Melrose spikers burn Red Devils 

Apr 8, 2021 by

Volleyball (6-0) sweeps Burlington in battle of unbeatens

Published April 9, 2021

By JENNIFER GENTILE

BURLINGTON—The Melrose High girls’ volleyball team remains the lone undefeated team in the Middlesex Freedom League after sweeping rival Burlington, 3-0, in sets of 25-23, 25-14 and 25-20 on Tuesday, April 6 at Burlington High. Both teams came into the game undefeated (Melrose 5-0 and Burlington 6-0) so the stakes were high and the game had major implications for league standings. Yet, it was all Melrose from start to finish. They walk away at the top of the league, flawless at 6-0 on the season and have not given up a set to date. 

Last year, Melrose and Burlington split a share of the Freedom League title; this year Melrose has pulled away (for now) at the top of the league, unbeaten at 6-0. However, they will have to repeat this victory against the Red Devils on Saturday afternoon when they finish their two game series at home. From there, Melrose will have to also beat a competitive Wakefield team should they want to take another Melrose league title. The Red Raiders will enter a Middlesex League tournament as season’s end, where they are expected to face Middlesex Large (Liberty) competition such as undefeated Winchester. 

Leading scoring for Melrose on Tuesday was senior captain Emily Hudson and junior Elena Soukos who led with 9 kills a piece, while sophomore Gia Vlajkovic had a solid 8. Setter Eva Haralabatos tallied 31 assists and Melrose libero Autumn Whelan had 17 digs for Melrose, another strong night in the back row.

SOPHOMORE CAPT. Chloe Gentile goes for the kill during Melrose’s 3-0 sweep over undefeated Burlington. Melrose improved to 6-0 on the season. (Jennifer Gentile photo)

Melrose took the first set in a gripping, back-and-forth effort that saw Melrose battle back from a brief 4-0 deficit to take leads of 7-4 and 10-5 behind the hitting of Abby Hudson and Emily Hudson and the strong serving of Autumn Whelan, who reversed the first set with three straight service points. Emily Hudson helped extend that lead with solid kills up front and Chloe Gentile made it a 14-8 game with two straight dingers. Junior Elena Soukous shined on the service line and on the outside with kills that kept it a 16-12 game for Melrose. Setter Eva Haralabatos also had a great run on the service line that helped Melrose hold a 20-18 lead. However, the spunky Red Devils inched their way back on a series of kills that made it a 23-23 game. An Elena Soukos dagger finished the game for Melrose, 25-23, and the Red Raiders let out a deep sigh of relief after a too-close match. 

However, Melrose left nothing to fate it set two and quickly pulled to leads of 5-1 and 10-4 behind hitting from Elena Soukos and service points from Eva Haralabatos. Another strong service run from Autumn Whelan and kills from Vlajkovic kept Melrose up 15-6 and 19-12. A strong service run by Abby Hudson closed the door on the Red Devils, 25-15.

Set three proved much tighter and Burlington fought back hard in typical Red Devils fashion, making it a true game just as Melrose eyed a 3-0 sweep. But Melrose would have to fight for every point and pulled ahead in narrow leads of 4-3 and 5-6. Abby Hudson and Gia Vlajkovic kept Melrose on pace and a terrific comeback came from kills by Emily Hudson and Abby Hudson, who unloaded a dagger on Burlington to regain the lead for Melrose, 18-17. The Red Devils would tie things up at 19-19 but Soukos had a kill that helped Melrose take a 21-20 lead, bringing Melrose in the homestretch of a shutout. From there, sophomore captain Chloe Gentile took command and nailed three straight kills to earn the 25-20 victory and 3-0 win. 

After the game, Melrose coach Scott Celli express pride at his team’s efforts. Beating Burlington was high on Melrose’s To-Do list this year and they want to repeat it on Saturday when they rematch. 

“They [Burlington] are a good team,” he said after the win. “We just played really, really well. We pounded the ball the whole match, there was never any let up and I think that wore them down a little. Our back row played great, we served very well, a few hiccups but we did everything we needed to do to be successful on our side and it showed. You know..I just think we’re a pretty good team. We got tested today and answered the call.” 

MELROSE JUMPED for joy when they knocked off undefeated Burlington in a 3-0 sweep on Tuesday, to take first place in the league and remain an unbeaten 6-0 on the season. (Kelly Polychroniou photo) 

Melrose is proving to be a bit of a five-headed beast offensively, with a multitude of hitting options from the outside, middle and right side. On any given day, one attacker or another leads the day for Melrose and that is the best news for Celli. In years past, Melrose had relied to 2-3 heavy hitters; this year the cup runneth over. Against undefeated Burlington, Melrose combined for 37 kills in just three sets, a terrific output, says Celli. “Between our outside, middles and right side it’s a luxury to have. I don’t know if in my years of coaching I’ve had this many teams that can hit the ball the way this team does, that’s including some of our really good teams. We just have a great depth up front and today we had kids who didn’t even get off the bench today who can supply that too.”

“I told the girls I wanted to win, at the end of the day. Whether you win 3-0 or 3-2. I also told the girls to forget about today, because Burlington is coming back on Saturday, and we will have our hands full. This is a team who has nothing to lose.”

Prior victory over Wilmington set the tone

On Saturday, April 3 Melrose had traveled to Wilmington High to take on the Wilmington Wildcats and beat them for the second straight week, 25-16, 25-11, 25-20. 

Down a few players, Melrose utilized much of the bench to optimum results. Senior Grace Sanderson had a standout game with 9 kills, leading the team just ahead of Emily Hudson who had 8. Freshman Sadie Jaggers impressed with 6 kills in her starting role, looking older than her age in the middle hitting spot. 

Wilmington was a tricky opponent, not bowing to Melrose on any level and scoring double digits in each set. First set was a 25-15 Melrose victory that saw great hitting from Sadie Jaggers, Abby Hudson and a terrific service run by libero Autumn Whelan, who had several aces. Set two saw Melrose earn large early leads of 6-0 and 9-5 thanks to hitting from Jaggers, Sanderson and Ava Burns. Emily Hudson took over offensively and Ava McSorley impressed in the set and on the service line. A Sadie Jaggers kill ended the set at 25-11. Senior Sofia Centrella offered great defense and several point-saving dives on the ground. Set 3 was much closer and Melrose fought in several tied points from start to finish. Wilmington had an early lead of 7-3 but Melrose battled back thanks in part to Emily Hudson, who kept Melrose close, and a stellar offensive run by Grace Sanderson, who single handedly pulled Melrose out of their 16-14 deficit and turned into a 18-17 lead. Some terrific serving from Autumn Whelan and Gia Vlajkovic helped close the set, 25-20. 

For coach Celli, it was a win that did the job, simply put. “It was nice to get the win,” he said. “We could have improved on some things but people really stepped up.” He was pleased especially from the contributions of seniors such as Grace Sanderson and Sofia Centrella. “They stepped up and it was a great opportunity for them to play. They played like seniors when we needed them.

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