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Concord girls’ volleyball team stressing control during hot start

  • Concord High School girls volleyball coach Jonathan Flower cheers with his team after the first two sets of Concord's 3–0 victory over Manchester Memorial at Concord High School on Wednesday, September 11.<br/><br/>(Will Parson / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School girls volleyball coach Jonathan Flower cheers with his team after the first two sets of Concord's 3–0 victory over Manchester Memorial at Concord High School on Wednesday, September 11.

    (Will Parson / Monitor staff)

  • Concord High School's Lauren Hatch blocks a shot as the girls volleyball team beats Manchester Memorial 3–0 at Concord High School on Wednesday, September 11.<br/><br/>(Will Parson / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School's Lauren Hatch blocks a shot as the girls volleyball team beats Manchester Memorial 3–0 at Concord High School on Wednesday, September 11.

    (Will Parson / Monitor staff)

  • Concord High School girls volleyball coach Jonathan Flower cheers with his team after the first two sets of Concord's 3–0 victory over Manchester Memorial at Concord High School on Wednesday, September 11.<br/><br/>(Will Parson / Monitor staff)
  • Concord High School's Lauren Hatch blocks a shot as the girls volleyball team beats Manchester Memorial 3–0 at Concord High School on Wednesday, September 11.<br/><br/>(Will Parson / Monitor staff)

Jonathan Flower knows the way his Concord High volleyball team is perceived around Division I following a difficult stretch that’s included losing records in four of the last five seasons and bottomed out with a miserable 3-15 record last year.

“Our reputation (before the season) is that we were one of the weaker teams in the state,” he said.

Three matches into the season, it’s been clear that this is a different Crimson Tide team to reckon with. Concord’s started in style, opening with a 3-0 win over Nashua South before beating Londonderry, 3-1, and Manchester Memorial, 3-0, yesterday.

After winning three matches over the course of an entire fall, Concord had won that many this year while the temperatures were still in the 90s. What’s different?

“Everything comes out of ball control,” Flower said. “Every practice, we start with passing. … If we can’t pass the ball, then nothing good’s going to happen. But if we control the ball, then everything seems to flow from that.”

The Tide’s been doing a good job of that, and it’s made the difference as Concord has been competitive despite fielding a roster marked with youth and varsity inexperience. The Tide has only two seniors on the team – outside hitter Claire Celestin and defensive specialist Alison Quinn – and Flower said both have taken on leadership roles, despite managing them in different ways.

“On the court, they both just have a maturity about them,” he said. “(Alison’s) more lead-by-example than anything else. Claire has become the leader of the team in terms of spirit, drive, pushing them to get better while she pushes herself.”

The rest of the Tide roster reflects talent as well as youth. Concord has three freshmen in the starting lineup in setter Caitlyn Shea and hitters Lauren Hatch and Rebekah Jauhola-Straight, and the rest of the lineup features junior hitter Heidi Breton, sophomore hitters Cailin Casey, Samantha Turner and Sydney McClellan and sophomore defensive specialist Shea Mathews, with juniors Molly Emerson and Erica Towne also getting minutes on the floor.

And all have responsibilities to attend to when they step on the court.

“Every single player needs to be able to bump, every single player needs to be able to set the ball,” Flower said. “They all need to be competent at that. We pretty much run a third of our practice focused on just that.”

The emphasis on control and discipline has improved his players’ teamwork, Flower said, both offensively and defensively.

“Usually you think of passing the ball as just being the back row,” he said, “but one of the things that’s been really good about this team is we’re integrating both the back row passing and the front row’s really stepped up too. So far … we’ve had some great floor coverage because we really are able to stretch out our defense.”

As hot a start as it’s been for the Tide, Flower does expect the season to get tougher. He said teams will realize Concord’s improved and start playing harder, understanding it’s no longer the easy win it was before.

But the coach also has confidence he has the team to deal with those growing obstacles.

“I think as people start to realize (the losing ways are) changing, they’re going to get a little more up for our game,” he said. “I would like to make the second round of the playoffs, and be in the top side of the bracket. I would love to host the first round of the playoffs, and then go as deep as we can.”

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or at abonifant@cmonitor.com, or via Twitter @dbonifant.)

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