When Bishop Fenwick coach Adam DeBaggis reflects on the success his volleyball squad has had season, he says it all comes down to leadership.
“I’m convinced that — and I would never tell them this — that they could win a lot of games without my help,” said DeBaggis.
The Crusaders’ captains — Gianna Pizzano, Jen Crovo, Kate Lipka, and Tessa McLaughlin — have shown DeBaggis how contagious commitment and the right attitude can be. The four seniors lead an 8-1 team that is unbeaten (6-0) in the Catholic Central Large and ranked second behind Barnstable in the Globe Top 20.
“They’re tremendous role models and the four of them work hard,” said DeBaggis.
A four-year starter, Lipka leads the state in kills (126) and has a .516 hitting percentage, with her fellow captains Pizzano and Crovo combining for 120 kills. McLaughlin is up to 234 assists, averaging 9.4 assists per set.
“They’re the best set of captains I’ve ever had in any sport,” said DeBaggis. “It means everything because those girls, and Kate in particular, they make or break the attitude of the team.’’
As the Bishop Fenwick girls’ basketball coach and an English teacher, DeBaggis has come to know Lipka on and off the court.
“She’s an all-around excellent student and fantastic all-around person and athlete,” said DeBaggis of Lipka, who posts a 3.5 GPA.
Lipka, an honors student, also plays guard for the girls’ basketball team and even returned to play after breaking her arm last season.
“She’s pretty close to perfect. She works as hard as anyone and she’s one of those people that is not only good, she’s over-committed,” said DeBaggis.
Lipka’s basketball experience has translated onto the volleyball court as the 5-foot-8-inch middle hitter’s athleticism and jumping ability propel a relatively small team — what DeBaggis calls his squad’s toughest challenge.
“If were going to make it deep in the tournament, we need to play really good team defense,” he said.
After a season-opening loss to Medfield, which DeBaggis attributed to anxiety, the Crusaders have registered an eight-game win streak.
“Since then we’ve been better at being calm and focused when things get tight,” said DeBaggis.
The setter-hitter relationship between McLaughlin and Lipka has been at the foundation of this streak.
“Oh God, they work well,” said DeBaggis.
“They’re the type of players to not only talk about what plays to run before [a serve] but sometimes mid-rally with the ball in the air,” said DeBaggis.
Being on the tip of her toes during game play has made Lipka the Crusaders’ biggest offensive threat.
“She is a person who is already super talented but works hard to get better every single day even though she’s super talented. She’s never had a bad game,” said DeBaggis.
“When we need points we go to her. We’re well-rounded, but when it comes down to a 23-23 [in a game] we go to her,” he said.
Lipka has taken the offense to a new level since the Crusaders Crusaders’ 17-5 run last season, according to Lipka. Lipka finished last year with 254 kills and 73 blocks.
Games of the Week
No. 1 Barnstable at No. 6 Medfield, Tue., 5:30 p.m. — Medfield is the perfect midseason test for Barnstable, which has returned to its tradition of winning. Notre Dame of Hingham challenged both teams, getting the best of Medfield, 3-1, and driving the Raiders to five sets. If Medfield is going to stand a chance in the tournament, the squad will need to find a way around Raiders playmakers Hannah Andres, Olivia Brodt, and Ciara Bruning.
No. 3 Notre Dame of Hingham at No. 6 Medfield, Thurs., 4 p.m. — The Cougars earned a crucial win over Medfield earlier and the rematch should be entertaining. Cougars returning All-Scholastic Julia Flynn led the offensive attack in the 3-1 win, and will surely have a strong presence in this rematch. This is a tough week for the Medfield girls who already face Barnstable Tuesday. If they can pull through, they’ll move up in the rankings.
No. 15 Quincy at No. 10 North Quincy , Mon., 6 p.m. — This rivalry is always a fun one to watch. The home-court advantage did not help North Quincy against Duxbury on Wednesday as the team registeredits first loss of the season, 3-2. They’re facing the Presidents, who have had a perfect eight-game run so far.
No. 16 Lynnfield at No. 12 North Andover, Mon., 5 p.m. — The Pioneers face their toughest opponent first thing this week. The team has played consistently so far this season, not allowing a single set to slip by during its seven-game stretch. They’ll need to watch out for the Knights setter, Erin Cox, an All-Conference player who has filled the stat book.
No. 19 Duxbury at No. 15 Quincy, Fri., 5:30 p.m. — This matchup features two unbeaten squads at 8-0 — Quincy, a team that hasn’t dropped a single set all season, and the Green Dragons, who have leftover momentum from a crucial 3-2 win over North Quincy last week.