Bourne girls’ volleyball team revealing its true character

The Bourne volleyball team has come together this season under coach Annemarie Souza (far right), who is dealing with kidney failure. (Photo courtesy of the Bourne volleyball team)
The Bourne volleyball team has come together this season under coach Annemarie Souza (far right), who is dealing with kidney failure. (Photo courtesy of the Bourne volleyball team)

To see just how sensational the Bourne girls’ volleyball squad is, you have to look past its 13-1 record.

For the past 19 years, the Bourne program has been a leader in the South Coast Conference, but its greatest achievement may be the character of its players and their desire to give back.

From the beginning of the season, the girls have participated in benefits for Down syndrome, breast cancer, and suicide awareness, but, it is one of their upcoming benefits that is hitting home – lupus awareness. This Friday, the squad will be raising awareness about a life-threatening and chronic auto-immune disease that impacts the life of their coach, Annemarie Souza.

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Souza, who has lived with lupus most of her life, is facing dialysis and her fourth surgery this season due to a kidney failure.

“I’ve needed to sleep the rest of the day and to get out of the dialysis chair, go eat and go to practice, it’s exhausting,” said Souza.

Although Souza acknowledges it has been challenging, it is her love of the sport that keeps her coaching the Canalmen.

“I’ve been open with [the squad] and don’t want it to be a distraction, and they’re really understanding and interested, even doing [school] projects on [lupus],” she said.

Souza’s coaching staff has also made sure she is not left without support. On days when Souza is not able to coach, former Barnstable volleyball player, Kristi Everson and former Bishop Feehan volleyball player Merry James volunteer to help.

But, the biggest response she has received yet is from her squad, who offered to get tested to see if they were able to donate a kidney.

“I’ve been very blessed. I wish I could shout from a rooftop how great they are,” said Souza.

“I feel like the term is overused, but they’re really like a family here and are cognizant of someone hurting or needing something,” she said.

The gesture is an indication of the girls’ character, despite the team being too young to be an organ donor — the legal age in Massachusetts is 18.

“We didn’t know how serious it got over the summer and we care about her, as a person, not just a coach and it hurts us to see her like that,” said senior captain Samantha Fasoli.

“We wanted to switch [the fund-raisers] up and do it like no one else so we could benefit other causes. There are big things out there that people aren’t aware of, like lupus,” she said.

Despite Souza’s weakening condition, Fasoli says, “We’re having a great season and she’s kept us where we need to be.”

The Canalmen are peaking at the right time as they head into one of the biggest matches of their season Monday, one that will decide the South Coast Conference champion, an early goal of Souza’s.

When paired up with Fairhaven, it almost appears to be an uneven matchup with Bourne’s girls reaching no more than 5 feet 5 inches, with the exception of 5-11 junior middle hitter Chelsea Doucette.

“They’re a lot bigger than we are, but, we play with more heart and experience,” said Souza, who has coached all 19 years that Bourne has qualified for the postseason.

For the past three years, Fairhaven has ruled the South Coast, snatching the league title and bumping Bourne out of the state tournament the past two years.

Fairhaven is the only team to beat Bourne this season, which Souza attributed to Bourne errors in the five-set loss (25-15, 21-25, 24-26, 25-17, 15-10).

“We beat ourselves, they didn’t beat us,” she said.

But the Canalmen are looking for payback.

“We’re going to win by aggression because it really bothers us deeply because we know we’re better than that,” Souza said.

Monday’s matchup will decide the league championship between the Canalmen (13-1, 11-1) Fairhaven (11-3, 10-1).

Souza is confident in her girls, who dish out a 92 serving percentage after winning nine straight games since losing to Fairhaven. Doucette (74 kills), who Souza says is “pretty nasty from the service line,” is a big defensive playmaker, leading the team with 118 total blocks and 43 solo blocks. Senior outside hitter Madi Durr is one of the team’s biggest leapers, but the highest vertical jump belongs to freshman outside hitter Miranda Partosan.

And the girls are excited.

“We’ve been having Facebook and Twitter rampages about everyone coming. It’s going to be a big game and I’ll be very proud to beat them,” said Fasoli. “Even if we don’t, I know we’ll play great and can’t be anything but proud because it doesn’t mean it’s over, we’ll be in first or second.”

Games of the Week

No. 13 Bishop Fenwick at No. 3 Andover, Mon., 6 p.m. – Bishop Fenwick is a quality team that stands in the way of Andover’s chance at an undefeated regular season. Despite three losses, the Crusaders (11-3) are able to contend, as illustrated in victorious sets against ranked Lynnfield and Arlington Catholic. In a side-by-side comparison, the Crusaders surpass the Golden Warriors (13-0) in almost every category with Kate Lipka (175 kills), Olivia Morsey (347 digs) and Tessa McLaughlin (318 assists) leading in their categories.

No. 20 Lynnfield at No. 10 North Andover, Tue., 5 p.m. – Lynnfield (12-2) gets home-court advantage after having gone 12-straight perfect sets. North Andover enters the matchup, recovering from a tough 3-2 loss against Andover last week. The last time these two met, the Scarlet Knights (10-3) barely won (25-20, 25-23, 23-25, 28-26).

No. 7 Brookline at No. 5 Newton North, Thurs., 4 p.m. – Newton North knocked out Brookline, 3-0, in their previous matchup, winning, 25-11, 25-19, 25-11. Alana King (14 digs, eight kills) and Deanna Cortina (20 service aces) were the catalysts in the victory and are sure to make an impact the second time around. Brookline came out short statistically in the matchup and will need higher numbers to make an impact.

No. 17 Notre Dame of Hingham at No. 1 Barnstable, Fri., 4 p.m. – Notre Dame of Hingham is one of only two teams to take a set from the reigning Division 1 State champions. On paper, the Cougars appear to be a contender, with Julia Flynn (130 kills) and Randi Whitman (348 assists) emerging as a powerful duo. But do the Cougars have enough to hand the Red Raiders their first loss of the season?

No. 16 North Quincy at No. 14 Pembroke, Fri., 4:15 p.m. – This pair went to four sets last time they met with North Quincy prevailing after Rose Bennett and Natasha Sautter combined for 12 kills in the win (25-12, 26-24, 18-25, 25-21). Since their last loss to North Quincy, the Titans have posted a seven-game winning streak