A year after earning the , the Stoughton High volleyball team looks to make state tournament appearances a habit, starting this fall.
Entering just its fifth season of existence, Stoughton High volleyball had a humble start, winning a combined seven games in its first three years.
But, in year four (the fall of 2011), behind the leadership of Coach Ken Gay and - Julia Quattrucci, Katherine Chlus, Malykah Lopes and Andrea Chica - the Black Knights improved to 10-8 and advanced to the postseason.
Despite the losses of Quattrucci, Chlus, Lopes and Chica to graduation, the Black Knights return a group of six veterans this season. They will share time with six promising newcomers as Stoughton aims to make the playoffs again in 2012.
Last season's record: 10-8 (lost to in the first round of the MIAA Girls’ Volleyball Division 1 south sectional tournament)
First game: Stoughton opens its season Thursday, September 6 at home against Attleboro.
Head Coach: Ken Gay (fifth year as Stoughton's coach; only varsity coach in program history)
Captains: Seniors Emma Zuk, Lauren Carmichael and Gabby Medina
Burning Question: Who replaces Quattrucci, Chlus, Lopes and Chica?
"I kept waiting for them to walk through the door [on the first day of practice]," Coach Gay said.
He said "the program was built on them."
"You can't replace their experience," he said. "It's hard to replace their leadership."
But with six returning players who have all improved, according to their coach, and six new players showing plenty of potential, it is not an impossible task to replace Quattrucci, Chlus, Lopes and Chica, as well as fellow members of the class of 2012 Anthony Jeudy and Nobrina Seng.
Gay said the offense will run through Zuk, with the four-year varsity veteran playing setter, replacing Quattrucci. Medina will play libero in place of Chica. Carmichael is moving from opposite to outside hitter and will team with Ashley Medeiros and Meaghan Hill to replace Chlus and Lopes.
Off to a positive start: Stoughton has been taken part in a number of scrimmages as the team tunes up for the opener against Attleboro. This includes an impressive effort last Friday, August 31, at the Marshfield Jamboree.
Stoughton went 4-1 beating Newton North, Dedham, Marshfield and South Shore Vocational, only losing to Holbrook.
"Our three captains showed great leadership skills throughout the day as we work to get the squad up to speed" Gay said.
Outlook: "Based on potential, [we're] equal to or better than last season," Gay said.
But the team will have to prove it on the court. "Potential is one thing, reality is another," Gay said.
Captains Zuk, Carmichael and Medina are joined by fellow varsity returnees Nicole Daniels (one of Stoughton's top players last season, playing middle hitter/blocker), Kayla Motley and Kadijah Dansby.
Medeiros, Hill, Payton Pizzano, Emily Cramer, Jalen Joseph, and Samantha Malley (the only freshman on the squad) are the newcomers. Joseph follows in the footsteps of Jeudy, and will be the team's lone male this season (since SHS does not offer boys' volleyball, the sport is open to males as well).
Zuk said the goal this season was "going to tournament again [and making it] past first round."
With Zuk, Carmichael and Medina now seniors, Carmichael said it was time for her class, the class of 2013, to lead the program.
"I feel like we have to step it up and take charge of the team," she said.
Zuk is excited to start the season.
"I think we're all stepping up and coming into our own," she said.