KP Volleyball Team’s Tourney Run a Gallant Effort
The 2021 King Philip volleyball team, which finished with an overall record of 22-2, advanced to the State Tournament’s Final Four.
By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer
The winter sports season is just around the corner but it would be an injustice not to recognize an autumn team that had a fabulous regular season and competed gallantly for a State championship.
Hats off to the King Philip volleyball squad.
All the Warriors did was compile a regular season record of 19-1, share their fifth Kelly-Rex Division championship with Franklin, and advance in the Division 2 Tournament to the State semifinals where they lost to Hopkinton. The Hillers won the opening game, 25-18, lost the second, 23-25, then closed out KP by margins of 25-8 and 25-21.
KP’s run to the semifinals came after 3-0 victories over Chicopee Comprehensive, Notre Dame Academy (Hingham) and Woburn. The tournament’s championship match (Westboro vs. Hopkinton) was played after Local Town Pages deadline.
“Hopkinton executed very well,’’ said KP coach Kristen Geuss. “They’re a really good team and really strong. They displayed lots of skills, technical ability and athleticism.’’
Geuss was pleased the way her squad rallied after losing the first game. “We bounced back to tie the match but losing the third game, 25-8, was very uncharacteristic of our team. Hopkinton wrapped it up in the fourth game. They just played better than us.’’
The second-seeded Warriors opened the tourney against Chicopee Comprehensive and cruised to a 3-0 triumph (25-9, 25-11, 25-7). “That matchup gave us a taste of what the tourney would be like,’’ said Geuss. “We got our feet wet.’’
The next two teams provided KP with some spirited competition. The Warriors registered a 3-0 decision against Notre Dame by scores of 25-12, 25-12, 25-17, and their victory over Woburn included margins of 25-21, 25-11, and 25-12.
“The scores of the Notre Dame sets don’t reflect how competitive that match was,’’ Geuss said. “And, against Woburn, we had a challenging start. We just had to settle down and play our game.’’
The three wins enabled KP to take home a plaque that recognized it for advancing to the State’s Final Four. The trio of victories basically singled out the Warriors as Sectional champs.
Against third-seeded Hopkinton, which entered the State semifinals unbeaten at 23-0, the Warriors met a formidable foe. Geuss, however, was upbeat and very proud of her squad, which was the first in the program’s history to get to the State’s Final Four. It also finished with the best record in school history (22-2).
“It’s been a memorable season,’’ Geuss emphasized. “I’m proud of the way the girls worked and the way they stayed focused. They hung in all season, played competitively and gave it everything they had. They’re effort was super.’’
Immediately after KP’s elimination, Geuss said her emotion was one of sadness. “I was sad the season ended but I told the girls what I’ll miss most is seeing them in practice two hours a day, six days a week. It was a fun season and I had the pleasure of watching them develop.’’
During the regular season and in the playoffs, Geuss’ squad relied on a style that was fundamental and on a plethora of strengths that produced positive results. “Our style stressed playing straight-up volleyball and that means good passing, strong hitting and smart sets,’’ Geuss said. “We strived to not only play well, but to play within ourselves. Our practices emphasized proper technique and mechanics.’’
The Warriors’ assets included a high volleyball IQ, athleticism, speed, quickness and mental and physical toughness. “Besides relying on fundamentals, we had players who had experience and players who provided depth,’’ Geuss emphasized.
The leadership team gets high marks for the role it played and for the results it generated. The three captains included senior setter Stella Bailey and two outside hitters — senior Liv Carey and junior Ahunna James.
“The trio led by example and by being vocal and supportive,’’ Geuss said. “They worked hard and were very organized.
“Stella was our quarterback on offense. A strong server with a high volleyball IQ, she was instinctive and read the court well. Liv was a steady, solid presence who was capable of making a key play. She was consistent and never got rattled. Ahunna was powerful, strong, and a good blocker who also was able to end the point quickly.’’
Senior libero Samantha Asprelli was lauded by Geuss for her demeanor and passing ability. “Samantha was calm and consistent,’’ Geuss noted. “She dominated the back row and her great passing enabled us to set up so many plays.’’
A pair of junior middle hitters — Sami Shore and Emily Sawyer — were prime-time contributors.
“Sami is an incredible all-around player, one of our leading scorers,’’ Geuss said. “A smart player, she made few mistakes and maintained a positive attitude. “Emily was a first-year player but she was a high impact competitor. An incredible blocker and hitter, she also was one of our top scorers.’’
Geuss liked the way senior right-side hitter Molly O’Brien fulfilled her role. “She was efficient, steady and consistent,’’ said Geuss after wrapping up her seventh year as the Warriors’ coach. “Molly blocked well and could be counted on to make a big play.’’
Sofia Riedel and Gianna DeLorenzo, a pair of senior defensive specialists, were key cogs who delivered in clutch situations. “A consistent server, Sofia was fast and scrappy,’’ Geuss noted. “She dived relentlessly for a loose ball. Gianna was a quiet presence who filled out the back row effectively. She complemented the defense very well and was in the right place at the right time.’’
Five players who’ll be returning next year and likely will be very important components in KP’s nucleus are junior setter Kiera Hagen, junior outside hitter Olivia O’Neil, junior right side hitter Missy Canning, sophomore right side hitter Kate O’Neil, and sophomore defensive specialist Shea Mellman.
“This group makes an impact when called on,’’ Geuss offered. “Their potential is promising and their futures are bright.’’
Four girls who compiled top-notch statistics during the regular season were Shore (186 kills, 44 aces and 32 blocks); Bailey (493 set assists and 66 aces); Sawyer (156 kills and 27 blocks); and James (145 kills).
As the tourney rolled along, Geuss was acutely aware that her forces were handling pressure situations well and rising to the occasion. “The players were business-like,’’ she said. “They had their game faces on but they also were having fun and enjoying their journey.’’
No one player dominated the action. “They all stepped up when it was their time to shine,’’ Geuss said.
The personable Geuss, who has directed KP into post-season tourneys six times, is quick to credit much of the Warriors success to her jayvee and freshman coaches. “Emily Diiulis, who teaches math at the high school, has been on the staff all of my seven years,’’ she said. “First as a freshman coach and now as the jayvee coach. Carly Adams is our freshman coach. New this year, she played three years for me and also played club volleyball at UMass-Amherst.’’
Geuss’ volleyball background includes playing at Saugerties High School in New York and later competing at the collegiate level at SUNY-Cortland (State University of New York).
The head coach, her assistants and all the players deserve praise for a dynamic season. And, it’s safe to say that the 2021 edition of the KP volleyball team was all about desire, dedication and devotion to the task.