Volleyball Keeping an Eye on the Prize…Sept. 9, 2015
By Michael James LeClair
After qualifying for the Central Massachusetts District Tournament in 2014, the Nashoba Regional girls’ volleyball squad is optimistic it can get back to the Promised Land this fall.
Despite dropping its first three matches of the season last year, the Chieftains defied the odds and battled back. Nashoba won 11 of their next 13 matches. The Chieftains wrapped up the regular season with a 13-7 overall record and a 10-4 mark in the strong Mid-Wach B. The 13-7 record was good enough for the ninth seed in the Central Mass. Division 2 Tournament where Nashoba found itself matched up with No. 8 Norton in the first round. Norton brought an end to the Chieftains season, handing them a 3-1 defeat as Nashoba finished the campaign at 13-8.
“We started with some real tough ones last year; we opened with some real heavy hitters. This year’s schedule should be a little different but it’s always a little disheartening taking some big hits from teams like Shrewsbury and Algonquin to open the season,” said Nashoba head coach Johnna Doyle prior to her team’s scrimmage against visiting Waltham on September 2. “The girls really stepped it up from that fourth game on. We had a lot of experience last year and the veterans really carried us the rest of the way into the postseason.”
The Chieftains have a total of three scrimmages on the slate before their season opener on September 11. In addition to Wednesday’s tilt with Waltham, which the Chieftains won 3-0, Nashoba visited Tewksbury High School on Friday and lost 3-0. Nashoba tangles with Millbury High School in the squad’s final scrimmage on Wednesday.
Doyle, who enters her fifth season at the helm of the Chieftains, will be assisted by junior varsity coach Kevin Lane. She has been happy with the progression her squad has made thus far through the early stages of the preseason.
“I like what I’ve seen from the team so far. This team has had a lot of success the past two years, qualifying for the tournament in back-to-back years for the first time in program history,” said Doyle, whose charges open the 2015 season at home against Leominster High School. “This team is working hard and they’re improving every day. When I joined the coaching staff we began setting goals each season and each year these girls are working hard to meet those goals.”
As for this year’s roster, Doyle plans to carry 14 players at the varsity level. According to the Nashoba head coach, the number of girls trying out for a spot in the program ballooned to 63 girls this fall. With such a high number competing, Doyle and her staff were forced to make cuts to reduce the number of players to 42 between the varsity, junior varsity and freshmen levels.
“Our program is growing, there’s no question. Last year I only had to make two cuts, but this year we had girls come in with some talent and it makes the decision a little more difficult,” said Doyle. “It’s exciting to see how far this program has come in the last five years and it continues to grow, with a real feeder program.”
Doyle sees one of the strengths of this year’s team is its power, with several girls that have big hit potential that can keep the opposition on its toes.
This year’s varsity team will have three captains. Leading the team will be seniors Olivia Perkins and Jordan Brady and junior Jordan Bricknell.
“Things have been going really well. We’ve been practicing on our own throughout the summer and have spent a lot of time bonding and building chemistry,” said Perkins. “I think we’re ready for the season. Last year we had a strong year and the girls returning from that team are excited and are motivated to try to get back to where we were last year.”
Doyle’s 2015 roster is comprised of 10 upperclassmen. With six seniors and four juniors the Chieftains should once again be highlighted by veteran leadership.
In addition to Perkins and Brady, the senior crew consists of Hannah Goddard, Nathan Kovacs, Clarissa Tucker and Taylor Tower. The juniors that will be a key ingredient to the success of the Chieftains this fall are: Cecilia Beaudoin, Brynne McConnell, Jordan Bricknell and Kyla Shaye.
Underclassmen that will work their way into the lineup and gain valuable experience are the quartet of sophomores Meaghan McCarthy, Madeline Susi, Haley Neff and Victoria Tuttle.