Photo: Belmont High’s Sophia Qin (12) and Sonya Ivkovic (13) set up the block against Winchester
For half of the 2022 season, the Belmont High volleyball team resembled a rock band promoting its new album: they were on the road a lot.
With a month delay to the renovation of the Wenner Field House, the Marauders found themselves without a home until the first week in October, which was only to see
“Being on the road early on meant there was a lot of scrambling to figure things out not just games but also practices,” said Belmont head coach Jen Couture.
And when the team finally decamped into the revamped field house, “we had to make a lot of adjustments early on. It took a little while to get settled into our routines and figuring out what we were doing,” she said.
Through all the hours on the highway away from their home court, the Marauders came through with tough wins in their final two matches – both at home against Arlington (3-1) and Lexington (3-1)- to pull out the 28th ranking in the MIAA Division 1 state tournament with a 10-9 record.
Their reward? A two-hour bus trip to Cape Cod to meet powerhouse Barnstable High in a first-round encounter on Friday, Nov. 4 at 5 p.m. The 16-2 Red Hawks have been perennial visitors to the tournament’s final four, winning state championships in 2015 and 2016.
Despite a somewhat chaotic start of the season, the Marauders began building into the squad that made the playoffs.
“It was halfway into the season when we started having regular practice times and started getting into a groove, when we could push ourselves every day and just enjoy that we had a set schedule that’s not changing everyday,” said Couture.
That improvement came as the Marauders tackled a competitive stretch of its schedule.
“The first time we played Winchester [which won the Middlesex League Liberty Division at 16-2], we were still kind of shaky. We weren’t sure what we were doing together. But the second time, I felt like we put up a great fight. We really made them have to beat us. It was great volleyball to watch,” she said.
Couture pointed to sophmore Bella Radojevic’s all-around effort in the final games as key to stablizing the team.
“[Radojevic’s] defense really shown in these games while her hitting has been happening all season and she’s also one of our strongest servers,” said Couture, while also calling out Libero Gabby Hashioka whose digging “hass been really solid all over the court, laying out all the time.” Against Winchester, Hashioka was challenged from the Sachems’ hard hitting front line but “she did not back down.”
Against Barnstable, Couture will rely on her experience – there are six seniors and five juniors on this year’s team – and an improving defense to keep the Marauders in the game.