LYNN — Classical volleyball coach Frank DeLuca couldn’t have asked for a better season from his Rams in 2018. All they did was win 17 of 20 matches during the regular season, make plenty of noise in the Northeastern Conference, claim another Lynn City Tournament crown and qualify for the Division 2 North state tournament. Classical’s season ended when the Rams ran into a tough Melrose team in the opening round of the tournament but, all in all, it was a season worth remembering.
“We had a very successful season,” DeLuca, entering his eighth season, said. “Every year the goal is to make the tournament. We won the Lynn City Tournament for the sixth time in seven years. We just had a tough draw in the state tournament. Melrose usually goes to the semifinal or the final in Division 2 North. It was just one of those unlucky things.”
Classical graduated a talented senior class from its 2018 roster. Among those no longer on the team are Shanelle Belmer-Barry (last year’s leading scorer), Maggie McHale (who led the Rams in assists last year) and Skyler Crayton.
“We have to replace our whole frontcourt and all our scoring because it all graduated,” DeLuca said. “We had eight seniors graduate on us. We’re hoping for some of the returning varsity players to step up.”
Leading the charge this fall are Classical’s four senior captains — Amber Crayton, Pamela Dias, Kiara Edmonds and Jean Gupton-Morrison.
DeLuca feels all four are suited to guide their teammates in the right direction.
“I think during the practices this week they’ve shown good leadership,” DeLuca said. “They’re veterans and they play multiple sports. Amber and Pamela were there with us last year. We’re hoping that Jean and Kiara can step up and lead the team.”
Juniors Cherish Nwoko and Brooke Warren along with sophomore Chloe Clement are also projected to contribute.
“The main thing is we have to find players up front because we’re replacing the whole frontcourt,” DeLuca said. “We have to find out who can play with each other. We’re looking for the spiker, the setter, things like that. A lot of times you have two good players that just can’t work well with each other. That’s how it works. We have to find some diggers. That’s an important part of the game. If you don’t have diggers, you’re in trouble.”
DeLuca said the Rams have shown plenty of dedication and a willingness to improve through the first week of the preseason.
“The girls are really hard working and they really hustle,” DeLuca said. “I’m hoping the hustle will make up for some deficiencies in other areas. The girls are working hard all the time. I think that’s going to be our best asset this year.”
The NEC will look a bit different this year with Everett, Malden, Medford, Somerville and Revere out of the picture. But with plenty of tournament contenders still in the mix, Classical will have to come ready to play when taking the court against conference opponents.
“We know the GBL teams left so we expect the usual teams will be there,” DeLuca said. “It’s going to be a very strong conference. A lot of them have a lot of returners coming back so it’ll be tough for us to match up against them. We know the typical teams, Peabody, Danvers and Marblehead will be there. We’ll do our best.”
The Rams open the season next Wednesday (5:30) at Winthrop.
“They’re excited. I’m a little nervous going into this year but the girls are excited,” DeLuca said. “Hopefully they can play well. Winthrop’s a strong team so we have our work cut out for us.”