Classical grabs a much needed win

Lila Nguyen bumps the ball as Selisha Pimentel looks on. (Item Photo by Katie Morrison)

LYNN — It took a set or two to truly find its rhythm, but once it did, the Classical volleyball team cruised to a 3-0 win over Salem at home Thursday afternoon.

The victory pulls the Rams (4-3) over .500 for the first time this season, and coach Frank DeLuca said this was a must-win.

“We started out playing three of the toughest teams in the league (Medford, Marblehead and Danvers),” he said. “This was a really important game, we had to win it. It was just one of those games.”

The first set was a battle. The scoring went back-and-forth early, until Classical’s Rhode Alcindor came through with a block and kill to make it 5-4 Rams. Four service points from captain Emily Silva helped create some distance for Classical at 9-4, but Salem hung around throughout the set.

That’s when Shanelle Barry stepped up to put it away for the Rams. Barry had three kills late in the set, with her last one making it 20-14 Rams. Classical didn’t look back from there, with a kill from Maggie McHale and five service points from Tobin to wrap up set one, 25-16.

“In the first set, it was really Shanelle and Emily who came out of nowhere to come through,” DeLuca said. “Shanelle, it seemed like she had three kills in a row there, it turned the tide of the whole set. Emily comes through, she’s been solid and contributing every game.”

Classical sprinted out to a sizable lead in the middle set, and while Salem clawed its way back in, the Rams stayed in control throughout.

After the Rams staked a 7-1 lead, the Witches made it a game at 10-7. An ace from Barry made it 11-7, and a big block from Cecilia Graff Hodges kept Salem in it at 12-8. But then Alytah Noum stepped to the line for Classical and delivered eight service points to help the Rams build a 20-9 lead.

“Alytah really saved us there,” DeLuca said. “It was a close game up until that point.”

After Salem got a point back, Noum again made a big play for Classical, diving to save a ball and sending it over for the point. Pamela Diaz followed with an ace, and from there the Rams turned it on to close out the set, 25-11.

The Classical service game was on display in set three. Diaz took over, racking up 16 service points, including four aces, to mount a 16-0 lead for the Rams. The run ended on a service error, but Joshua Severe continued the momentum with an ace for Classical to make it 17-1. Noum came up with another nice dig to keep a volley alive, and the Rams held off the Witches to win, 25-10.

“I think our team is built around servers, we have one of the best set of servers in the league,” said DeLuca, who added that defaulting on serves is what troubled the Rams in the first two sets. “Pamela came through there, once she gets them in, they’re aces. She’s so good that she doesn’t have to do too much.”

For the match, McHale and Barry led the way with four kills each. Shanelle added six digs, while Diaz added five and Noum and Silva both had four.

The schedule gets tougher from here for Classical. The Rams will take on rival English this afternoon, then Winthrop and Swampscott next week.

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