PEABODY — The Bishop Fenwick volleyball team had to come back from a slow start Thursday night but it was all uphill from there in a 3-0 win against Catholic Central League rival St. Mary’s. The Crusaders had to shake off some nerves in front of a large home crowd on senior night but once they got comfortable they controlled a majority of the match.
“I think with senior night a lot of the girls had some jitters,” Fenwick coach Samantha Kelly said. “I was playing two girls on the outside positions that don’t normally play. For them they were super excited.
“I said to the kids, ‘you’re going to have to face this in the tournament,'” Kelly said of the crowd. “We haven’t played in front of a good crowd all season. I definitely think it was jitters. But once we settled down we got sets that we needed and passes. We were all set from there.”
St. Mary’s got off to a hot start in the first set, but couldn’t execute its game plan start to finish. But Head coach Mike McDuffee was happy with his team including Lia Catino.
“There was a lot of movement on the court and they were flowing together in the first set,” McDuffee set. “Fenwick is a good team but they made some mistakes to leave the door open for us early. I was happy with how we let them off the hook a bit, but stopped the bleeding and put the pressure back on. I was happy with our play in the first set.
“Lia Catino is a really good role player,” McDuffee said. “She doesn’t get a lot of time on the court but when she shows up on she really does. Her serves were definitely on tonight. Her serves put us in a good position at times.”
St. Mary’s started to pull away midway through the first set. With help from a pair of aces by Alyssa Grossi the Spartans took a 9-3 lead before a Fenwick time out. The Crusaders clawed back and cut the St. Mary’s lead to 10-9, but St. Mary’s anchored down and stretched its lead back up to 17-12, forcing another Crusaders’ time out.
Fenwick came out strong again. Service points by Nicole Fitzpatrick helped the Crusaders take a 21-20 lead. From there Fenwick capitalized on some late Spartan mistakes, taking the first set 25-20.
The second set wasn’t nearly as close. St. Mary’s got out to an early 2-0 lead but it was all Fenwick from there. The Crusaders cruised to a 25-9 win to go ahead 2-0.
Both teams battled to a 9-9 tie midway through the third set before the Crusaders started to distance themselves. A St. Mary’s timeout didn’t help stop the bleeding on a 9-1 Fenwick run to put the Crusaders ahead 18-10. From there a couple nice kills from Annie Murphy helped Fenwick notch the third set at 25-14 and seal the win.
“We got back to our basics,” McDuffee said. “but Fenwick played really good in that third set. I’m not going to take anything away from them. Their right side hitter (Murphy) is a beast. A very good player and it’s very hard to defend against something like that.”
The Crusaders’ (11-5) focus is now on securing the highest seed possible for the state tournament. Fenwick closes out the regular season at Saint Joseph Prep (Friday) and Archbishop Williams (Tuesday).
“I’ve had the experience last year where we ended up around No. 11 seed and got the No. 1 in East Boston first round,” Kelly said. “They ended up being a weaker program but right after that we got the No. 3 or 4 seed and it was Arlington Catholic. I’m worried about Danvers, we already saw them this year and it was a tough one. Right now it’s all about seeding.”
St. Mary’s will close out the season against Essex Tech and Matignon before starting the Lynn City Tournament Thursday against Tech.