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HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS' VOLLEYBALL NOTEBOOK

Ella Gizmunt determined to bring that championship experience to Lynnfield girls’ volleyball

As a sophomore, Ella Gizmunt tallied158 kills across 28 sets for the Lynnfield girls' volleyball team.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

In June, Ella Gizmunt and her teammates on the SMASH 16U squad hoisted a national championship trophy after a 2-1 win over Sports Performance 16 C-Fed in Orlando, Fla.

Having played and beaten the top competition in the country, the 6-foot Gizmunt is now back in the gym at Lynnfield High getting ready for her junior season as the Pioneers set their sights on making a run at an MIAA Division 4 title this fall.

“I was playing in an environment with a lot of girls who are committed to college,” Gizmunt said of her experience in Orlando. “Taking that experience and bringing it back to Lynnfield, it’s helping build our team and shaping how we play.”

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Gizmunt, fresh off being named to the 2021 American Volleyball Coaches Association Phenom Watch List, is looking forward to helping teach the younger players on the Lynnfield roster.

“Her knowledge is incredible, she knows all the intricate little details,” Lynnfield coach Brent Ashley said. “She’s becoming this well-rounded athlete that knows how to teach.”

The 2021 season will be Gizmunt’s second as floor captain. Last year, she led the Pioneers to a Cape Ann League championship.

“I’m starting to find my voice as I get older,” Gizmunt said. “When I see the ways my teammates can improve, it’s good for me to step in and help them out, to help make our team stronger.”

The team struggled to create culture in 2020, with COVID restrictions limiting the activities the team could participate in. This year, there’s a bit more for the Pioneers to do off the court. For the younger players, this is their first time being a part of the team family, an aspect that Gizmunt remembers fondly from her freshman year.

“Last year, team dinners weren’t possible, pasta parties weren’t possible,” Gizmunt said. “We’re just going to try to spend as much time together as possible, to build a family like my freshman year.”

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Gizmunt was a varsity starter as a freshman in 2019, just the second player to do so in Lynnfield program history. Despite being the youngest member of the team, she was a mainstay in the front row. The Pioneers won 64 sets in a row and fell one game short of a Division 2 North championship.

“You’d think that a freshman would have nerves, but she never did,” Ashley said.

She tallied 158 kills across 28 sets last fall as a sophomore, hitting at a 47.7 percent rate, and led the Pioneers in kills, aces, and serving percentage.

“When she jumps, she just gets on top of people,” Ashley said.

To add onto that, both Ashley and SMASH 16U coach Kai Yuen marveled at her serving ability. Ashley noted that she appears to have added about six miles an hour to her serve, and Yuen mentioned how the bottom drops out of her serve at just the right time, making them “devastating” for the opposition.

“There are going to be some cool moments in matches this year, just watching her serve,” Ashley said.

SMASH had some problems in the middle during the summer and Gizmunt, an outside hitter, filled in at middle blocker to help the team. Yuen praised her ability to set the block, as well as her versatility.

“Not too many players can do that,” Yuen said. “She’s got it all.”

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Both Yuen and Ashley praised her off-the-court demeanor as well. Ashley said she has this “goofy side to her that’s real fun”.

“She’s very well-liked by everyone on the team,” Yuen said. “You can tell how fun a person is by how many people want to be with her not on the court.

“She jokes around a lot, but she knows exactly when to get serious.”

Ella Gizmunt (second from right) has stepped forward as a mentor to her teammates this season at Lynnfield High.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Service points

▪ When Dennis-Yarmouth coach Dru Sisson and her players first ran a clinic for local fourth- and fifth-graders in 2013, Lucy Swanson and Alayna Rooney were two of the kids in attendance. Now seniors, the two are captains and standout players for Sisson, who has coached the Dolphins for 15 seasons. Dennis-Yarmouth looks poised to make a strong run in Division 3, after dropping down from Division 2 as part of the MIAA realignments to five divisions.

“I started playing at the same age, and I learned early how to fall in love with the sport,” Sisson said. “To be able to instill that into those kids is really cool for me.”

Unfortunately, the Dolphins had to cancel the clinic for fourth and fifth-graders for the second straight year. But the impact of this initiative is still in the pipeline for the varsity team.

▪ With the state switching to the use of a power ratings system to create tournament seedings, Barnstable coach Tom Turco sees this as an incentive for teams to challenge themselves.

“If you lose to a top 10 team in the state, you get more points than if you beat, say, the 50th-ranked team,” Turco explained.

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Barnstable still plans to face some of the top competition in the state. The Red Hawks will take on Cape & Islands rival Dennis-Yarmouth twice and have dates with perennially strong teams such as Needham, Winchester, and Dartmouth.

▪ A few notable shifts with the new divisional alignments: Dartmouth, King Philip and Oliver Ames move from Division 1 to Division 2, and Dennis-Yarmouth (Division 3), Lynnfield (Division 4), and Old Rochester (Division 3) all move out of Division 2.

Correspondent Kylie Chetwynde also contributed to this story.