Boston High School: Kayla Crook

D1 volleyball: Barnstable 3, Newton North 1

November, 18, 2012

NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. -- The fact that Barnstable volleyball won another state championship Saturday should come with about as much surprise as inevitabilities such as death and taxes.

Yet, how the Red Raiders finished out their last latest and 15th overall title run was more unlikely. Barnstable nearly fell in its state semifinal match against Lincoln-Sudbury earlier in the week and returned to Algonquin Regional for the Division 1 state championship match on Saturday to face Newton North – a team that ended the Red Raiders’ 41-match unbeaten streak during the regular season.

And while Barnstable got off to a slow start Saturday, dropping Game One, 25-14, the Red Raiders recouped and showed they weren’t about to be fooled again, emphatically closing out a 3-1 victory over the Tigers for their third straight Division 1 title.

“It was straight motivation,” senior outside hitter Regan Bristol said of the rematch with Newton North. “We never want to lose, so … I think that was good, in a way. Definitely a little frustration, but mostly it was determination to beat them.”

The Red Raiders rebounded from the Game One loss, rattling off 25-16, 25-23 and 25-17 game wins.

Faced with a tall task again of maneuvering around the Tigers’ block, Barnstable’s hitters, led by Bristol (17 kills) and Colleen Koen (10 kills), learned and applied their lessons in Round Two.

“They have a great block,” Regan said. “I remember during the regular season, I got blocked by them 20 times maybe. I was ready for that [this time].”

Barnstable seized momentum in a see-saw second game, which contained five lead changes. The Tigers (22-2) led by as much as six points during the game, only to watch the Red Raiders turn a 12-1 run into a 25-16 win.

As in Barnstable’s gutsy win against L-S in previous round, senior setter Kayla Crook was the fulcrum to its success. Crook finished with a game-high 29 assists.

It’s conceivable that you could have viewed Barnstable as an underdog in its title defense.

The Red Raiders returned just four seniors (Bristol, Crook, Koen and Anna Strock) from last year’s squad, so when Newton North shocked the state earlier this year, there might have been the sense that the sharks were circling.

Tom Turco’s squad made it no matter for worry.

Take, for example, the Red Raiders’ comeback win on Saturday and a late rally in the semifinal against L-S. Turco preached to his group the recommitment to their preseason goals – which can’t be anything less than a title in Barnstable – in the lead up to the championship match.

He also takes a page from a Hall-of-Fame coach’s playbook.

“Pat Riley talks about how the hardest battle to win is the one after a great victory,” Turco said, citing the NBA great’s book “The Winner Within.” “So the game plan was to come out strong in Game One.”

That didn’t happen so much for the Red Raiders, but again, it’s not so much how you start, but how you finish. And now, for the 15th time in Turco’s 25 seasons on the bench in Barnstable, the Red Raiders have won the final game of the season.

Volleyball: Barnstable 3, Lincoln-Sudbury 2

November, 15, 2012

BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- After losing the third game and coming up just short while winning the last four service points out of five, Kayla Crook thought the chance to defend the state championship for Barnstable was slipping away.

The senior setter’s effort on the service line in Game Three may not have been enough, but the senior showcased her experience in an epic five-game comeback for the ages as the Red Raiders shocked Lincoln-Sudbury, 3-2 (27-29; 25-14; 21-25; 25-18; 15-12) in the Division 1 State semifinals on the campus of Bridgewater-Raynham.

Crook was candid as the senior leader admitted a possible loss to end her career was on the horizon, and it crept into the back of her mind as the match was the Warriors’ to lose.

“Undoubtedly, it did but what popped into everyone’s head was the same thing was happening that happened with Newton North and we didn’t want it to recur again and we just wanted it so badly,” Crook said.

Crook was referring to the Lady Tigers ending the staggering 41-match win streak for head coach Tom Turco and his Red Raiders squad back in October. The loss had Barnstable on shaky ground coming into the state tournament but the senior-laden team didn’t miss a beat sweeping past Stoughton, Notre Dame of Hingham and their South Coast rival, New Bedford (2009 state champs), for Turco’s 18th South Sectional championship and their third consecutive trip to the state finals.

“It was time for the seniors to step up and not they reacted to losing the third game, but you had Kayla Crook come in there and serve bullets,” Turco said. “This wasn’t serve and hope – this was serve to win.”

After trailing 2-1, fellow senior Regan Bristol, who had a game-high 30 kills, finished off the equalizer game to knot up the score at two games apiece. But the momentum shift didn’t last long as the Warriors rushed out to a 4-0 lead in the pivotal fifth game. In fact, Lincoln-Sudbury (18-2) was up 9-3 in a game to 15 so Barnstable was six points from being eliminated but the rotation was coming together at the perfect time for Crook.

“I think the pressure is good for us and it is only going to help us improve and we just need to come out and start the games a little faster,” said the senior defensive specialist. “My first concern is getting (the serve) in and my second concern is picking a spot where I know that I could possibly get them out of system. We take instruction from Coach [Turco] and we just apply it.”

The two-time defending Division 1 state champions ripped off seven of the next eight points with Crook being an integral part of the shocking comeback. With the score tied at 10, Lincoln-Sudbury was understandably on their heels as they went from celebrating every point to realizing the shadow of Barnstable’s volleyball empire was staring back at them.

The Warriors were in a fifth and final rubber game for the first time this season and it was evident in the final seven points as the slide continued for the five-time Central-West sectional champs. They dropped five of the last unlucky seven points with uncharacteristic sloppy net play throughout. With seven of the nine players in the rotation being seniors, even head coach Judy Katalina was surprised.

“We have seven seniors here that just love volleyball and they were crying after the match but I don’t think it is because we lost, they were crying because they won’t be in the gym together tomorrow as this is a special cohesive unit,” Katalina said. “We had a six-point lead and we just made some unforced errors, nothing against Barnstable, because they made us make those unforced errors and we played tentative and played not to lose at the end and you aren’t going to win a match that way.”

The first game was the best of the bunch with Lincoln-Sudbury pulling out the rabbit at the end with a 29-27 victory, after stellar outside hitting play from Jessica Bursma (7 kills) and Amanda Sifferlen (15). But it was Barnstable junior Colleen Kenney who stepped up in game two and was the spark the Red Raiders needed to tie things up in the see-saw match.

The outside hitting of the Warriors was stifled for much of the match after Game One and the credit goes to the inside play -- the style Turco has lived with his entire career, of Barnstable’s middle hitters. But trailing 9-3 in the final game even had the tough-minded Turco on the ropes.

“We’ve been doing this for 25 years and we’ve been coming out of the middle, everyone knows it, and that’s just the way it is,” Turco said. “Sometimes you try not to have those thoughts but sometimes you sit there and say, [the seniors] have to get it done and I was a lot louder in Game One but I got to sit back and let them play.”

Sifferlen finished her fantastic senior season as one of the best outside hitters in the state for the Warriors but was stunned at the outcome of the match and lamented that the Warriors just didn’t finish the Red Raiders off.

“I don’t even know what happened. I know that we wanted it but I think they have a lot more experience being in a game like this and we were in foreign territory,” Sifferlen said. “When they started creeping up we got a little unnerved I guess but we needed to keep our positive energy and I think the situation came down us. We know we need to get up early, which we did, but this time we needed to keep going.”

Barnstable’s win sets up the rematch with Newton North, who actually split their season series with Lincoln-Sudbury for their only loss on the season. So Barnstable and the Tigers know each other well, but now the state title is on the line and Crook is excited for the opportunity to go out as a three-time state champion -- even if the loss wasn’t the first thing on her mind.

"I wasn’t even keeping count [of the winning streak], but I’m pumped, I’m so excited. It’s going to be a great game, I’m so excited. [Newton North] are a great team."

Midzik leads Gatorade POY volleyball watch list

December, 9, 2011
ESPNHS editor Eric Snyder has a rundown on the finalists for Massachusetts' Gatorade Player of the Year award in volleyball. Leading the list is Brookline senior outside hitter Maya Midzik, who helped lead the Warriors to the Division 1 state semifinals, where they lost to eventual state champion Barnstable.

The award will be announced later this month.

From the ESPNHS Gatorade Player of the Year blog:

Maya Midzik
Senior outside hitter/middle blocker, Brookline (Mass.)

2011 Team record: 19-3
2011 Team standing: Lost in Division 1 state semifinals

2011 Kills: 262
2011 Blocks: 15
2011 Digs: 87
2011 Aces: 61
2011 Assists: 5

Academics: A average
Collegiate destination: Yale (verbal)

How she’s played herself into the State POY conversation: USA Volleyball High Performance Department’s 2011 U.S .Women’s Junior A2 Team member. Two-time Division 1 First Team All-State selection.

Cassidy Stankowski
Junior outside hitter, Frontier Regional (South Deerfield, Mass.)

2011 Team record: 23-1
2011 Team standing: Won Division 3 state title

2011 Kills: 276
2011 Blocks: 20
2011 Digs: 143
2011 Aces: 76
2011 Assists: 15

Academics: A-minus average
Collegiate destination: HS junior

How she’s played herself into the State POY conversation: Three-time Division 3 First Team All-State selection. Starter since seventh grade. More than 1,000 career kills.

Make no mistake, the Gatorade State Volleyball Player of the Year race isn’t over yet. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of our list. Here are some more of many who’ve been in the conversation throughout the 2011 campaign.

Kayla Crook: Barnstable (Hyannis, Mass.) junior setter
Kaylee Deluga: Barnstable (Hyannis, Mass.) senior outside hitter
Taylor Fearing: Marlboro (Mass.) senior setter

D1 Volleyball: Barnstable 3, Central Catholic 0

November, 19, 2011

NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. -- Maintaining success year after year at the high school level in Massachusetts is something only a few teams have been able to accomplish, especially in an era where more and more talented athletes are emerging in every city and town across the Commonwealth.

The Barnstable girls volleyball program is one of those that seems to have the state championship formula figured out. The Red Raiders laid claim to their 14th Division 1 state title, sweeping Central Catholic by scores of 25-13, 27-25 and 25-14 Saturday evening at Algonquin High School.

"The highest compliment you can give you a group of players is that they are competitive warriors," Barnstable head coach Tom Turco said. "That's what they were tonight and thats what they've been all season. Thats the type of players I have in this program so I'm proud of them."

Barnstable (23-0) was led by Kaylee Deluga, who recorded 20 kills. Lynne Hibbard added 10 kills and Carolyn Morin had seven, all the beneficiaries of a strong passing night courtesy of junior setter Kayla Crook, who had 33 assists.

Central made them work for it, and a 5-1 stretch early in the first game left the two squads deadlocked at 8-8. That's when Barnstable took over. With Crook spreading the ball around amongst Deluga, Regan Bristol, Hibbard and Anna Strock, the Red Raiders scored eight of the next 10 points, and put together a pair of smaller runs to close out the opener.

The second game was one Central Catholic needed. The Raiders got contributions from Hunter Tuck, Amanda Williams, Alexis Michal and Claire Foggo while taking Barnstable's best punches to take a 20-17 lead.

When Barnstable fought back, the Raiders hung tough and the two teams found themselves tied five times until Barnstable managed to string together consecutive points on a Morin slam and a net violation that ended it.

"That was a good fight. That's what I'll remember my girls for. I'm proud of that," Central head coach Gannon Paris said. "We stood toe to toe for them for a good 35-40 minutes. You want to capitalize on those things and when you have a chance to beat a team like that in a spot like that, you need to capitalize."

Central wasn't able to, and while they were able to keep it close in the third (tied 12-12 midway through), Barnstable simply had too many weapons to overcome and the Red Raiders broke it open with a 9-0 run. The Red Raiders attacked relentlessly from the outside as Crook set up both Deluga and Hibbard for a combined 13 kills.

Explained Crook, "Whenever the hitters go up I always look to my right to see if there's any spots open for them and I'll tell them in between plays then just try and get the ball to my hitters and let them take care of it."

Deluga also pointed to her more defensive-minded teammates as one of the Red Raiders biggest keys.

"They have some really good hitters but we have some really good blockers. We have Lynne and Regan up there at the net and they were on blockers really well. We had good block coverage by our libeiro, my cousin Nikki (Deluga). We had good defense, we dove for balls and Kayla made an awesome play off block and ran into the stands."

Added Hibbard, "Blockwise I think we did very well. We were able to match up with their hits very well. Defense-wise we were picking up tips amazingly. The back row did a great job of picking up all the hits from the middle."

Barnstable claims 13th volleyball crown

November, 20, 2010

NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. – In Massachusetts volleyball, Barnstable is on par historically with the likes of the Hapsburgs, the Romanovs, the Windsors.

And although the Red Raiders’ reign was interrupted by New Bedford last season, the crown is back in Hyannis after a sort of Meiji Restoration to the Division I ranks occurred on Saturday at Algonquin Regional.

Barnstable claimed its 13th state championship and the seventh in the last eight years with a 3-0 decision over Lincoln-Sudbury.

“There was a thought, outside of Barnstable, that we were going to be really good next year,” Red Raiders head coach Tom Turco quipped. “Not bad. I thought we were going to be really good this year. These seniors deserve it. They kept this team together all year.”

Barnstable (21-2) will only graduate two players, senior captains Devon Bentivegna and Sarah Colby, from this year’s model and seem primed to make yet another run in the upcoming years.

That’s because of the contributions from its underclassmen. The Red Raiders will be in good hands with junior Kaylee Deluga (team high 15 kills) and the sophomore duo of outside hitter Regan Bristol (9 kills) and setter Kayla Crook.

On paper, Barnstable was an “underdog” as the fourth seed out of the South bracket, while the Warriors (21-2) were seeded No. 1 out of the Central/East.

However, the Red Raiders made easy work of L-S in the first game, 25-11.

The Warriors came back to push play in the second as they took an early 6-5 lead in the second set. But the teams exchanged leads four times in an entertaining set before Carolyn Morin emphatically put an end to the Warriors’ run with a spike set up by Crook for a 26-24 second-game win.

The Red Raiders didn’t trail in the third game — a 25-17 tally — and then the celebration was on along with the sizable delegation that made the drive from the Cape and joined in the festivities.

“We were definitely more motivated,” Crook said. “We had a lot more energy during games and we always had our minds set toward our goal, which was winning the state championship.”

After all, absence only makes the heart grow fonder

“When you’re away from it, you miss it,” Turco said, reflecting on last year’s upset. “I wasn’t even in the state, but it was no vacation.”