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."