Groton, Mass. — The celebration — at least the emotion on the court — was muted.
After the Lawrence Academy Spartans volleyball team completed their three-set sweep of Suffield Academy in the NEPSAC Class B quarterfinals, the girls could be seen embracing and walking to the bench, even as bedlam occurred in the stands.
Perhaps noting the subdued on-court celebration, LA Head Coach Steve Engstrom said his club remains determined to complete the task at hand.
“We’re really excited to be still playing at this point in the season,” said Mr. Engstrom, who — alongside Assistant Coach Dina Mordeno — has engineered a steady rise out of the ISL basement over the past several seasons.
“We’re trying to improve on what we have been able to do over the last few years,” added Engstrom on Thursday. “I’m really happy how the team played yesterday.
“It was a well-rounded effort, and we were confident,” he said.
But “not-too-confident” was the underlying subtext of Steve’s message, as much of his team was on the court at the end of a heartbreaking 3-1 loss to Cheshire in the semis of the 2017 Class-B tournament.
On Wednesday, in front of a fully and boisterous crowd in the Spartans new-look gymnasium, there were — of course — minor hiccups during the first round victory, but given the command LA held throughout the match, the players can be excused for having a few momentary lapses against the scrappy Tigers.
In fact, with a third-straight NEPSAC postseason berth — including home court advantage throughout the playoffs — and a tournament victory already under their proverbial belts, the Spartans stand poised to make some more noize this coming weekend, provided that the fan supports continues.
“We had an amazing showing of support from Spartan Nation yesterday,” noted Coach Engstrom. “They brought the rowdy after every point it makes a huge difference to us to have the crowd celebrate.”
Meanwhile, looking toward Saturday’s game, the Spartans see Dana Hall (who fell to the Spartans 3-0 in a very early season scrimmage in September) and are working toward extending their season to Sunday.
However, these Spartans, who have seen premature exits in their last two postseasons, are taking nothing for granted. There’ll be plenty of team bonding at a dinner on Thursday, and practices before Saturday’s match.
In fact, Coach Engstrom is looking for even more support from the stands to buoy his girls on Saturday – a tough task given that exams end today and Thanksgiving break begins tomorrow.
“We’re looking forward to playing a challenging Dana Hall this Saturday,” he said. “We hope to have the continued support from the LA community.”