(written for Somerville Patch)
Despite the Somerville girls’ volleyball team’s 3-0 loss to top-seeded Newton North Tuesday night in the MIAA Central-East Division 1 Quarter Finals, Somerville girls’ volleyball coach Steven Walker had nothing but positive things to say about his squad.
“I look at it as a great source of pride,” Walker said of the Highlanders’ 11-7 regular season. “It’s my most successful season as a coach… and from what we can gather, its’ the most successful season that Somerville’s had in quite some time.”
Walker said his team met all of the goals they set out to accomplish: a winning record overall, a strong placement at the Greater Boston League tournament, and a solid performance in the MIAA postseason. The Highlanders finished second in the GBL and swept Madison Park to reach the second round of the postseason – both Highlander girls’ volleyball firsts, according to Walker.
“I think this is a huge turning point for our program,” Walker said. “Learning what success is like, even if it’s just a little bit, even if it is finishing 11-7. If we’re finishing with a winning record, we can come back and really just try to continue this new tradition of playing great volleyball.”
Getting swept out of the playoffs undoubetedly felt disappointing, but Walker said his players maintained a supportive, enthusiastic attitude Tuesday night, even as Newton North’s prodigious serving put games out of reach early and often.
“The very first game, they came out and had probably like a 10-nothing lead like right away,” Walker said. “There was one girl just ripping these jump-float serves at us that were just moving all over the place and were really hard to track.”
With the season-ending loss Tuesday, nine seniors – including five starters – have finished playing volleyball for the Highlanders. Walker called the group “a complete class.”
“They’ve been the foundation of the rebuilding of this program,” Walker said. “For really bringing it from a one- or two-win program from four or five years ago to … showing people that it doesn’t matter what school you’re from. As long as you’re there, you’re committed, you’re trying hard, you can put a solid team together.”
Walker said he would especially miss the “aggressiveness” of outside-hitters Nicole Genard and Lorenza Etienne.
“If the ball is hittable anywhere on the court, they’re going to swing at it,” Walker said. “It’s not always easy to find girls with that kind of confidence.”
Of the seven juniors left on the squad, Walker said Maria Dardonis’s experience as the Highlanders’ starting libero this year could help anchor next year’s passing game. Walker said the team would definitely focus on basic passing next season.
“Maria can really bring the experience she got from really being the only consistent junior we played all year, really bring that game-time experience to the girls next year,” Walker said. Walker also anticipated a battle for starting setter between Molly Kotzuba and Melissa McGovern.
The Highlander girls’ volleyball season is now a memory. For Walker and his players, that memory is overwhelmingly positive.