Volleyball's Season Ends With 3-0 Defeat To Lynnfield

David Creed •

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Photography by David Creed

The #7 seeded Nantucket Whaler volleyball team lost to the #2 seeded Lynnfield Pioneers in their Elite 8 matchup Thursday afternoon in the Div. 4 MIAA State Tournament. The Whalers made it further than they ever have in the history of the program, finishing their season off with an impressive 18-2 record and a pair of tournament wins.

Nantucket head coach Andrew Viselli said after the game that he was proud of what his team accomplished this season. He said he told them after the game they have 24 hours to feel any and all emotions that they have from this defeat. After that time is up, he said they need to move on and turn their focus toward learning from this loss and becoming better from it with an eye toward next season.

"Not the result I wanted. Not the result the girls wanted," Viselli said. "I think we know we didn't play and didn't execute. We understand that, and that is why it is so hard and it hurts so deeply because you prepped for it and then when asked to call it up, it wasn't there in some aspects."

Viselli said he felt sophomore middle and outside hitter Leah Crowley played a great match. He said junior middle Alice O'Banion also did what she was called upon to do and he came away feeling good about how she played. Both are expected to play key roles for this team once again next fall.

Viselli added that two things his team will need to continue working on is their passing and mental toughness.

"Great year, best year ever in the history of Nantucket Volleyball. Two girls going off to play in college," Viselli said. "Then everyone else is a junior or sophomore. So lots of positives and they got to play against a team and see what championship-caliber volleyball is and how to do it. It doesn't have to be crush, crush, crush all the time."

The first set began with very even play. Both teams found themselves tied at 7, but the Pioneers won five of the next six points to make it a 13-8 lead that forced Viselli to call a timeout. From there Nantucket wasn't able to rebound, with Lynnfield winning 10 of the next 15 points. Their passing and Nantucket's inability to string together several quality serves in a row was their downfall. Lynnfield won the first set 25-14.

In set two the Pioneers jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead, but Nantucket fought back and took an 8-7 lead. Nantucket made it a 14-12 set at one point, but after three consecutive points for the Pioneers, Viselli was forced to take another timeout with his team down 15-14. Lynnfield was able to build themselves a small cushion in the points immediately after the timeout and went on to win the set 25-20.

In set three Lynnfield pounced on a Nantucket team that was on the brink. The Whalers found themselves quickly in a 7-1 hole that forced another timeout and after Viselli chatted with his team once again, they were unable to build much momentum. Lynnfield eventually took a 20-7 lead before cruising to a 25-11 set three victory and a 3-0 win to knock Nantucket out of the tournament.

As Viselli said after the game, his team will be returning plenty of talent next year and it shouldn't surprise anyone if they are right back in this spot next season so long as they continue to work on their skillsets. But the team will be losing two key starters in senior captain Kalina Natcheva and senior outside hitter Kacey Riseborough.

Next season junior outside hitter Chloe Marrero will lead the team as their senior star. Both Crowley and O'Banion figure to be prime candidates to replace the production of Natcheva and Riseborough.

Nantucket's libero, Vicky Todorova, will be a junior next year. The team's two primary passers this season (Yahely Del Rosario-Gomez and Bianca Santos) will be entering their senior and junior years respectively next season.

With over 30 players in the program this season between junior varsity and varsity, Viselli and his team should have every opportunity to bounce back next season and make amends for Thursday afternoon's defeat. This team should be an experienced roster that also has the opportunity to incorporate some young talent onto the team.

This program has taken steps forward each year for seven season. Time will tell if they can take another step forward next year and use this tournament defeat to their advantage.

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