Clarita Prudencio and Trudy Fisher have seen girls’ volleyball in the Boston City League emerge over the past several years, albeit from slightly different perspectives.
At the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, Fisher is a 27-year veteran who also leads the school’s girls’ basketball program. Prudencio is a 2014 grad of East Boston, and became the head coach at her alma mater last season.
The former Jet remembers facing off against the Fisher-led O’Bryant powerhouse during her playing career. Now Prudencio and Fisher are bookends of a growing culture that’s fueling a volleyball boom in the city. The Boston City League is as talented as it’s ever been, and a new playoff format will make things interesting this season.
“Volleyball was a big passion for me in high school,” said Prudencio, who teaches seventh-grade physical education and health at East Boston. “Now it’s a whole different perspective . . . This season has become more competitive.”
East Boston (9-1), Charlestown (6-2) and Latin Academy (5-6 overall, 5-3 BCL) are grappling atop the stacked North division, which was realigned this year to feature the larger programs with junior varsity pipelines. The South division is likely to come down to O’Bryant (7-4) or powerful New Mission (9-2 overall, 6-2 BCL).
The top three teams in the North, and the top team in the South, will qualify for the City League tournament.
Fisher credits the pent-up excitement from a lost 2020 fall season, as well as the emergence of a citywide summer camp geared toward improving volleyball skills. Whichever team emerges from the City League tournament will have to earn it.
“I’ve been able to watch the overall development of volleyball in the city,” Fisher said. “It’s definitely up and coming.”
O’Bryant is led by its lone senior, defensive specialist Alejandrina Estrada, the heartbeat of the team. She’s flanked by a trio of junior stars, Djeniffer Vieira, Karen Huynh, and Grace Lloyd, the latter two returning City League All-Stars from Fall II.
O’Bryant’s 3-0 win over East Boston on Wednesday reflected the parity in the league. The Jets had topped the Tigers, 3-2, back in September, and entered the game 9-0.
A veteran such as Fisher didn’t let Prudencio’s team escape with a season sweep. O’Bryant flipped the script and took over the match. Despite the lopsided win, Fisher left the outing calling East Boston the “best team in the city.”
“We fell a little short,” Prudencio said. “Our girls were rolling, diving, and getting those balls, but it wasn’t coming together.”
The Jets are fueled by their two senior captains, outside hitters Luisa Sanchez and Jennifer Delgado, who each bring knowledge and experience. Prudencio said her team received a boost when six of her varsity players attended the city-run volleyball camps this summer, run by clinicians from the Boston Alliance AAU program. Players met twice a week at five different locations across the city to receive new personalized training from coaches who aren’t involved with their school’s programs.
“I was really excited,” said Fisher, who was a site director at the camp. “That’s one of the good things that came out of the pandemic.”
O’Bryant eighth-grader Ja’Niyah Black was one of the players who attended the camp. She fondly remembers sharpening her skills in scrimmages, as well as the “butterfly drill,” which involves serving and passing to a target.
“It helped enhance our volleyball skills and knowledge of different positions,” Black said. “It was really fun to interact with other volleyball players throughout the district.”
Fisher said she expects even more participation in the camp next summer, now that word’s gotten out. That means the City Leagues ascent is likely to continue.
“The City League has gotten a lot stronger,” Fisher said. “The kids are playing much better.”
▪ Tri-County coach Stephanie Caffrey reached 100 career wins Monday in a come-from-behind, five-set victory over South Shore Voc-Tech. But for Caffrey, it was just business as usual.
“I didn’t even tell the girls, my sister told them after the fact,” Caffrey said. “I knew it was coming, but for me I just wanted to win and move on. I think it represents all the girls I coached and all the work they’ve put in.”
The Cougars are flying at 13-2, including two back-to-back five-set wins over South Shore and Bristol-Plymouth. Standouts for the Cougars include junior setter Amy Freitas, who Caffrey said is “rock-solid across the board,” and junior libero Faith Boutin, who has held that position in the Cougars lineup for three seasons.
Despite the strong record, Caffrey said her team isn’t getting ahead of itself, and the Cougars take things one point at a time. She credits the group for being self-motivated in their drive to improve and win.
“They earn every single one of our wins,” Caffrey said. “Being a voke school often gets looked down on. They’ve competed across all levels, and they play hard. We’re not just a little old voke school.”
Before the playoffs, Caffrey said she plans to give everyone a few days off to help the players reset and refocus for the tournament.
▪ There are seven remaining unbeaten teams in EMass: Dennis-Yarmouth (12-0), Boston Latin (10-0), Lynn Classical (15-0), King Philip (13-0), Duxbury (12-0), Dartmouth (9-0), and Hopkinton (13-0).
Games to watch
Friday, Concord-Carlisle at Boston Latin, 4 p.m. — The unbeaten No. 13 Wolfpack host the No. 8 Patriots in a battle of Dual County League foes.
Friday, Lincoln-Sudbury at Bedford, 5:30 p.m. — In another great Dual County League match, the No. 18 Warriors visit the Buccaneers, who swept the first meeting, 3-0.
Friday, Lynnfield at North Andover, 5:30 p.m. — The Pioneers travel to No. 10 North Andover for an appealing nonconference matchup.
Monday, Hingham at Duxbury, 5:30 p.m. — Patriot League heavyweights No. 15 Hingham and No. 5 Duxbury go head-to-head. Earlier this year, the Dragons swept the Harborwomen on the road.
Tuesday, East Boston at New Mission, 4 p.m. — It’s a matchup of the two division leaders in the Boston City League as the Jets, first place in the North, visit the South No. 1 Titans.
Wednesday, Haverhill at Tewksbury, 5:30 p.m. — The No. 16 Hillies visit the Redmen, who are on a six-match winning streak, in a Merrimack Valley Conference matchup.
Correspondent Mike Puzzanghera contributed to this story.