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Globe North Sports

Raiders a team on, off court

Camaraderie boosts success

By Jonathan Raymond
Globe Correspondent / November 1, 2009

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How dominant has the Melrose High School girls’ volleyball team been this fall?

The Red Raiders won 17 of their first 18 matches, an impressive run. In all 17 wins, Melrose did not lose a game, sweeping each match 3-0.

A 3-2 loss to Central Catholic on Oct. 5 stands as the only blemish on their record.

Along the way, the Raiders have dispatched quality programs like Reading, Bishop Fenwick, and even perennial power Barnstable.

Coach Scott Celli attributes his team’s efficient, calculated play to senior leadership. The seven seniors are all four-year varsity players, forming a cohesive group the rest of the team has rallied around.

“Everyone understands their role on this team; everyone understands their job and what they have to do to make the team successful,’’ said Celli. “Everyone on the team is very unselfish, very humble.’’

Melrose is led by its top attacker, senior Hannah Brickley. The soft-spoken, 5-foot-10 middle hitter leads the team in kills with 195 and is a two-time Middlesex All-Star and Division 2 all-state selection.

But she’s also quick to echo her coach’s sentiments that Melrose, as a team, benefits most from the total group contribution.

“Overall, as a team, we have a great chemistry between all the girls that makes us all work well, both in our defense and our front row,’’ said Brickley, who is considering Johns Hopkins, Bowdoin, and Curry as her college choices for next year. “We just work real great together.’’

They have sleepovers at one another’s houses. They attend football games on Friday nights. And their sense of camaraderie, so apparent on the court, accentuates the team-first mentality the players and their coach say has spurred their success. And there are expectations for a team that has a “state championship or bust’’ mentality.

The team’s two other captains, 5-10 senior outside hitter Laura Irwin and 5-7 senior setter Colleen Hanscom, have chipped in with 143 kills and 380 assists, respectively.

Hanscom is the offense’s distributor; everything flows through her.

Irwin provides offense from the outside and complements the talents of the hard-hitting Brickley.

The three captains agreed that the squad, despite its impressive results, was not as cohesive early on.

Hanscom pointed to a 3-0 win over Barnstable last month as the moment where things truly clicked for the team.

“After the Barnstable game everything was perfect,’’ she said. “Everything was in the right place, we were so much more confident in ourselves. That game really helped us.’’

Now, their top priority is winning a state title. “There’s a sense of urgency for us, because we know it’s the last year we can do it,’’ said Hanscom.

Irwin said she expected the team’s desire to help them reach their goal.

“We just all know how bad we all want it,’’ she said. “This whole team wants it so bad, it’s not just one person, it’s everyone working as a team. We know everyone wants the same thing.’’

Even the loss against Central Catholic, according to Celli, showed the team it could play with any other team in the state.

And with the tournament looming and a regular season of dominance behind them, they expect to make a strong push.

“We’re a very confident team,’’ said Celli.

“We feel like we can beat anybody. They believe in each other, they trust one another when they’re on the floor. And we’ve got the pieces for a state championship.’’

Jonathan Raymond can be reached at jraymond@ globe.com.