Groton, Mass. — After a 3-0 victory over Governor’s Academy on Sunday, Lawrence Academy Varsity Volleyball Head Coach Steve Engstrom smiled ear-to-ear as he recounted his club’s journey from also-rans to NEPSAC champions.
“Oh Man, what a game,” said the deceivingly intense, bespectacled coach of the Spartans. “[I remember] three years ago after the first playoff loss in the quarterfinals; then the semi-finals last year. Then we made it to the finals this year.
“We’re really excited about how it turned out.”
Watch the entire championship game…
As far as Mr. Engstrom’s understatement goes, the entire LA community — many of whom were in the gym to witness LA’s latest NEPSAC title — were pretty pleased, as well.
Far from the easy 3-0 romp belied on the scoreboard, Governor’s girls’ varsity volleyball, a tried-and-true ISL foe, gave the Spartans all they could handle early.
“It was an exciting game from start to finish,” said the coach, trying to calculate stats in his head. “We were just nervous in the first set.
“That was quite a struggle … similar to yesterday [a 3-0 win against Dana Hall]. We couldn’t quite get our offense going.
Vs. Dana Hall in the Semi-final…
“The second set, we felt a little more comfortable,” added Engstrom. “We were getting our serves in… we started getting going, and we never looked back.”
However, many Spartan fans will look back at this game as the culmination of the career of — perhaps — the best volleyball player to don the red, white, and blue, Gabi Bailey ’19.
The Penn State-bound senior, whose grandfather was a member of LA’s undefeated 1955 football team, posted her 1000th high school “kill” early in the second set.
Gabi Bailey’s 1000th…
— Lawrence Academy (@lawrenceacademy) November 18, 2018
The full Twitter thread is may be found @lawrenceacademy.
“It was awesome,” said Engstrom, who held up cards signifying Bailey’s progress toward the goal to the delight of the partisan LA crowd. “I mean, she really has turned around the program.
“She was able to give us the offense that we never had before,” he continued, speaking to Bailey’s arrival two years ago. “And, what it did, was help the other girls in the team get so much better; being able to practice against the best hitter in the ISL.
“The fact that she got her thousandth kill here with in the finals was – well, it was amazing,” he said.
And the progress of the entire team was first-and-foremost on Coach Engstrom’s postgame mind.
“We’ve had some of our seniors have been here since freshman year, and we were something like 3-16 at that point, and it was a totally different team,” he explained. “But they have put in the years, and we slowly grew in our success.
“We worked a lot during preseason and during the season in practices just to keep getting as many touches and get as much experience on the court, so we feel comfortable when it comes down to the games like this.”
Despite that experience, Engstrom also spoke about the LA community and how it embraced his team down the stretch.
“It’s so much fun to be able to see is our fan section out there and just really trying to bring it,” said Engstrom. “Our girls noticed them, for sure, and we saw it yesterday, and they talked about it after the game; how exciting it is when, when the fans get on their feet and just in our new ‘newish’ gym.
“It’s been a lot of fun.”
FWIW: LA’s Most Recent New England Titles
2018 – 19 — Volleyball
2017 – 18 — Football, Boys’ Hockey
2015 – 16 — Football
2014 – 15 — Boys’ Soccer, Football
2011 – 12 — Boys’ Hockey
2008 – 09 — Field Hockey
2002 – 03 — Girls’ Soccer
Last volleyball title?
1997 A.I.S.G.A. Volleyball Tournament – 1st Place