High school volleyball previews: Concord alum, former player Wimpey takes over at alma mater

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL and DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 09-01-2023 11:25 PM

It wasn’t that long ago that Concord High volleyball’s new head coach, Maria Wimpey, took the floor at the Concord High gymnasium donning the Crimson Tide jersey herself.

A little more than five years after she graduated and with a collegiate volleyball career at Plymouth State University behind her, she’s prepared to take over a team that finished last season 8-11, losing in the preliminary round of the Division I playoffs.

“I’ve always been in love with the sport. It’s one of my favorite things to do,” Wimpey said. “I’m back at home, so being able to come back as an alumni and coaching a sport that I love, that’s kind of what drew me back to it.”

Wimpey played a key role in the Tide’s success while she was at CHS from 2014-17. She was a senior captain in 2017 when Concord went 15-5 and made the quarterfinals. In her junior season, Wimpey and her teammates went 18-3, reaching the D-I championship before falling to Hollis-Brookline.

Concord dealt with an up-and-down season in 2022 – winning four in a row, immediately followed by four consecutive losses in the middle of the season – and improved consistency will surely be a focus this fall. It should help that the Tide will return 11 players from last year’s team.

Included in that group are seniors Sarah Taylor and Ava Trento as well as junior Maddie Mikkelson at the libero position.

So far, Wimpey said, she’s been impressed with the team’s depth and the number of good hitters she has on the roster. Serve receive remains the biggest area of focus.

“You can’t get the ball to those hitters if you don’t have a good serve receive,” Wimpey said.

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This will also be the first year Concord has a freshman team, in addition to JV and varsity. It not only speaks to a bright future ahead for the program overall; it’s provided an added emphasis for Wimpey to help the players understand the community she wants to build.

“My whole goal for them is to create a culture where everyone is involved and everyone is making this a positive environment,” she said. “Being able to make sure that they understand that it’s one big community and not three individual teams is what’s really going to help and really build our program.”

Concord opened the season at Bishop Guertin on Friday (score not available at press time), with its first home game on Sept. 8 against Alvirne.

COE-BROWN

Division: II.

Coach: Renee Zobel (sixth year).

Last year: 17-2, D-II runner-up.

Returning starters: Haile Comeau, jr., DS/L; Annika Gunderson, sr., MB/OPP; Annie Jerome, sr., OH; Mackenzie Nadeau, sr., S; Emma Zeblisky, jr., OH/OPP

Top newcomers: Sara Davis, sr., OPP/S/MB; Courtney Morris, sr., DS; Stella Vachon, jr., MB

Outlook: The Bears graduated nine players from last year’s D-II runner-up team that lost to rivals Oyster River in a 3-2 thriller in the championship match. But the players who are returning are incredibly versatile, solid on defense and aggressive on offense.

“We come into this season after losing nine awesome seniors, but we’ve gained seven players who bring an incredible amount of range and versatility and have hit the ground running,” Zobel said. “We have so many options we’ve had an opportunity to dial in on during the preseason, with many players jumping right into multiple positions seamlessly. I’m so proud to be partnering with this group and can’t wait to see the growth and development of the team over the course of the season. We look forward to another season fighting for success one ball at a time.”

Teams to beat: Oyster River, St. Thomas, Milford.

JOHN STARK

Division: II.

Coach: Alisha Flanagan (second year).

Last year: 14-4, reached semifinals.

Returning starters: Abby Duclos, sr., OH; Natalie Jensen, sr., OH

Top newcomers: Jenna Sinclair, so., MH; Olivia Nock, sr., S; Merisa Nock, sr., L

Outlook: The Generals only have two returning starters but have some talented newcomers who can keep Stark competitive with the top teams in the division. Duclos and Jensen bring experience and skill to the outside hitting positions, while Flanagan describes Sinclair as a “powerhouse” in the middle of the floor. The Nock sisters will run the defense and offense as the primary libero and setter, respectively.

“We are looking at building some confidence on the court, but we have a scrappy team with a lot of potential,” Flanagan said. “With some hard work, we are definitely looking to compete with some of the top teams this year.”

Teams to beat: Oyster River, St. Thomas, Winnisquam.

WINNISQUAM

Division: II.

Coach: Mike Livernois (26th year total, first year back).

Last year: 9-8, reached prelims.

Returning starters: Triniti Carter, sr., OH; Lucy Prunier, sr., S; Bella Dill, jr., DS; Alyse Damato, sr., OH

Top newcomers: Caiden Carter, sr., OH; Loralie Nelson, jr., DS; Gianna Ball, jr., DS/S; Shayla Jordan, jr., DS; Alyssa Hamberg, jr., OH

Outlook: After two previous coaching stints at Winnisquam (1987-2001 and 2010-2020 as the varsity head coach), Livernois is back for his 26th season after spending a year at Moultonborough. His third time with the Bears will be different, however, as this is his first foray into D-II volleyball.

“I have been pleased with the improvement in the team throughout the preseason,” Livernois said. “The girls have worked very hard to implement a new offense, and I think we can be competitive with the teams in the division. … I am unfamiliar with some of the teams in the division, but I am looking forward to the challenge.”

Teams to beat: Oyster River, Winnisquam.

BELMONT

Division: III.

Coach: Andy Edgren (third year).

Last year: 5-11, did not make tournament.

Returning starters: Sophia Gilbert, jr., S; Mariah McKim, jr., OH; Megan Dutton, jr., L; Olivia Chandonnait, so., OH; Sam Armstrong, sr., RSH

Outlook: The Raiders fell just one game shy of qualifying for the playoffs, but Belmont has five returning starters and are joined by a number of new underclassmen who “are poised to propel their team to the next level,” according to Edgren.

CONCORD CHRISTIAN

Division: III.

Coach: Doug Oxford (first year).

Last year: 5-12, reached prelims.

Returning starters: Evelyn Doan, so., S/RS; Abby Heizer, jr., M/OH; Abby Owens, jr., S/RS; Lylah Shumway, jr., OH/L; Sadie Thompson, jr., M/OH

Top newcomers: Kasi Fischer, sr., S/OH/M; Macey Rogers, sr., OH; Raelyn Taylor, so., OH/S

Outlook: The Kingsmen made the playoffs in their inaugural NHIAA varsity season and have several players returning.

“Although this is only CCA’s second year in the NHIAA; we are looking forward to being very competitive and having a fun and successful season,” Oxford said.

FRANKLIN

Division: III.

Coach: Raegan Yarbrough (second year).

Last year: 1-14, did not make tournament.

Returning starters: Savannah McPhail, jr.; Scarlett Martin, jr.; Laura Colprit, jr.; Olivia Sylvester, fr.

Top newcomers: Lily Cornell, so.

Outlook: The Tornadoes have a small but determined roster of nine players eager to improve on last year’s win total.

HILLSBORO-DEERING

Division: III.

Coach: Christa Liquori (fifth year).

Last year: 5-12, reached prelims.

Returning starters: Mackenzie Borowiec, sr.; Eve Erickson, sr.; Mackenna Goulette, sr.; Signy Burke-Smith, sr.; Isabel Swirko, sr.; Emiliar Eggers, sr.

Outlook: The Hillcats return six seniors to an experienced team, led by captains Borowiec, Erickson and Goulette. H-D had a breakthrough season in 2022, making the postseason tournament for the first time since 2012. With a full JV roster and the addition of coach Brandee Purrington, the Hillcats are growing as a program.

“The Lady Hillcats are looking forward to another great season and encourage the community to get out and support their local student-athletes,” Liquori said.

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