If the Hockomock League gives a coach of the year award, there’s little doubt that Franklin High’s Kelsey Weymouth would be a unanimous choice to take home the trophy.
All the first-year coach did was lead the Panthers to an undefeated season (17-0), win the Hockomock League’s Kelly-Rex Division and earn the No. 2 seed in the Division 1 Central-West Tournament where Franklin captured the Sectional championship. Then came the State playoff semifinal where the Panthers lost to Barnstable in three sets, ending their dynamic season at 20-1.
“The girls gave it their all, and that’s all I could ask for,’’ Weymouth said. “They made it to the State semifinals and lost to one of the best teams in the state. That’s something to be proud of, and I couldn’t be happier for my players. The State semifinals is the farthest Franklin volleyball has ever gone, and it’s a memory I hope none of the girls will forget. The state tourney is something to be proud of. Barnstable has been a standout team for so long.’’
The Panthers began their playoff journey with a 3-2 win over Concord-Carlisle, then rallied from a 0-2 deficit to beat Hopkinton, 3-2. A victory over Shrewsbury, by a 3-2 margin, wrapped up the Sectional crown. The Sectional was a challenge. Franklin, which won its 17 regular-season games without playing a five-set match, won all three of its Sectional playoff encounters in five sets.
“When you get to the playoffs, you’re facing the best of the best,’’ Weymouth said. “Winning our opener in five sets over Concord-Carlisle boosted our confidence. Then, against Hopkinton, we fell behind 0-2 and won in five sets. We weren’t flowing against Hopkinton early, so I changed our lineup. The girls weren’t about to give up, they stayed determined and regained their confidence. Winning the Sectional made me happy for them.’’
Weymouth said that having nine seniors and a talented squad made 2018 the year to go deep into the tourney. “The key was teamwork,’’ she emphasized. “We had six solid individual players, but when they blended into one unit, we we’re a force to be reckoned with.’’
Weymouth took the coaching reins from Kate Horsmann who decided to move back to Kentucky. And, in her first varsity season, Weymouth could tell early on that her forces had the ingredients to have a special season.
“We had experience (nine seniors), our talent and skill levels were high, we were versatile, had height and a high volleyball IQ,’’ Weymouth noted. “It was realistic to think we could be successful in the tourney. We had a quality team that was fun to watch and fun to coach.’’
The 24-year-old Weymouth called her first year of varsity coaching “exciting and rewarding.’’ She learned how to coach on the job, and she discovered quickly what worked and what didn’t.
“My concern at first was my age,’’ she said. “I’m not that much older than my players, and I wanted them to know that, as their new coach, I was here to help them improve. The transition was smooth, because they knew I was confident in their ability after pre-season workouts. Our goals were to get better, to grow in the sport and to qualify for the playoffs. My job basically was to impart my knowledge and passion for volleyball.’’
Weymouth played four years of volleyball and three years of lacrosse at North Attleboro High where she graduated in 2012. She wasn’t just a good volleyball player, she was a great one.
Weymouth was a captain in both sports but it was volleyball where she excelled. Named the Hockomock League’s MVP as a junior and senior, she also was a Boston Globe all-scholastic. Plus, she finished in the top five as the Gatorade Player of the Year. The Red Rocketeers’ volleyball teams were dynamic when Weymouth played, finishing 21-0 her junior year and getting to the South Sectional final her senior year.
At Stonehill College, where she graduated in 2016 with a degree in exercise science, she was a scholarship player all four varsity years and was a captain her senior year. And, the college was playoff-bound all four years when she competed. She finished her career with 707 kills and 839 digs.
Weymouth is pleased with her first year as a varsity coach and delighted that her competitive philosophy was embraced. “I wanted the girls to have a great experience with volleyball and to be competitive,’’ she emphasized. “They learned that winning is important, but they also knew there’s more to sports than just winning. They learned life lessons, like being responsible, being good teammates and setting goals.’’
Their goal of winning a State title may have fallen short, but their season overall was dynamic.
The nucleus of Franklin’s squad was led by its trio of senior captains — setter Lauren McGrath, defensive specialist Shannon Gray and middle hitter Maggie Doyle. McGrath finished the regular season with 426 assists and Doyle had 105 kills and 51 blocks.
“Lauren’s court presence was very visible,’’ Weymouth said. “She’s got a setter’s hands, she reads the ball well and she’s strong on defense. Lauren was chosen as the MVP of the Hockomock League. Shannon exudes confidence. She’s exceptionally quick and not afraid to dive to the floor for a loose ball. Maggie, who was an honorable-mention all-star, has all-around skills, works hard, can serve and is a huge asset at the net.’’
Another key asset was senior libero Riley Marino whose 169 digs helped earn her Hockomock League all-star recognition. “Riley is the hardest worker we have,’’ Weymouth said. “She’s a sparkplug, truly a hustle player. Her energy level is high, she’s consistent and she keeps the ball off the floor.’’
Senior Ellie Wisniewski is another league all-star. The outside hitter had 101 kills, 46 digs and 36 serve aces. “Ellie is a powerful hitter,’’ said Weymouth. “If we’re in a struggle, she’s the go-to hitter to get a point. She’s our best jumper, she’s versatile, confident and quick.’’
Sophomore Allyson Bonnet-Eymard was effective at outside hitter, compiling 72 kills and 28 aces. She played on the junior-varsity last year but did get some varsity playing time. “Allyson is young but she’s got experience,’’ Weymouth said. “A club player, she gets the job done serving and blocking.’’
Sharing time with Gray, senior Hailey Saunders competed at right-side hitter and the six-footer compiled 65 kills and 25 blocks. “Hailey has good height, and her presence at the net was effective. Blocking is her strength. She was second on the team in that category.’’
Weymouth had eight players on the bench and knew they all were fundamentally sound. “If they were needed, they were ready and capable of stepping in,’’ she noted.
Wrapping up the season, Weymouth said: “The effort the girls displayed was everything I could ask for. I knew they needed to be pushed, and I did just that, because I could see the potential they had. They gave me all they could, and that’s what it’s all about.’’