Photography by David Creed
The Nantucket volleyball team had a relatively easy go of it in the regular season as they finished 16-1 and league champions. It was the most successful regular season the program has had in its brief history dating back to 2015.
But on Thursday the real season began. Nantucket (as the #7 seed) hosted the #26 seeded Assabet Valley RVT Aztecs in the MIAA Div. 4 State Tournament. It was their Round of 32 matchup in front of a packed Nantucket High School Gymnasium, and the Whalers were able to send their fans home happy following a 3-1 victory to punch their ticket to the Round of 16.
The Whalers were able to take a quick 9-5 lead in set one, which led to an Assabet Valley timeout. From there Nantucket dominated for the remainder of that set by outscoring the Aztecs 16-3 and taking the set 25-8.
It felt like Nantucket as the higher seed may cruise to a victory in this match after a convincing win to begin the match, but the Aztecs made life difficult for Nantucket in each set moving forward.
"We got a bus, we got a boat, we got travel, we got all of that to take into consideration," head coach Andrew Viselli said when asked what may have led to a lopsided first set. "Set one isn't who that team is."
The Aztecs jumped out to a 10-7 lead in set two, but Nantucket eventually made it a 14-14 score midway through. The score crept to 17-17 and eventually Viselli was forced to call a timeout with his team down 21-19. The Aztecs scored the first point out of the timeout, but Nantucket answered with a pair of their own as the set progressed to a 23-23 tie.
Nantucket was able to score three of the final four points to take a 26-24 victory in set two and a commanding 2-0 lead in the match. Senior Kacey Riseborough, who Viselli said the Aztecs were targeting their serves at early in the match, finished with a strong day that included a team-high 15 kills to go along with four aces and two blocks.
"Kacey started awesome, hit the skids, and then came out of it and was able to turn it around," Viselli said. "In that final set she took some big swings, stepped up, and she worked through it. That is the sign of a leader and that is what you want. That is the growth."
The third set did not go as planned for the Whalers. It started off even and tied 4-4, but the Aztecs took a 6-9 lead that eventually became a 20-11 lead over Nantucket that forced another timeout by Viselli. The Whalers were able to do some good things out of the timeout, but it was too little, too late with Assabet Valley winning the set 25-18.
The fourth set, which ended up being the final set didn't start well for Nantucket either. The Aztecs jumped out to a 7-5 lead before Nantucket climbed in front 9-8 and eventually forced a Assabet Valley timeout after scoring two more points to make it 11-8.
The passing and communication got better, with junior setter Yahely Del Rosario Gomez leading the offense in a day where she had 37 assists. Junior outside hitter Chloe Marrero was also very effective per usual with 14 kills and a team-high five aces.
Out of the timeout Nantucket expanded their lead to 17-12, and got the home crowd into the game that clearly gave the Whalers a boost as they attempted to close out what ended up being a gritty, tough, and stingy Aztec squad. Nantucket lost a pair of points, but won 10 of the final 13 points to take a 25-17 win in set four and a 3-1 victory overall in the game.
"All in all we got the W and that is all that matters at this point," Viselli said. "We live to fight another day."
The Whalers will host the Blackstone Valley RVT Beavers on Monday, November 7 at 5 p.m. The Beavers are 17-3 this season and beat Malden Catholic (11-9) in their Round of 32 matchup 3-2.