TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury High girls’ volleyball team has reached the “to-be-continued” phase of its two-year rebuilding plan, and the Redmen closed out the 2020 COVID-19 portion of the journey with a 3-1 victory over Central Catholic, on Veterans Day, at Tony Romano Court.
Tewksbury ends the current campaign with a modest 2-7 record, but the Redmen could have easily won a couple more matches, including five-set losses against Methuen and Dracut. The only team Tewksbury was overmatched against was Haverhill.
The Redmen ended up winning two of their last three matches, and in the process, reached their goals for this stage of team development.
“I told the girls I’m so proud of where we started to where we ended,” said Tewksbury coach Allie Luppi. “They really had to work and do a lot of team building, a lot of pressing each other, finding their role, what they are going to be able do both on the court and off the court to help us get to a place where everyone is comfortable and to be able to win, and that’s what we did.”
Wednesday’s match with the Raiders saw the Redmen move out to a two-set lead with a pair of impressive games, similar to their start in their first win against Dracut, the week before.
Central Catholic did no go quietly, however, as it dominated the third set to the tune of 25-11.
“We’ve been that way all season, and the wins that we have weren’t easy,” said Luppi, on trying to close out close matches. “We finally got comfortable in that place where it’s do or die. Today it was nice to see them champion it and not let it rattle them.”
Tewksbury got back on track in the fourth game but it took four match points before the Redmen were able to dismiss the Raiders, 25-17, 25-22, 11-25, 26-24.
“It was awesome, it was the best case scenario,” said Luppi, on closing out the campaign with a victory. “I’m super-happy and excited about that.”
Junior co-captains Madison and Kaitlin Cueva were standouts, swinging with as much power as they have shown all season to go along with the rest of their consistent games as outside hitters. Sophomore libero Carinna Barron was a force in the backline with her usual dose of spectacular digs, jump serves and tone-setting, steady presence in the middle of the action.
Middle blocks McKayla Conley and Madelyn Montejo did their jobs, patrolling the net, Kiley Kennedy was consistent with her sets, and Ava Fernandes, Victoria Rowe, Whitney Gigante and Jennie Lester also played well off the bench.
“I think the girls just realized they have to have fun, and they can’t take things too seriously,” said Luppi. “You are going to make mistakes, it’s part of the game. You’re not going to play a perfect game every single time. I think they really took it to heart when they would make a mistake at first, but a lot of maturity happened and they realized they could make a mistake and come back and be just as good of a player. They internalized that and you see that when nothing seems to phase them, which is awesome.”
As for next year, the best way for the Redmen to get better and build on this season is to continue playing the game and staying in shape, both of which could be a problem as the pandemic continues. Getting stronger would help, too, if the players are able to get into a gym.
“I’m definitely happy and excited,” said Luppi. “I’m excited for next season too. I’m hoping we’ll be more competitive and we return to a traditional season.”
The Redmen also had to say so long to their two seniors, Gabriella Schubert-Raimundo and Amanda Moreira. The pair were with the program for three years, each taking one year off at some point.
“Both are phenomenal and super-cheerful, and loud,” said Luppi, of the two departing players. “They help set the tone for the team with their energy off the court.”
Schubert-Raimundo was a right-side hitter this season, and Moreira a defensive specialist, but neither started and most of their contributions came behind the scene.
“They knew what their role was going to be and they executed it,” Luppi added. “Neither one had a huge role on the court or got a ton of playing time, but you never saw that affect them in any way. They were positive and level-headed seniors.”