In May, after the Franklin girls’ volleyball team capped off the tumultuous Fall II season by winning the Hockomock Cup, first-year coach Samantha Redmond got married. Sitting in the front row of the outdoor ceremony, her players were their coach’s biggest cheerleaders.
“We had been through so much together. With all the ups and downs of last year, that group of girls, we were all family,” Redmond said. “That’s what Franklin volleyball is in general, it’s a family, not just a team.”
One of those players in attendance was setter Cailyn Mackintosh, now a senior and the lone captain for the Panthers this season. Mackintosh assisted the final point of Franklin’s Hockomock Cup final win over King Philip that, combined with getting to see her coach tie the knot, she described as the perfect way to end the season.
“That was one of my favorite memories from Franklin volleyball — to be able to be there for her, because she’s there for us so much,” Mackintosh said. “That was the icing on top to be able to do that as a team before the seniors graduated.”
Redmond, now in her second year as coach, has the sixth-ranked Panthers rolling at 9-0. They’ve lost only two sets all year. To add another layer of icing on top, the Panthers are ranked No. 1 in the MIAA’s release of the Division 1 power rankings. To the players, the top spot came as a bit of a shock.
“We knew we’d be somewhere near there,” Mackintosh said. “It was just fuel to the fire to prove that we should be No. 1.”
After one season as an assistant at Franklin, Redmond was hired when then-coach Kelsey Weymouth left to become an assistant at UMass Dartmouth. Redmond (nee Elliott) played collegiately at Saint Anselm, but her only head coaching experience was when she and a friend co-coached a team for Blast Volleyball Rhode Island at the club level.
“I knew I would love varsity, it just wasn’t something I was expecting to get,” Redmond said. “I knew that my personality and what I loved doing could help the team. I just wanted to make sure I did the best for the girls first.”
Mackintosh and senior middle blocker Lindsey Tarantola confirmed that Redmond’s promotion to head coach was the right move. Mackintosh described Redmond as “one of the most positive people” she has ever met.
“She is so good at hyping us up before games,” Tarantola said. “Her pep talks are always the best, she has us screaming and it brings up our energy. And the way she talks to us, it’s not like talking down to us — it’s still formal, but it feels like she’s part of our family, too.”
On the court, the Panthers are a cohesive unit. The offense runs through Mackintosh, who Redmond describes as an “all-around fantastic player”. The 5-foot-10-inch Mackintosh can hit and block well, but most importantly for her position, she’s a great facilitator. But it isn’t just her ability on the court that sets Mackintosh apart — she always puts the team before herself.
After 31 assists in a win over Milford, Mackintosh was only three away from 1,000 for her high school career, but no one knew yet because Mackintosh made no mention of the impending milestone. That simply wasn’t the focal point of the night. Mackintosh reached the millennium mark Tuesday night in the first set against Stoughton with the third of her 24 assists.
“I really looked up to Cailyn when we were sophomores and she was on varsity,” Tarantola said. “It’s amazing to see her confidence on the court, and it was great to be able to be a part of that.”
Despite the unbeaten start, no one in Franklin is getting ahead of themselves. They know there is more work to do, both as a team and individually. There’s a clear strategy to continue improvement for the Panthers: focus on what you can do individually and if something goes wrong, forget about it and move on.
Harnessing this mentality, the Panthers are preparing for their biggest test of the season: a Friday date with No. 12 King Philip (11-0), with the Warriors out for revenge after falling to the Panthers in last year’s Hockomock Cup Final.
“I’m super excited for it. Every KP vs Franklin game is so fun to be a part of,” Tarantola said. “It’s really fun to compete against them. They’re definitely our biggest competition.”
▪ With Lynn Classical (12-0) out front, the Greater Boston League is in on the rise. First-year coach Chris LeBlanc, who guided the junior varsity for seven seasons, has transitioned the Rams to play more competitively in a 6-2 rotation. “The girls were apprehensive about the changes,” LeBlanc said. “But they had faith in me from previously knowing me, making the transition a bit easier.”
LeBlanc took for Frank DeLuca, who founded the Lynn Classical girls’ volleyball program.
“I owe Frank a lot. He’s the reason I even got involved in the game,” said LeBlanc, who teaches history at the school.
Classical AD Bill Devin said LeBlanc “has an unmatched love for the game, he is a volleyball fanatic. His passion is contagious for all of these kids, from the freshman to the varsity teams.”
LeBlanc’s goal: transition his determined athletes to volleyball players.
The Rams are senior-heavy; the majority have an understanding of the game and competition, but a few are still new.
Senior tri-captains Samantha Thoeun, Chloe Clement, and Anabelle Dao are the engines that make the team go.
“Samantha is a phenomenal athlete who will run through a wall for her teammates, coaches, just for her love of the game,” the coach said.
Dao, the starting libero, anchors the defense. “She does a really solid job making sure everyone knows where they need to be, and is really that good leader that makes sure our defense is solidified,” LeBlanc said.
▪ Needham presented coach Courtney Chaloff with her 100th career win Monday night after an exciting 3-1 victory over visiting Barnstable.
“Barnstable is a program I’ve respected since I was in high school, and they’ve been such a powerhouse in Massachusetts volleyball,” Chaloff said. “It was very exciting, I’ve been coaching in Needham for eight seasons, so it’s been really cool to see the program get stronger and stronger.”
Senior captain Ellie Streeper had an outstanding all-around performance. The past few seasons, including the Rockets’ run to the 2019 state title, Streeper was the starting libero. This fall, she has taken on a new role: outside hitter.
“[Streeper] was the backbone of our defense for years, and has been a huge defensive anchor for us, but this year she stepped up in a huge way,” Chaloff said.
Games to watch
Tuesday, Malden at Lynn Classical, 5:15 p.m. — Classical looks to continue its undefeated season at home.
Tuesday, King Phillip at North Attleborough, 5:15 p.m. — The No. 12 Warriors travel to the Red Rocketeers for a Hockomock League match.
Tuesday, Lexington at Melrose, 5:30 p.m. — The No. 4 Red Raiders host the Minutemen for a Middlesex matchup.
Wednesday, Duxbury at Marshfield, 5:30 p.m. — The No. 6 Dragons took the first meeting, 3-0, so the Rams will be looking for a response at home.
Thursday, Dennis-Yarmouth at Barnstable, 5 p.m. — The top-ranked Dolphins took the first meeting, 3-2. Will home court be the difference for Tom Turco and the Red Hawks?
Correspondent Kylie Chetwynde contributed to this story.