D2 volleyball: Melrose 3, Longmeadow 1

NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. – The plan for Melrose volleyball’s designs on Saturday’s Division 2 state championship match began immediately after last year’s title game.

“Last year, after the match ended, we all look at each other and we knew that we didn’t finish,” Red Raiders senior Sarah McGowan said. “We didn’t go out there and give it a 100 percent. So learning from that, we knew this was the last game of the season, the last game of my career, so I really wanted to come and win this last one.”

In last year’s final match, Melrose dropped a heartbreaker to Marlborough. Immediately following that ordeal, the Red Raiders planned on returning to Algonquin Regional and carried through that goal on Saturday.

However, this time the result was different and Melrose claimed its first volleyball title with a 3-1 victory over Longmeadow – 25-17, 24-26, 25-19, 25-10.

“Every year, this is our ultimate goal,” Melrose head coach Scott Celli said. “But we’ve never done it before, I’m just so proud. This is definitely the highlight of it all. This is one of my favorite teams that I’ve ever had. They’ve had one goal all year and that was to win this game.”

The Red Raiders came out in a furry, breezing through the first game; the second was another matter.

Longmeadow saw senior hitters Jennifer Hurwitz (7 kills) and Amanda Tyler (11 kills) begin to take control in the second. Hurwitz capped the Lancers’ 26-24 win with two straight kills.

In Game Three, Melrose returned to its aggressive style.

“That style of play, they weren’t able to handle,” Celli said. “Our block was unbelievable in Game Four was unbelievable. I thought the play of Jen Cain and Rachel Johnson tonight was fabulous. Our back row in Game Three and Four was phenomenal. Give credit to our serving, too, that put them on their heels.”

Cain led the Red Raiders with 11 kills, while McGowan was also in the double-digits with 10. Senior Brooke Bell, who earlier this season set Melrose’s all-time career assists record, dished out a game-high 26 assists.

To finish it out, the Red Raiders kicked it into another gear, jumping out a 16-point lead at one juncture before closing out a 25-10 victory.

“Game Four, I don’t know what got into them, but they were playing a different level,”Celli said. “They were hungry this year.”

In return, Melrose’s senior were driven to deliver that elusive state title for their head coach.

“He’s an amazing coach, he’s a great guy, he’s a good friend and he’s always been there for us,” McGowan said of Celli. “This is the one we wanted for him. He’s put countless hours into practice and game-planning, and he’s helped make us better players, better people. So to be able to finish my senior year and give him this, he deserves it.”