Chelmsford Lions come out roaring, oust Saint John’s of Shrewsbury

CHELMSFORD – Any concerns the Chelmsford boys volleyball team might have felt for the playoffs after dropping its regular season finale were quickly put to rest Thursday night.

With the exception of a couple late runs they allowed in the second and third sets of their Div. 1 state first-round matchup, the 12th-ranked Lions (15-6) mostly dominated a sleeper No. 21 Saint John’s of Shrewsbury team to the tune of a 3-0 sweep (25-13, 25-22, 25-18).

A balanced attack and momentum were at the heart of the win, using at least seven kills from three different players to help Chelmsford force large deficits in each set. The Pioneers’ (9-11) 5-1 run near the end of the second set was the lone time the Lions’ didn’t close out with a comfortable lead.

They await the winner of Saturday’s No. 5 Methuen versus No. 28 Greater New Bedford matchup to play in the second round.

“They’re a quality opponent, they were in the Final Four last year,” said Chelmsford head coach Edgar Valdez. “We kind of just waited (past a slow start) and just kind of played really well defensively. Just a total team effort. Everybody doing their job, everybody playing to their potential. It was great, especially with the way we ended the season on Friday. … This was kind of perfect for us to just come out here, shake that stuff off and just get back to work.”

Francis McGonagle (13 kills) and Eric Barcelos (six kills) were bright spots for Pioneers setter Suraj Marla (21 assists). Saint John’s just couldn’t keep up with Chelmsford when it was clicking on all cylinders, which was most of the match.

Liam Quinn was a constant threat for the Lions, racking up 12 kills with a block. Add in Royce Roxas’ nine kills and Ridty Tauch’s seven kills, five aces and two blocks, and Chelmsford presented too many threats for setters Jack MacPhee (25 assists, four aces) and Jayden Som (seven assists). A tough start in serving still finished with double-digit aces for the Lions, and excellent defense from Som (12 digs) and the rest of the team often kept the Pioneers from breaking up runs.

“Everybody found a way to contribute,” Valdez said. “That’s the best part, when everybody kind of pulls (together a team effort).”

It showed up huge in a 25-13 first set, using an 8-0 run to close out a tone-setting win.

A 4-0 run near the middle of the second set helped separate from side-out volleyball to take a 12-8 lead. Teams traded points again, but another 4-0 run pushed the advantage to 20-12. By the time Chelmsford built a 23-17 lead, the 5-1 response Saint John’s gave came far too late in a 25-22 set.

The Lions allowed consecutive points against it just twice in the third set, quickly running away with the match by building a lead as high as 23-13.

“I think that’s the part of being on track,” Valdez said. “is scoring a few points here and there, and then getting in a good rhythm. … That’s kind of what you want. It’s a momentum game.”

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