V-Ball Clinches 1st Ever Post Season Berth
By Ellen Oliver
In the three years since she took over the volleyball team, Coach Johnna Doyle has focused on small improvements.
“The first year we added the freshman team and our goal was to assess,” she explained. “The second year our goal was to be competitive in every game.” And although the records were the same the first two years, seven wins each season, Doyle said she knew they were on target as the team won more sets and had closer games.
This year, the team had another goal, one posted in every locker room: make the playoffs. “Last year all the fall sports made districts except volleyball,” said Sam O’Connor, one of six seniors on the team. Echoed Doyle, “It was disheartening for the girls. Last year we were two games away from making the playoffs.”
But volleyball will not be left behind this year. On October 15th, with a 3-0 win over Clinton, the Chieftains finally punched their ticket to the post season. Fittingly, the win came on the team’s pink night where they raised $600 for the American Cancer Society.
According to Doyle, everything just clicked for the team this year as the girls knew their goal and worked hard to achieve it. “I’d see Sam O’Connor [in the offseason] and she would say to me: ‘We have to make playoffs,’” related Doyle. “At our first practice, I told the girls, ‘Sam has a plan.’”
“As a senior, I’m definitely aware that this was my last season,” said O’Connor. “I set a goal to make playoffs. We’ve been so close; we had to make it when I was a senior.”
Making the post-season may have been the goal, but Doyle said another milestone was reached on October 9th. After two seasons with seven wins each, the 3-1 victory over Ayer, tipped their win record to eight.
“Ayer is like us,” explained O’Connor, who has spent three years on varsity. “When we worked together as a team and pulled out that win, it was emotional.”
The win was significant for more than the notch on the tally sheet. The Chieftains defeated Ayer 3-1 on September 17 at home and the victorious rematch was earned after a battle on Ayer’s home court.
“We always split games with Ayer,” said the coach. “It was their pink night, there were lots of fans. It was a close game.” Nashoba took the first set 25-18, Ayer the second 26-24, then Nashoba took the next two, 25-19, 25-13.
“That’s when it hit the girls: We’re doing this,” explained Doyle.
O’Connor may have ignited the team in the first practice, but Doyle said the girls are united and focused, led by senior captains Victoria Wang and Rita Peirce. Along with O’Connor, Wang and Peirce, the senior presence is led by Sarah Curran, Gina Dimasi and Emma Duggan.
The changes in Nashoba aren’t just seen on the record sheet, the other teams and coaches have taken notice. Doyle said after games the coaches of the opposing team would tell her how much the Chieftains had improved.
After a game against Fitchburg, which Nashoba defeated 3-0 twice this season, the coach approached Doyle and praised her team. “He told me they used to see Nashoba on the schedule and think they can take this one. Now, they say ‘Oh no, Nashoba,” she said. Doyle makes sure her team understands the threat they have become.
“Getting the praise is pretty motivating,” said O’Connor. “We know our potential; we have to work hard to bring it out.”
To see more pictures of girls’ volleyball, visit http://daisydesignphotos.