Volleyball: Belmont Puts A Scare Into Melrose In Five Set Thriller

Photo: Action with Belmont High Volleyball.

On Monday, Columbus Day, Belmont High Volleyball traveled to Watertown and beat the Raiders three sets to zero (25-17, 25-9, 25-23) to up its record to 5-6, exceeding the number of victories last years campaign.

But Belmont Head Coach Jen Couture would instead talk about a lose from last week. In a thrilling home match held at Wenner Field House, Belmont was upended in a five-set marathon, 22-25, 25-11, 23-25, 25-18, 15-8, to perennial Middlesex League Freedom champs Melrose on Thursday, Oct. 5.

Melrose is once again cruising through its regular season, at 13-0, and had not been extended to five sets since the previous year. That was until they met the Marauders.

“It was an amazing match,” said Couture. “Melrose has just historically been so dominant that we usually go into the match with hopes of taking a set and when we took the first set it was little surreal.”
Sophia Estok broke the one-game record for digs with 43 (besting the 40 successful serves received she set vs. Lexington) having done a great job reading the Raiders hitters. “She’s a very smart player who learns from every kill and adjusts to prevent another.” Leah Babroudi and Mindee Lai were next in digs with 21 and 17 respectively.
Jane Mahon and Lai led the offense with 10 and 7 kills, and Jen Tan chipped in 7 service aces.
Couture pointed to Lai’s overall contribution to the team’s effort on the court.
“The match … highlighted Lai’s athleticism as she also recorded three blocks and a couple of pancake [saves],” said Couture. “Lai is on the court 100 percent of the time, through many four and five set matches, chasing down every shanked ball and making great plays. It’s no wonder her teammates refer to her as ‘the Machine’.”
After winning the fourth set by seven points, Belmont was entering into well-worn territory.
“This was our fourth five-set match [of the season]” – recently defeating Wayland and Lexington in five – “but it was the first one where you could really notice the fatigue, due to the many long rallies throughout the match.  Melrose setter came out serving strong, going on a nine-point run to push its lead to 0-9. 
“I was afraid that we had given up, assuming Melrose was going to win because we had never known anything else. The set continued 2-10, 4-12, and at 5-14 before Lai came back to serve. 
Despite match point, “Lai served aggressively and consistently making it difficult for Melrose to set up a kill bringing the team to 8-14 when ultimately during a long rally Melrose setter put the ball away,” said Couture. 
“The run came just a little too late. But for those four points, something changed, and we all started to believe anything was possible. The biggest take away from the game was if we play our smart and consistently aggressive game, we can compete with any team in our league,” she said.
With a playoff berth within reach, Couture suggests a change in her line up with an eye on the future.
“Some Junior Varsity hitters have been dressing and participating in varsity matches, and I think we will be seeing some of them in more matches, to give our starters little rest so they can continue to play at their highest level until the very last point,” she said.
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