Girls’ Volleyball Senior Night vs Watertown

All photos by Jessica Li.

Families with flowers and gift baskets crowded the entrance to the Finn Gymnasium on a beautiful night at Malden High School. It was yet again Senior Night for the successful Malden Girls’ Volleyball team. This time, they had a little bit more to play for on this joyful occasion: a trip to the MIAA Division 1 Tournament. 

On top of that, the game was sure to be a challenge; they were set to play a Watertown team that scored a 3-1 win over Malden earlier in the season.

As always, the start of the game was delayed for the senior celebrations. As tradition goes, the Malden players gave flowers to the Malden seniors to begin the ceremony. Coach Dan Jurkowski then proceeded to give an emotional speech about each of the team’s eight seniors: Wing Guan, Ashly Rodrigue, Taylor Lee, Shuyi Chen, Ramneet Chahal, Keira Lin, and captains Chloe Chen and Alina Dao.

The seniors of a team serve as role models for the younger players, and these ones did it well. Junior Jeslyn San noted, “[The seniors] have taught me almost everything I know and I’m so happy that I created a strong relationship with all of them. They always know how to brighten up the mood and put a smile on everyone’s faces.”

Junior Abigail Lee agreed with San, emphasizing, “The seniors this year have kept us going at our worst and best. They have made this season so lively.” San and Lee both mentioned the exact same sentence: “The team will never be the same without them.”

The seniors are thankful for the time they spent in the Malden High School volleyball program. Senior Taylor Lee’s favorite part about playing “isn’t the sport but being with the people I love.”  She also brought up that “this team was the best I could have ever asked for.”

Captain Alina Dao, emotional, running toward sophomore Sania Chen during her celebration. JESSICA LI

Senior Captain Alina Dao had much to say about her gratitude for the four years she has spent in the program. “Even with days of sadness, anger, and stress, we learned it was okay as long as we kept our heads up. Especially with this season full of struggles and bruises, we stood fighting through.” One of her favorite qualities about this Golden Tornado squad is that “not only competitiveness, but cooperation defined this team.” On top of that, she said that is “why I don’t think there would ever be a thought of choosing anywhere but Malden.”

While recognizing the seniors was great, the team was still looking for the victory. For the first two sets, it looked like that would be how it went. The all-senior lineup for Malden dominated the Watertown side by scores of 25-11 and 25-12. Ashly Rodrigue had two strong kills to close out that second set and ensure that the Golden Tornados needed just one more set to make the tournament.

Unfortunately, things began to unravel. The third set was quite even, but Watertown always held a slight advantage and carried it all the way to a 25-22 win. In the fourth set, panic truly began to set in when the Red Raiders jumped out to a 19-9 lead before taking the set 25-12. In a game of momentum, it carried right into the final fifth set. Malden made a few errors and fell behind 8-3 before Watertown closed it out 15-7.

Senior Alina Dao serving in the final set. JESSICA LI

While blowing the lead seemed like it would be heartbreaking, the players took it very well. They were more concerned about celebrating their beloved senior leaders. Besides, the result of the game wasn’t all too bad; a 3-2 loss that was just three points from being a 3-0 sweep victory against a good team is nothing to scoff at.

The team celebrating a great play. JESSICA LI

After the loss gave the team a 9-9 record with two games to play, the Golden Tornados needed one more victory to make the state tournament dream come true for the third consecutive season. Fortunately, they earned it with a 3-0 performance against the Lynn English Bulldogs the following Monday. The team looks ahead towards the preliminary round of the tournament in the coming weeks.

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