Volleyball: After tight first set, Coe-Brown pulls away to sweep Winnisquam


Monitor staff

Published: 09-13-2023 1:00 AM

NORTHWOOD – The first set had all the makings of a five-set classic. The score was either tied or visiting Winnisquam (1-3) held the advantage the entire way, until Coe-Brown (4-0) stormed back to take a 19-18 lead and ultimately win the set, 25-23. The Bears won sets two and three with a little less drama, 25-17 and 25-13.

Now 4-0, the defending Division II runners-up seem to have picked up right where they left off last year, despite having graduated nine seniors from that team. 

Here are three notes from Tuesday night’s matchup:

Coe-Brown relying on versatility for success

Head coach Renee Zobel loves versatility. Players that can play all over the court make her life so much easier because she can tinker with lineups and rotations to best suit the team against different opponents. On Tuesday, she tried out a lineup she hadn’t used yet this year. Uncharacteristically, the team didn’t adapt right away.

“You could feel a little bit of tension tonight like they were afraid to make mistakes,” Zobel said. “We’re all about making nice big, aggressive mistakes, so that started to turn on as we went through the match. Definitely a tentative start for us. It’s a nice scrappy team over there.”

After the shakier beginning, the Bears never seemed in danger of losing, commanding positioning and responding time and again when Winnisquam defended difficult shots.

“Coe-Brown keeps hitting, and we didn’t generate enough offense to stay with them,” Winnisquam head coach Mike Livernois said. “I thought we did a nice job on defense. There were plays where we made three or four or five saves, and put the ball over three or four times, but in the end, we couldn't stop the attack despite how well we played on defense.”

After waiting in the wings, some Bears seize playing time

Coe-Brown graduated nine seniors off of last year’s team, so that meant several players – even some upperclassmen – were blocked from seeing the floor. With so many openings created with the mass departure, that’s meant more opportunities for players who were previously relegated to giving it their all in practice, but not having a chance to bring it to games.

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“We had kids that were wonderful volleyball players who were just in line behind a couple of seniors,” Zobel said. “Emma Zeblisky who has played opposite previously and is playing outside for us so far this year is a very flexible player. She didn’t see much time at all last year, and I know that was hard on her, but she’s ready now. Same thing with our setter Mackenzie Nadeau. Saw very little time last year, frustrating for her, but she learned how to embrace practicing really hard to get ready for filling some big shoes after three of our setters graduated last year.”

Zeblisky tied with senior Annie Jerome with seven kills to lead the way for the Bears on Tuesday. Jerome also topped the stat sheet with 23 assists; Zeblisky added 16 of her own. 

Winnisquam deals with injury, future still bright for the Bears

The turning point in Livernois’ mind was late in the first set when senior Triniti Carter left the game after turning her ankle. Winnisquam had controlled play up until that point. After she left the game, momentum seemed to abruptly shift to the other side of the floor.

“I was playing different combinations, and this is not the time to be trying new combinations out in the middle of a match that you really haven’t worked with,” Livernois said. “It is what it is. We'll regroup.”

For the Bears’ coach, 2023 marks the beginning of his third stint in this position. He’d held it previously from 1987 to 2001 and from 2010 to 2020. Winnisquam High School’s always been home for him – he even attended as a student – and now that he’s retired from teaching, he’s back for another go around, hoping to build the program back.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” he said. “With the seniors who've played for four years and had four different coaches, there hasn't been a lot of continuity, so you're changing things, and restructuring and asking kids to change the way that they've learned things, and that's hard. I think the longer I’m there, the more continuity we’ll build, and I’ll think we'll see the results we're looking for.”