Despite graduating five talented players from last year’s team, is expected to contend again for the girls volleyball Division I state title.
Gone from last year’s squad are middle blocker Maria Saia, outside hitter Tessa Jacobs, right side hitter Lauren Palazzini, middle blocker Tara Murray and libero Sarah Manupelli.
Saia, Jacobs and Palazzini garnered post-season honors. Not many programs could lose players of that caliber and sustain an elite level of performance, but not many programs have the depth and ability to groom young players that Mount has.
Leading the Mounties this season will be senior outside hitter Kelsey Lace. She was the only non-senior to be named first team all-state last year. Senior Jessie Connaughton and junior Carissa Gould return as the starting setters. Seniors Danielle Lippacher and Meg Reilly, who received significant court time last year at middle blocker and libero respectively, return as well.
The other positions will be filled by players who are ready to make the leap from junior varsity.
“Our JV team went undefeated last year and is used to playing together, so we expect these girls to step in and get right up to speed with what we are doing,” said head coach Josh D’Abate.
Replacing Jacobs on the outside will be junior Meaghan Walsh, who was named MVP of the JV state championship last year.
“Meaghan could have started on most teams as a sophomore on the outside and will pose a big challenge for opposing defenses,” stated D’Abate.
Junior Kim D'Alessandro will fill the second middle blocker position.
“Kim has worked hard all off-season to get better and is a consistent presence on the court,” D’Abate said.
Juniors Kelsey Gainor and Erin Potter will both see playing time on the right side.
“Kelsey can do a little bit of everything,” said D’Abate. “Erin will provide a steady offensive attack at the net.”
Lindsey Morin will challenge for the starting libero spot.
“Lindsey has positioned herself to start for us,” D’Abate said about the junior. “She reads the court extremely well, has great footwork defensively and is aggressive to the ball.”
Last year, Mount finished the regular season undefeated (14-0), but suffered a heart-breaking two-point loss to Prout in the semifinals. While the returning players surely recall the disappointing defeat, D’Abate insisted it won’t be used as motivation.
“This is a new year with new players, so it's not something that will be brought up,” said D’Abate. “Our goals every year are the same: to make the playoffs, host a playoff match, advance to URI and then win the state championship.”
“Ultimately, our focus is on winning the title, but along the way we strive to become a strong team who can play and grow as one,” added Connaughton. “We will take it one game at a time, constantly pushing ourselves to become better players.”
Connaughton and Lace were voted as team captains by their peers.
“I am honored that my teammates chose me to be one of their captains for the upcoming season,” said Connaughton. “Whether I am on the court, on the bench or in the hallways at school, I will be there to support my team every step of the way.”