach since the start of the season. Katalina will stay at L-S in her role as administrative assistant in the athletic department. She was inducted into the Massachusetts Girls Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009 and has won more than 450 matches.
“She’s been a fixture at L-S. She worked at the school as a campus aide, she worked in the athletic department for 15 years. She’s such an asset in the athletic department. She’s really the person that I count on for everything,” Lincoln-Sudbury athletic director Art Reilly said.