Greatness has a way of drawing a target on the back of team. Just ask the Patriots of the past 17 years, the New York Yankees of the 1990s or great college basketball dynasties like the UConn women and UCLA men.
The Massachusetts girls volleyball equivalent is Barnstable, and the Red Raiders know their date on the calendar is circled by opponents throughout the state.
“We love the fact that we know every single team we play is going to give us their best,” longtime Barnstable coach Tom Turco said. “It makes us stronger.”
The Red Raiders won the state championship last year, just as they did the year before and in 12 of the past 14 seasons dating to 2003.
Riley James, Caroline Brodt and Ingrid Murphy are the top returnees from last season’s squad, but Turco stressed individual talent isn’t responsible for the Red Raiders’ success.
“You can have a good team, a talented team, but you can’t achieve unless you’re a together team,” Turco said.
Walpole, led by captains Abby Rae and Wynter Conlon, figure to be one of Barnstable’s top challengers in the competitive Division 1 South. Leira Vazquez and Janice Leao return for New Bedford and hope to keep the Whalers in the mix. Michelle Legatova and Newton North have revenge on their minds after a state championship loss to Barnstable. An experienced Quincy team, boasting seven seniors, can’t be overlooked by the Div. 1 powers. The same can be said for Julia Klincewicz and North Quincy.
Acton-Boxboro, the 2016 Central-West champs, will be in the hunt again, and Danielle Beerman and Joy Li lead a Colonials team trying to improve on a state semifinal appearance. Lincoln-Sudbury has to reload after graduating eight seniors.
Hallie Dunn and Central Catholic hit the Barnstable roadblock after winning the Div. 1 North title and advancing all the way to the state semis. Alexis Mancha is the lone returning starter at Andover, but the Eagles should reload and contend in the North.
There are six returning starters from Hopkinton’s 2016 Div. 2 state championship squad, but coach Margie Grabmeier doesn’t anticipate any letdown or complacency from a group that has done it all.
“They’ve been looking forward to this season ever since the last one ended,” Grabmeier said. “They’re an energetic and committed group of athletes.”
Amanda Gilbert leads a talented group of returnees, but Grabmeier stressed the importance of every player on the roster.
“We need every single one of them,” she…