With the monkey off their collective backs, the Bourne volleyball team hopes to play with a little more calm in 2019.
“They said tonight they were playing more calm and confident,” head coach Andy Mather said following the team’s Wednesday, August 28 scrimmage against Natick.
Two years removed from falling short in the Division 3 state title game and one year after getting back to the state title game and getting over the hump, the Canalmen achieved their goal of winning a championship, but now they’ve set their sights on a new goal: getting back there.
“I think we’re a more mentally tough team this year,” Mather said. “We’re more focused in practice and a little more cohesive in practice. The last few years have bred that climate and culture.”
But the majority of this year’s 12-player roster are completely new players or those who saw relatively little playing time last season. Only senior Caitlin O’Connor and junior Kiely O’Connor saw big minutes in last year’s championship run and, with that experience, will serve as this year’s team captains.
A late addition to the captains is senior Michelle Gallerani. After seeing the senior middle hitter in the early portions of the preseason and her dedication in the offseason, Mather called a meeting with the O’Connor sisters about adding a third captain to the team.
“She should be a good asset to the team this year,” he said.
Caitlin O’Connor and Michelle are the lone seniors on the team that will have five freshman on the roster. Sarah Sweeney, Quinn Hawkes and Kendall Fortune are all freshmen who should see quality minutes this season.
Mather noted the presence of sophomore Emma Undzis at right outside hitter, whom he described as an “extremely powerful and athletic young lady.” She comes back to the team after sustaining an injury on the JV team last year.
Sophia Amaral, who saw some time on the varsity roster last year, will be the team’s top defensive specialist at the libero position. But they’ll also have a new, young starting setter who has yet to be named. With youth all over the court, particularly at the setter position, the Canalmen will have to win the serve-receive battle to be successful this season.
To get the youngsters up to speed, Bourne will host an eight-team tournament todayon Friday, August 30, with Sandwich, Falmouth, Oliver Ames, Taunton, ORR, Wareham and Plymouth North in attendance. Only Wareham and Bourne are Division 3 teams.
A change to the playoff seeding in the MIAA will hopefully help Bourne stay high in Division 3 South rankings, too. Volleyball will adopt a power seeding format used by MaxPreps.com, weighing strength of schedule in addition to overall wins. Already playing Greater New Bedford, Case, and Fairhaven twice in the South Coast Conference, the Canalmen also play New Bedford, Medfield and Ursuline Academy twice in addition to Duxbury once.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a difficult schedule. If we do what we have to do, teams will have to adjust to us,” Mather said. “I think this new system will encourage teams in the region to play stronger schedules. That’s what we’ve always done. I think it’s good.”
Bourne will put its 34-game, regular season SCC win streak on the line when the Canalmen open the season on the road against Apponequet on September 6 at 6 PM.