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LYNNFIELD — Last season, the Lynnfield volleyball team spent most of its time chasing perfection. And the Pioneers didn’t disappoint, finishing 2019 with a perfect 20-0 record, earning a Cape Ann League title and the top seed in the Division 2 North state tournament.
The Pioneers’ run ended in the tournament with a loss to Danvers in the Division 2 North final, but it was still a season to remember. Now, a year and a half later, Lynnfield has plenty of holes to fill while hoping to stay at the top.
“We lost six of our best athletes from last year,” Lynnfield coach Brent Ashley, who earned CAL coach of the year honors in 2019, said. “I would say it was probably the best core of athletes we’ve ever had. Those seniors were inseparable.”
That’s a lot to live up to for the Pioneers in 2021, but Ashley also sees plenty of potential in this year’s squad.
“A lot of them entered the year thinking it was a rebuilding year, but I don’t think they realize how good they are,” Ashley said. “We played a whole bunch of teams last year where we would put our bench out there and they would compete with varsity teams.”
Newly voted senior co-captains Ava Buonfiglio and Daniella Colarusso have already shown they are more than capable of leading the group.
“The team just voted them captains a few days ago,” Ashley said. “I like to have the team vote on it and do so after they’ve been around each other, that way you know whoever is captain has earned it.”
Along with their leadership, the pair have also proven themselves on the court.
“Daniella is fantastic,” Ashley said. “She was incredible for us in the back row last year. I would say she’s one of the top players in the state. We were just so deep last year she maybe didn’t get the attention she deserved, but she’s phenomenal.
“Ava is coming right off a basketball season and she never leaves the court,” Ashley said. “She’s a monster out there.”
Sophomore Ella Gizmunt is also returning after earning CAL all-star honors her freshman year, while senior Jill Babine will hope to make a splash in an expanded role.
“Ella will be on the outside again for us this year,” Ashley said. “She’s taller, stronger and I’m not planning on taking her off the court. I think she’ll turn some heads this year.
“(Jill) wasn’t a starter last year,” Ashley said. “She never did anything flashy statistically, but she was a rock. Any chance she got, she put herself on the ground. She popped up in a few moments and it’s going to be cool to see some of these players who were hidden behind our starters last year.”
The Pioneers may have lost plenty of firepower from last season, but their goals still remain the same.
“Last year we were perfect in the CAL, 16-0,” Ashley said. “Their goal is to do the exact same. They’re a humble group so they won’t say it, but the expectation is the same — winning the CAL. They like being known as the CAL champions.
“We set the culture for the league right now,” Ashley said. “Ipswich, Georgetown and Triton all have brand-new coaches. We have to make sure we set the standards we want in a competitive league. Winning isn’t enough, we have to make sure we’re taking things where we want them to be.”
All that starts Monday night (5:30) on the road against CAL foe Newburyport.
“The toughest part has been getting them to play well together,” Ashley said. “They’re hybrid learning, so they don’t see each other. They’re all close friends, but they’re not close. So we’ve been preparing by creating drills to make them have fun again.”
Ashley is also planning on making the Pioneers games accessible, whether home or away, while following guidelines this season.
“With this year being the way it is, we’re planning on livestreaming everything so parents will be able to watch live,” Ashley said.
Lynnfield’s Ava Buonfiglio (center) will be one of the key contributors for the Pioneers volleyball team this spring. (Item File Photo)
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