Ashland Volleyball Hoping To Return To State Tournament
By Christopher Tremblay
Staff Sports Writer
Last fall, under the guidance of first year coach Ray Labbe, the Ashland volleyball team finished 11-9.
They found themselves qualifying for the Division 3 State Tournament where the MIAA awarded the Clockers a number eight seed. Once the tournament began, Ashland took out Montachusett 3-0 and Essex North Shore 3-1, before falling to Tewksbury in the Round of 8.
Luckily for Ashland, the team only parted ways with two seniors. Unfortunately one was Libero Sneha Yadav, who will be a big loss, but Labbe believes that the team has her spot covered and should be able to get back into the State Tournament once again.
“I expect this team to get back to at least where we were last year in the tournament with a better season record as the girls have tournament experience and did a real good job in the off season getting ready for this year,” the Clocker Coach said. “The majority of the girls play club volleyball, where they get to hear another voice other than mine, they’re getting more reps, shouldn’t have rust when our season starts and are much more confident in their game.”
Ashland will return eight athletes from last year’s squad, including two four-year varsity players in senior captains Cici Labbe and Taylor Simpson. The duo will be leading the team for the second year as captains.
Labbe was a setter last year and is moving into Yadav’s position this fall, while Simpson will play outside hitter this year after playing every possible front row position last year. The Ashland Coach noted that Labbe lead the Tri-Valley League in aces while serving, and Simpson not only can play right side hitter if needed, but she possesses a great passing skill set and defends well.
Senior Cassie Marrella, an outside hitter, is in her second season on the varsity squad and had been designated as the “Trash Collector” for her ability to hit anything that is hit her way. While Marella is the trash collector, senior Sophia Gonzales is the team’s Swiss Army Knife, doing a little bit of everything for the team and doing it consistently. She was the Clockers’ best overall server last year and that says a lot, considering Labbe was the TVL’s ace leader.
Rounding out the seniors are two second-year varsity players in middle hitter Ana Alves and right-side hitter Ashley Amershek.
The final two returning players are sophomores Siri Bachina (middle hitter) and Allie Politica (setter).
“Last year as a freshman Siri was very athletic, but also very raw. She practiced hard and this year she looks like a totally different person,” Labbe said. “Last season we knew that we were going to need a setter, so Allie stepped in. She played every single match (20 regular season games in addition to three more in the States) and that is not an easy feat, especially for a freshman.”
The Clockers will add four first-year players to this year’s squad in junior defensive specialist Aaruni Singh and sophomores Emily Collins (middle hitter), Izzy Cao (right side hitter) and Eliza Sialky (setter).
Coach Labbe, who had a heart attack after last season, finds himself still in the recovery mode, but his team has certainly made things easier for him.
“It will be a challenge this year, but the kids have been great in helping me out. I am looking forward to feeling better, but I know I won’t be 100% by the end of the season and probably not until the early part of next year,” he said.
As the Clockers work on their game with their coach, Labbe firmly believes that his team will get back to the tournament once again if they continue to serve well, run their offense, and take care of business. If they can do this he has the utmost confidence that the girls will not only get back to the Tournament and once there he is hoping that they can eclipse that round of 8 appearance from a year ago.