TEWKSBURY — Senior Emily Butler may not make league all-star in her career, but she has a good chance of being captain of two Tewksbury High girls’ volleyball teams that won Merrimack Valley Small titles.
The season finally gets underway, Friday (5 p.m.) at North Andover, and Butler will be in the starting lineup as either a Libero or a defensive specialist.
Butler, a third-year varsity player is following in the footsteps of two older sisters who also played for the Redmen volleyball team. Nora graduated in 2016 and Catherine in 2018.
“We all played different positions,” said Emily. “Nora was an outside hitter, Catherine was a setter, and I’m a Libero and defensive specialist.”
Emily enjoyed watching her older sisters game when she was little, and she further developed her love for the game when she began playing in the fifth grade.
Tall for age at the time, Butler started out as a middle and outside hitter, roles she counted until she made the varsity as a sophomore.
When she made varsity as a sophomore, new Tewksbury coach Allie Luppi made her a defensive specialist, where she got a chance to work along side the Redmen’s Libero, Brooke LaMothe, who would go on to play at Worcester State in college.
During that season, LaMothe served as a mentor and role model, showing Butler not only about playing on the back line, but also being a team leader.
“I had back row experience but now I was able to do stuff solely for it, and I took to it and liked it,” said Butler.
This experience turned out to serve her well as Butler not only took over as the Redmen Libero, she was also elected as one of the three captains as a junior.
“I was so glad to be elected,” she said. “I didn’t know all my peers thought of me that way, but I guess they respected me enough to listen to me.”
Tewksbury had a fantastic season, giving Luppi her first coaching MVC Small title and advancing to the Div. 2 North quarterfinals. The Redmen finished with 17 wins, which equals the program record for victories in a season.
This year, the Redmen have some talented newcomers, including a freshman with her own set of skills for the job, and when we talked with her last week, Butler was thinking she might lose her job as Libero.
“I enjoy the position of Libero,” she said. “We get to wear a different color jersey and I like being in the spotlight a little bit.”
“On the court we have some really talented back row players this year, and it’s going to be a battle,” said Luppi. “I’m excited to watch it all happen.”
Since last week, Tewksbury has taken part in various scrimmages, its first chances to face anyone other than themselves in practice. Luppi was pleased with what she saw from both players.
“Emily had strong serve receive and was very scrappy,” said Luppi. “Corinna Barron was very quick and reads the court very well. I think they’ll end up sharing the Libero position throughout the season.”
Butler is a captain again this season and she admits it is different experience without her senior cohorts from last year.
“I miss my senior captains, Katie (Monahan) and Lizzie (Ezekiel), but Alli (Wild) is good,” she said. “It’s good to have a year of doing it under your belt. It’s easier to do it this year. I know the kids, except for the freshmen, but it’s an easy adjustment.”
“She is awesome as a captain,” said Luppi. “Very organized, which is super helpful for me to know. I work in Bedford and then I come to practice, and when I show up practice has already started by the time I get here. We do the same drill, everyday to warm up, and the captains set the tone for that. So walking into a gym and having it run and function, and knowing practice has started before is awesome.”
Butler and Wild have a chance this year to lead one of the best volleyball teams the program has had, ever.
“We have a pretty good team, everybody plays well together,” said Butler. “I’m pretty confident we’ll go far.”
Luppi holds Butler in high regard, not just because she is a second-year captain and starter.
“She is one of our best passers,” said Luppi. “In that drill at the beginning of practice, the girls have to make 30 perfect passes and she’s always one of the last ones to finish, which shows she is always holding herself accountable. She’s not just rushing through the drill because I’m not there. That speaks volumes about her as a person and her as a player, something I really appreciate.”
By the time Thanksgiving comes around, Butler could have plenty to brag about with her sisters at the dinner table.