Two boxes checked and one to go – and it is a pretty big box.
But Carey’s unbeaten girls’ volleyball team has a chip on its shoulder just as big – a yen to chase away last year’s ghosts that has led to a title-winning 11-0 record in Conference A-2 (12-0 overall), a championship at last month’s MacArthur Tournament, and a chance to wrap a groundbreaking regular season undefeated hosting Plainedge (7-4, 9-5) in an Oct. 28 league finale.
The Lady Seahawks had also looked unbeatable last season, winning nine out the gate – but crumbled down the stretch to finish third in A-3 at 10-3, missing the playoffs. So determined were Carey’s returners not to relive the slide that even bumping up a conference this season hasn’t impeded them. After vowing in a preseason mission statement to make good on their potential, the postseason-bound Lady Seahawks have made an on-court statement to the conference, and now look to punctuate it by capping a perfect league campaign.
“There’s been a checklist of firsts this year,” said coach Nicole Sabbatino, who through five previous seasons at the post hadn’t helmed a title- or tournament-winning team. “First thing was (winning) the tournament, then becoming conference champs. The third one now would be going undefeated. The girls weren’t happy how last season ended, so they made it a goal to prove that they could be that team that beats everybody.”
As a natural byproduct of such an undertaking, Carey has practically run the table in individual stats – with four Lady Seahawks at or near the top of conference leaderboards. Outside hitter Madison Wakely is second in the conference with 126 kills, while fellow senior returners Carley Vincenzi (setter) and Sydney Ramsey (middle hitter) lead A-2 in assists (302) and blocks (31) respectively.
“Madison has had the confidence this year that I’d hoped she’d have,” Sabbatino said. “Whenever we’re in a tough spot, she wants the ball. Carley makes great choices running our offense; she finds who’s having a good day and gets them the ball. Sydney has won us games with her blocking. Sometime she puts on a show and just blocks everybody.”
Defensive specialist Sofia Barongi is second in A-2 with 39 aces. The first-year-starting sophomore has made the most of her promotion after two seasons coming off the bench. “Sofia keeps getting better and better,” Sabbatino said. “She’s stepped up to not only be our defensive star, but also our best server.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Sabbatino said she isn’t surprised at her club’s precedent-setting run. The coach saw that last year’s turn of events had not merely been forgotten, but rather had stirred something in her squad, which had a score to settle with itself.
“These girls have unfinished business,” Sabbatino said. “They felt pressure coming into this season. And rather than hiding from it, they took it on straightforward. They went on a mission. I knew this club would be good top-to-bottom.”
The coach added: “But actually, everyone’s been even better than I expected.”