Daniel O'Toole also contributed to this article.
All photos by Nathan Dean.
After an excellent year, the Malden Girls Volleyball team traveled to Lexington to take on the Minutemen in the preliminary round of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Division One State Tournament. After a 15-5 regular season, which included a 9-5 record in the Greater Boston League (GBL), the Golden Tornados earned the 34th and final spot which gave them a matchup against 31st-seeded Lexington.
The Minutemen had a solid season, going 9-11. They qualified for the tournament via power rankings as they did not reach the required ten victories. The game would be played under the dome at the Lexington High School Field House, which amazed many of the Malden players and spectators.
After warmups and introductions, the first set got underway. Immediately, it was apparent that the Golden Tornados were not on their A game. Five consecutive Malden mistakes ended in Coach Daniel Jurkowski calling a timeout. The two teams exchanged blows for a few points, but the Minutemen would jump to a 10-3 lead.
The next few points were a mixture of Malden misplays and strong Lexington kills, giving them a 17-5 advantage. After that, both teams began to make a lot of mistakes. Unfortunately for the Golden Tornados, a few great plays by seniors Rachel Lin and Anna Yak wouldn’t make up for the 12-point deficit, and the Minutemen held on 25-8 in the opening set to take a 1-0 lead.
The Golden Tornados knew that they could play far better than that. Still, the second set began with Lexington jumping out to a 4-1 start. Senior Victoria Loreus came up with a kill that ignited an incredibly unexpected run for the Golden Tornados with seniors Vivienne Crawford blocking a Lexington hit and Anna Yak delivering a beautiful serve that tied the score at 4-4. The Malden spectators, who made up a large chunk of the crowd, were cheering wildly.
The noise had an obvious effect on the Minutemen’s focus, as they misplayed two hits and the Golden Tornados would take their first lead of the night at 6-4. However, after both teams swapped points once more, Malden’s momentum stalled out. A few solid plays gave Lexington the lead again and they would not look back. Mistake after mistake, the Golden Tornados collapsed.
While a few nice blocks and hits would come throughout the rest of the set, most of the plays were lackluster and did not affect Lexington as they would take the set to 25-10 after collecting 20 of the final 23 points and gaining a 2-0 lead.
Malden now faced elimination from the tournament and the end of their season in the third set. Things started well, however, as junior Alina Dao dropped a perfect hit to the corner for a lead, Lexington immediately retaliated with four consecutive points. Once again, the Golden Tornados would find their stride. Malden rattled off five consecutive points including a great kill by junior Ramneet Chahal to gain a 6-4 advantage. After Dao’s serve went out of play, both teams put together some solid rallies and left the set tied at 9-9.
Malden’s constant issue arose once again: miscommunication that led to mistakes. The Golden Tornados found themselves down 14-10. They would quickly correct themselves and pick up four consecutive points to tie the set again at 14 apiece with great hits from Dao and the team’s only sophomore, Abigail Lee.
Lexington called a timeout with a 19-17 lead, attempting to reset after the Malden crowd brought the noise levels through the roof. A rough serve by senior Kelly Le that fell way short brought the score to 21-18. Le was able to rebound with an incredible hit into the back corner to score the point back.
The Minutemen would keep up their pace and found themselves one point away from victory in a 24-21 set. Malden’s hopes rose when two Lexington mistakes reduced the deficit to just a single point. Unfortunately, a strong Lexington hit deflected off the outstretched arms of junior Kim Nguyen and the girls’ season ended in a crushing defeat.
While this might not have been the ending that the team hoped for, the team has been able to participate in the state tournament for back-to-back seasons which certainly leaves much hope and optimism that they’ll be able to run it back for next season.