TEWKSBURY - The Tewksbury High volleyball team is off to a 2-0 start following a pair of hard-fought, non-league victories over Wilmington and Bedford.
While the match scores are decisive in that the Redmen beat the Wildcats, 3-0, and the Buccaneers, 3-1, all of the games were battles from start to finish, with none of the games being decided by more than five points.
"We just had to battle the entire time," said Tewksbury coach Allie Luppi, following Monday night's win at Bedford High. "At no point did we have a comfortable lead, at all. It was really great to see them stay mentally tough, and keep fighting and not giving up, which was awesome."
The Redmen lost their first game of the season in the opening set, 20-25, before they came back to eke out three consecutive wins to take the match, 20-25, 25-22, 25-23, 26-24.
"It was something that they struggled with last year, so there's definitely a lot of maturity coming into the season," said Luppi, of her returning players, which include all of Tewksbury's starters. "There's still a lot to work on, serve receive, running our offense, but at the end of the day, being tough, and staying in those close matches, is what will take us a long way. I'm super happy about that."
The Buccaneers had some big hitters in outside hitters Gaby Zovko and Lauren Harrell, plus middle blocker Rokibat Salako. Not only were these three fierce with their smooth swings, they were also tough to score on at the net.
After dropping the first game, the Redmen stuck with their game plan and came back to win the second game by three points. They built up a 14-8 lead in third game before Bedford responded to a timeout by going on a 6-0 run to tie the game, before eventually going in front, 16-15.
The Bucs' lead expanded to three at 18-15 and 19-16 before Tewksbury began to chip away at it, tying the score at 21-21 before going on a 4-1 run to give the Redmen a 25-22 win and a 2-1 lead.
"That's what we talk about a lot," said Luppi, regarding not having many obvious weapons to unleash on the opposition. "We have to be in the right spot, you have to get your serves in, and your hits have to be in the court, and we just play our game. If they have big hitters, they'll get their hits, and that's fine, but as long as we stay within ourselves, and we stay disciplined, good things will happen."
Tewksbury quickly fell behind 3-0 in the fourth game and it took until it was 6-6 before the score was evened. The Redmen then fell behind 10-7 before they went on a 8-0 run to get out in front, 15-10.
The momentum swung back and forth until Bedford fought off a match point to tie the game at 24-24. Two Buccaneer mistakes pushed the Redmen over the top, 26-24.
Junior libero Carinna Barron had a huge game with six digs and six aces, some of the digs were spectacular and led to some huge points for Tewksbury.
"She's a huge part of our back row," said Luppi. "She runs the show back there, which is necessary for us."
Setter Kiley Kennedy had 17 assists, outside hitter Katie Cueva had 6 kills, and twin sister Maddie Cueva had 4 kills, Tori Rowe had 5 kills and McKayla Conley had 5 assisted blocks at the net.
The Redmen set the tone for the season thus far with their 3-0 win over arch-rival Wilmington, Friday evening at Romano Court. Tewksbury got a little better with each set as the Redmen won in straight sets, 25-23, 25-22, 25-21.
Kiley Kennedy had quite a night with 21 assists, and seven digs, Katie Cueva had eleven kills, Maddie had nine kills, and Tori Rowe had four kills. Carinna Barron had eight aces and nine digs.
"Having a strong service receive, being able to run our offense," said Luppi, on the keys to the opening night victory. "Katie and Maddie were able to get a lot more swings that game and a lot more kills, which was great to see."
Although the Redmen won the first set on Friday, the players were still figuring things out before coming out on top.
"We got out some early-game jitters but we were able to hold it down and do what we needed to do," said Luppi. "Stay disciplined. That's our theme this year. Be where you need to be, do what you need to do."
On tap for this week is North Andover on Wednesday, Methuen on Friday and Lowell on Monday.