Volleyball team upends PJ in a thriller

The Everett High volleyball team came through with one of the biggest wins in the program’s history with a dramatic, come-from-behind, 3-2 triumph over cross town rival Pope John High last Friday.

“It was an amazing match for us,” said EHS head coach Mike Fineran, whose dad, Richard, just happens to be the coach for the PJ Lady Tigers. “I’m incredibly proud of the way the team played and for the mental toughness they showed in coming back the way they did.”

Pope John had emerged victorious in their first match this season with a 3-0 shutout and last year had swept the two game series. Friday’s encounter started out as if it would be a repeat of last season when PJ won the first two sets, 25-20 and 25-12.

Everett started slowly in the first set, trailing 9-3, but senior Wellen Maforte took over at serve and brought Everett into a 9-9 tie. However, PJ proved too much thereafter to take the first set.

However, it was the runaway PJ victory in the second set that seemed to all but sound the death knell for the Lady Crimson Tide, as Pope John turned what had been a tight 11-10 set into a 25-12 rout.

“We were doing nothing right,” said Fineran. “We were completely out of sync and not playing our game. I told the girls at the break between sets, ‘That’s not us. Let’s go out and play the way we know how to play’.”

Faced with a do or die situation, the Lady Crimson Tide came out of the brief intermission with a new determination that soon became evident as they battled Pope John point for point. With Taciane Santos (two kills, a block, and six service points, of which three were aces), Wellen Maforte (three aces and a kill), Amanda DeSouza (two aces and a kill), and Jutta Bolivar and Bersa Shkreta (a kill each) leading the way, Everett turned the tide and pulled out a 25-22 win in the set.

With the match now on, both teams went at each other in the fourth set with an outstanding display of volleyball skill and power on both sides of the net. The set was a close one all the way, as the rivals battled fiercely for every point. “It was just crazy,” said Fineran. “It was back and forth with a lot of tension on every hit and every call. All of the girls played their hearts out.”

But when the proverbial smoke had cleared and the dust had settled, the Lady Crimson had managed to eke out a thrilling 29-27 win to even the match at 2-2.

Everett received strong contributions from sophomore Lindsey Ducheine and junior Sue Ellen Maforte, both of whom provided key sparks with excellent serving and hustling defense.

That set the stage for even more drama as the teams came out for the final set, with the winner being the first team to reach 15 points. Santos and DeSouza stepped to the forefront for Everett, literally and figuratively, as they put the pressure on PJ with their powerful play at the net.

“Amanda and Taci really wanted it and came through in the clutch for us,” said Fineran. “They didn’t miss on any of their shots.” DeSouza accounted for three kills and Santos had two. Together with Wellen Maforte’s two aces, the trio amassed almost half of the needed 15 points. Maforte’s aces were particularly crucial, as they came with Everett barely ahead 5-4. By the time Wellen had finished her service rotation, the Lady Crimson Tide were more comfortably ensconced in an 8-5 lead, which they held onto for the eventual 15-12 triumph.

Fineran and his crew, who now stand at 4-4 on the season, have a busy week on tap, starting at Malden today (Wednesday) and then at home tomorrow against Bishop Fenwick and Friday against Somerville. They host Lowell Monday and journey to Medford next Wednesday.

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