PHOTO BY DAVID LE
Peabody’s Emily Diezemann (left) and Lynnfield’s Emma Mancini (right) were two of Endicott volleyball’s key players this season.
By JOSH KUMMINS
Right from the start, the Endicott College women’s volleyball team had to overcome adversity this season.
The team lost starting middle blockers Hayley Knapp and Kelli Sugrue ― both rising seniors ― unexpectedly.
Enter Emily Diezemann.
“Since both of the starting positions on the team were available, I knew I had to work harder to prove to the coaches that I had what it took, and keep improving as the season went on,” said Diezemann, a Peabody native. “I feel like I accomplished that.”
Diezemann and Lynnfield’s Emma Mancini played in all 34 matches as sophomores, helping Endicott to its fifth Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) championship in program history and first since 2008.
“We had the deepest, most competitive roster we’ve had, in probably forever,” head coach Tim Byram said. “Our practices were stronger and depth was better. We had some injuries, but we didn’t skip a beat when someone else was ready to step in, which led to a great season.”
Expectations were high in Beverly entering the fall as the Gulls finished 24-10 last year, winning the ECAC New England title for the first time ever after losing a five-set CCC semifinal match to rival Gordon.
The battle-tested Gulls used last year’s postseason experience as a building block, and took a step ahead. They did not lose a match in CCC play, going 9-0 during the regular season before sweeping through the postseason with victories over Curry, Salve Regina and Western New England, all in straight sets.
“There were a lot of high hopes for us as a team because we were going to have so many girls,” Diezemann said. “Being the strong team that we are, with good chemistry, we knew that we had potential to go far this season.”
Potential turned into reality for the Gulls, and both local players were strong contributors.
Mancini finished her second season with 248 total kills, hitting double-digits in that category in four of her final five matches. Endicott dropped a 3-1 decision to Springfield College in its NCAA opener Friday, but Mancini swung through a career-high 19 kills while also recording four digs and three assists.
Despite an early NCAA exit, the Gulls were pleased with their CCC performance and felt overcoming the obstacles of the early season paid as the matches grew bigger.
“It gave us confidence because we were able to play really well when we knew we needed to,” Mancini said. “Obviously, we had ups and downs as any team does, but our team found a way to come together during the conference season and that’s why we were able to be so successful.”
The losses of Knapp and Sugrue forced Diezemann into a starting role a year earlier than expected, but she jumped at the chance, registering 86 kills and 50 total blocks.
While the seniors played key roles in Diezemann’s development, she echoed Byram’s comments in that members of the team were quick to adapt to new roles and help contribute to overall goals.
“(Knapp and Sugrue) were the role models for me, so they set the example for what effort needed to be put into being a starter, and they helped me with my game as well,” Diezemann said. “Not having them there for their last year impacted the team, but not in a bad way, and it gave us an opportunity to improve and play.”
Bryam expected an adjustment period for Diezemann following her high school career and entering a starting role this season, but the Gulls’ 17th-year head coach was excited about her progress and contributions to the team.
“She is a very hard worker,” Byram said. “The level of her high school program was a lot different than college ball, so there was going to be an adjustment. … She did everything she was supposed to do, was extremely competitive and coachable. That’s easy to work with.”
There were obstacles to overcome, but Diezemann and Mancini were keys to Endicott’s success and developing a ‘can do it’ attitude from the outset of the season.
“We had to keep that mindset that this is our time,” Diezemann said, “and go into every match like we had all season, knowing we could do it.”
Names and notes
- Revere’s Mohamed Kenawy netted the game-winning goal and added an assist as the UMass Boston men’s soccer team topped Kean by a 3-0 score for its first-ever NCAA Tournament victory Saturday.
- Peabody’s Heather MacLean of the UMass women’s cross country team finished 39th out of 254 runners at Friday’s NCAA Northeast Regional Championships in Bronx, N.Y. Two weeks earlier, MacLean became the first Minutewoman to win an individual Atlantic-10 championship since 2007.
- Antonia Pagliuca of Peabody helped the Assumption College women’s cross country team qualify for its first-ever NCAA Division II national title this coming Saturday in Tampa, Fla., after placing fifth out of 191 competitors at last weekend’s NCAA East Region Championships.
- Lynnfield’s Andrew Kibarian capped off his Stonehill College football career with five tackles and a pass breakup in a season-ending, 38-21 win at Bentley. Peabody native and Bishop Fenwick grad Nick Bona finished his junior season as the Skyhawks’ leading tackler, posting 42 of his 76 stops solo. Bona recorded six tackles and returned an interception 28 yards on Saturday.
- Marblehead native and St. John’s Prep grad Owen Rockett caught his fourth touchdown pass of the season in the Colgate University football team’s 38-17 win over Lafayette, a mark that ties him for tops among the Raiders. Rockett made four catches for 93 yards in the victory, including the 19-yard score and a 48-yarder in the first quarter.
- Saugus’ Mike Vecchione posted his third consecutive multi-point game Friday night as the Union College hockey team skated to a 2-2 draw with St. Lawrence. The Malden Catholic grad still leads all Division I players with 26 points on the season, including 14 goals.
- Marblehead’s Jake Kulevich handed out his fourth assist of the season for the Colgate University hockey team on Saturday, but the Raiders dropped a 4-2 decision to Brown. The captain also ranks fourth on the team with 22 blocked shots.
- The North Shore Navigators announced ten players signed to return to the team for the 2017 Futures Collegiate Baseball League season, including UMass Boston sophomore Bobby Tramondozzi of Peabody and Framingham State junior Al Wallach, a Nahant native and Swampscott High grad.