Pamela Diaz led a strong Rams serving game in the win over English. (Item File Photo)

Classical serves itself a tournament bid

LYNN — The Classical volleyball team needed a win in Tuesday's match to clinch a spot in the state tournament. Standing in Classical's way was a pesky English team that was looking to play spoiler.

The Bulldogs were puzzled by Classical's stout serving game, which led the Rams to a 3-0 straight-set win at home.

"What I've seen happen time and time again to our team, as wonderful as we are, is we tend to get rattled by a really strong server," English coach Mike Haddad said. "We start losing five, six, points in a row and it's tough to bounce back from that."

Set scores were 25-12, 25-10, 25-6.

"It took us a while to get the win that put us in the state tournament," Classical coach Frank DeLuca said. "We won a few matches in a row to get to nine wins and then we lost a few in a row. We played some really tough teams. It's good to get the win tonight and not have to worry about it."

The Rams (10-7), celebrating their senior night on Tuesday at Classical, took control after falling behind early in the first set. English (1-13) stormed out to a 6-3 lead in the first set, forcing Classical to take an early timeout. The Rams took advantage of English mistakes and regrouped in time to take the set, 25-12.

"It was a nice start," Haddad said. "We were leading 6-3 with a nice, strong start. Unfortunately, the theme of our season is that our mental game starts to break. In any sport, you need your mental game to be as strong as your physical game."

Behind strong serves from Pamela Diaz, Classical jumped out to a 10-0 start in set two. English couldn't climb out of the deficit and dropped the set, 25-10.

"Coming into tonight, Pamela was second in the NEC in aces," DeLuca said. "She came out in the third set and went crazy with nine aces in a row."

Down two sets, English needed a late rally to climb back into the match. Classical raced out to a 7-1 advantage in set three and never looked back. The Rams won the set, 25-6.

For Classical, Diaz finished the match with 17 aces and Yaritza Zorrilla added seven aces. Skyler Crayton led the team with four kills while Shanelle Belmer-Barry and Maggie McHale each added three kills.

For English, Haddad highlighted Sarah Abdelrahman and Chrisneiris Difo for strong performances.

"Sarah has consistently been one of our strongest players," Haddad said. "She had six aces tonight. She's a strong all-around player and she played well defensively at the net.

"Chrisneiris is a true leader of this team," Haddad said. "She plays with a lot of heart. She's also a strong server and a good hitter, and really good defensively at the net."

Both teams are back in action on Thursday when the Rams visit Beverly and the Bulldogs troop to Marblehead. Classical and English will then step into the Lynn City Tournament which begins on Friday at St. Mary's.

The Rams have won the city tournament four out of the last five seasons and will hope to repeat their success this year.

"That's our number two goal," DeLuca said. "First is to get into states and then it's to win the city tournament. We know St. Mary's is strong. There's four good teams that are all competitive and anything can happen."

English, on the other hand, would like to end the season on a high note and potentially get another crack at Classical in the tournament's championship game.

"We have St. Mary's in the first round," Haddad said. "My ultimate hope is to get another crack at Classical. Hopefully we take St. Mary's and Classical takes Tech so we can see them again in the finals."

Prior to Tuesday's match, the Rams held a pregame ceremony to honor the seniors on both teams. The Rams have eight seniors on their roster in Zorrilla, Alytah Noum, Lyla Nguyen, Selisha Pimentel, Emily Silva, Marymil Gonzalez, Janessa Fernandez and Rhode Alcindor.

"We have a really good group of seniors," DeLuca said. "They brought great leadership this season. Six of our eight seniors are on the National Honors Society and we're really proud of that. We have quality seniors on this team and they led the way."

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