Lowell high captains Keara Page, left, and Isabelle Soeun. (Courtesy photo)
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The 2018 girls’ volleyball season was one to remember as Groton-Dunstable Regional captured its first ever Division 2 championship title, a 3-0 win over Minnechaug Regional, capping off a sensational 22-2 season.

The Crusaders became the third Sun-area team to win a state championship title since Chelmsford captured back-to-back D1 titles in 1985 and ’86.

Groton-Dunstable lost almost its entire lineup from last year, but will return senior middle hitter Carolyn Mullins, who in last year’s championship game had 12 kills.

  • Lowell’s Keara Page (6), facing, between games in Lowell vs Methuen girls volleyball. (SUN/Julia Malakie)

  • Lowell’s Keara Page (6), in Lowell vs Methuen girls volleyball. (SUN/Julia Malakie)

  • Lowell’s Keara Page (6), and Sofia Cruz (7), between games in Lowell vs Methuen girls volleyball. (SUN/Julia Malakie)

  • Lowell’s Keara Page (6), and Sofia Cruz (7), between games in Lowell vs Methuen girls volleyball. (SUN/Julia Malakie)

  • Methuen girls volleyball. Methuen’s Jillian McCoy (10), and Lowell’s Keara Page (6) and Mia Ly (16). (SUN/Julia Malakie)

  • Lowell vs Methuen girls volleyball. Lowell’s Mia Ly (16) and Methuen’s Rachel Batista (23). (SUN/Julia Malakie)

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One of the Crusaders’ Mid-Wach rivals, North Middlesex Regional finished 12-8 and return three strong players including Sun All-Star Dani Croft, who had 137 kills last year, and senior hitters Sara Murphy and Katie Kleeman.

Lowell Catholic should be extremely dangerous out of the Catholic Central League. The reigning league champs have a potent 1-2 punch in Sun All-Stars Madi Franz and Elizabeth Cullen. Last year as a freshman, Franz ranked in the top 20 in the state in kills with 243 and top 10 in aces with 109, while, Cullen, a senior, currently ranks first all-time in program history with 881 career assists as the team’s setter.

In the Merrimack Valley Conference, both Tewksbury and Lowell are coming off state tournament seasons. The Redmen tied a program record with 17 wins and return slugging hitter Alli Wild. Lowell will look to seniors Isabelle Soeun and Keara Page. Chelmsford should be much improved behind the play of Ahnasia McKinney, an outstanding all-around player.

The Academy of Notre Dame is the only program with a new head coach as Kerry Kane takes over, and she has previous coaching experience at Tewksbury.

ACADEMY OF NOTRE DAME

League: Commonwealth Athletic Conference.

Last year’s record: 5-17.

Key players lost to graduation: Elena Murguia.

Captains: Erin Doughy, sr.; and Hannah McLeod, sr.

Other returning letterwinners: Emily Aho, jr.; Isha Bhagat, jr.; Angela Tarantino, jr.; and Madeline Walent, jr.

Promising newcomers: Maya Hardy, soph.; Stephanie Bradley, soph.; Maeve McLomas, soph.

Coach Kerry Kane (1st season): “We are looking forward to a great season with a bunch of great young ladies. They have been working extra hard this past week to get ready for the season to open. I am excited to be working with this team. I can’t wait to watch them exceed their goals.”

BILLERICA

League: Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2.

Last year’s record: 4-16.

Key players lost to graduation: Megan Crowley and Samantha Sullivan.

Captains: Brooke Larson, sr., middle hitter; Samantha Gallagher, sr., setter.

Other returning letterwinners: Brianna Martini, sr., right side; Kierston Burtman, sr., right side; Abby Iozzo, jr., def. specialist; Kailey Roche, soph., setter; Jessica Maillet, soph., outside hitter; Stephanie Sardella, soph., outside hitter; Rachel Hornsbyr, sr., outside def.; Madison Callery, sr., middle hitter.

Promising newcomers: Grace Jones, soph., def. Specialist; Abigail Downs, fr., outside hitter; Rachel Donati, jr., right side.

Coach Brittany McGuinness (5th year, 7th overall in program): “Billerica is looking to have a competitive year. With a majority of the teams returning players, the squad is looking to have a strong season, both offensively and defensively.”

CHELMSFORD

League: Merrimack Valley Conference Division 1.

Last year’s record: 5-15.

Captains: Grace Dionne, sr., outside hitter and Jenna Souza, sr., setter.

Other returning letterwinners: Ahnasia McKinney, sr., setter/right side hitter; Leah Mathewson, sr., middle blocker/right side hitter; Brooke Coughlin, sr., defense; Julia Perreira, sr., defense; Colleen Wallace, sr., middle hitter; Katelyn Mann, sr., outside hitter/defense; Rachel Boudreau, jr., middle hitter; Maya Chan, jr., right side/outside hitter; Sofia D’Agostino, jr., (out injured).

Promising newcomers: MacKenzie Limerick, jr., outside hitter; Tori Pedersen-Ciulla, sr., outside/middle hitter; Leah Green, jr., defense; Emma Taylor, fr., setter/defense.

Coach Kendall Rizzo (7th year, 13th with program): “Overall, we are a strong and positive team. We have always had the talent, but couldn’t seem to put it all together last season. However this year, each player is executing their individual positions, as well as gelling as a cohesive unit. I’m excited to see what they can accomplish.”

DRACUT

League: Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2.

Last year’s record: 3-15.

Key players lost to graduation: Sabrina Morse and McKenzie Snowdon.

Captains: Ashleigh Cox, sr., middle hitter and Nadia Saari, sr., libero.

Other returning letterwinners: Yvonne Kimani, sr., middle hitter; Haley Hall, sr., middle hitter; Leila Ata, sr., opp. hitter; Olivia Birolini, jr., setter; Nalani Keang, jr., outside hitter; Yi Xin Wang, soph., defensive specialist; Katarina Morse, soph., outside hitter.

Promising newcomers: Wildalys Robles, sr., setter; Kyra Robles, soph., libero; Carol Lee, jr., setter.

Coach Mike Sullivan (14th season): “I feel this team has the potential to achieve success this season and can reach a lot of goals, including making the state tournament. Physically we are short and athletic, and mentally we have some mental warriors on the team. In a tough MVC Conference, I am excited to see what we can do.”

GROTON-DUNSTABLE

League: Mid-Wach A.

Last year’s record: 22-2, Division 2 state champions.

Captain: Carolyn Mullins, sr., middle hitter.

Other returning letterwinners: Emma Kenney, soph., outside hitter; Sydney Barlow, soph., middle blocker; Katie Eberhardt, jr., setter.

Promising newcomers: TBA

Coach Lori Herberich (3rd season, 10th overall with program): “This is a rebuilding season for us, for sure. Carolyn, Emma, Sydney and Katie have all stepped up and shown great leadership for us so far. Everyone is working hard and we’ll just have to take it one match at a time.”

LOWELL

League: Merrimack Valley Conference.

Last year’s record: 11-11.

Key players lost to graduation: Dai Thawnghmung.

Captains: Keara Page, sr., opp. hitter; Isabelle Soeun, sr., libero.

Other returning letterwinners: Sofia Cruz, soph., middle hitter; Jasmine Leng, sr., defensive specialist; Christina Panagiotopoulos, jr., outside hitter; Mia Ly, jr., middle hitter; Makayla Heang, sr., outside hitter.

Promising newcomers: Ali Rivera, soph., middle hitter; Alana Harris, soph., setter/outside hitter; Melodee Pin, soph., setter/outside hitter.Coach Marina Cordero: “I’m impressed at this team’s dedication to improving their game, with more girls than ever playing during the offseason. The girls are ready to build off last year’s success to hopefully qualify for the state tournament for the second year in a row.”

LOWELL CATHOLIC

League: Catholic Central.

Last year’s record: 14-8, league champions.

Key players lost to graduation: Brenna Riley, Neath Uy and Maggie McGovern.

Captain: Elizabeth Cullen, sr., setter.

Other returning letterwinners: Madi Franz, soph., outside hitter; Molly Trainor, jr., middle hitter; Chloe Scott, jr., middle hitter; Kendra Penrose, jr., defensive specialist; Bridget Provost, sr., outside hitter.

Promising newcomers: Antonia Mukibi, jr., outside hitter; Lexi Guignard, jr., middle hitter; Skyla Dimambro, jr., defensive specialist; Shae Downing, jr., defensive specialist; Rache; Donaldson, soph., middle hitter; Dyranee Khoeun, soph., setter.

Coach Edgar Valdez: “We have a young but experienced group of players who have a club and varsity background, with senior leadership and a group of girls who enjoy playing the sport and who are dedicated to the team.”

NORTH MIDDLESEX

League: Mid-Wach B.

Last year’s record: 12-8.

Key players lost to graduation: Renee DellChiaie.

Returning letterwinners: Alex Caliri, soph., defensive specialist; Biance Premo, sr., right side hitter; Alissa Olmsted, sr., defensive specialist; Dani Croft, sr., outside hitter; Sofia Dawson, sr., right side hitter; Katie Kleeman, sr., middle hitter; Sara Murphy, sr., middle hitter; Brenna Adams, sr., outside hitter; Alex Bellemare, sr., setter.

Promising newcomers: Angela Kopec, soph., outside hitter; Madi Lacreta, soph., middle hitter; Emma Chase, soph., outside hitter.Coach Mark Roy (8th year, 13th in program): “We are very excited for this coming season. We have a lot of returning players and some new players with a lot of potential. We are playing a difficult schedule and we are looking forward to that challenge. With hard work, North Middlesex should have a very successful season.”

PELHAM

League: New Hamsphire Division 2.

Key players lost to graduation: Elise Hooper, Natalia Villanueva, Renae Cerri, Rebecca Nguyen, Allison Altieri, Katherine Ferullo, Brianna Gloor and Katelyn Fisher.

Returning letterwinners: Hannah Andrewchuk, sr., setter; Maria Dagher, jr., middle hitter; Paige Demmons, sr., defensive specialist/outside hitter; Morgan Stevens, soph., middle hitter.

Promising newcomers: Camille Archer, sr., outside hitter; Casey Chamberlin, jr., setter; Carina Gargano, sr., outside hitter; Lauren Moran, sr., defensive specialist; Meghan Roemer, fr., defensive specialist/setter; Abigail Spaulding, sr., outside hitter; Jillian Tobin, sr., libero; Praise Uzuyem, sr., outside hitter.

Coach Jen Nugent (19th season): “We’re looking forward to seeing growth in the program this season. We started pre-season with lots of energy. This is a group of passionate athletes who have done work in the offseason and are committed to coming together and working hard to achieve their goals.”

SHAWSHEEN TECH

League: Commonwealth Athletic Conference.

Last year’s record: 9-11.

Key players lost to graduation: Katie Morrissey and Brooke Johnson.

Returning letterwinners: Brooke Bicknell, sr., libero; Deanna Goguen, sr., setter; Allyson Haley, sr., middle hitter; Shauna Nolan, sr., outside hitter; Sophia Rego, jr., defensive specialist/middle hitter; Allison MacEachern, sr., outside hitter.

Promising newcomers: Bianca Corso, soph., right side hitter; Chloe Gaglione, soph., middle hitter; Jada McNair, soph., outside hitter; Devin Sweeney, soph., setter; Sandra Watne, soph., outside hitter; Celina Braczak, sr., middle hitter.

Coach Anne DeMarco (3rd year): “Last year’s team missed the state tournament by one win, for which I attribute to some of last year’s athletes’ lack of dedication and commitment to the program.

“This year’s team is the opposite; they are busting at the semas with a love for the game and the desire to be the very best they can be. They are clearly coming together, as a team, with the goal to be successful in everything they do. They are passionate about the game and committed to each other.”

TEWKSBURY

League: Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2.

Last year’s record: 17-3, tied for most wins in program history.

Key players lost to graduation: Katie Monahan and Kerry Shea.

Captains: Emily Butler, sr., libero/defensive specialist; Alli Wild, sr.; outside hitter.

Other returning letterwinners: Lizzy Taggert, sr., middle blocker; Alexa Harrington, sr., setter.

Promising newcomers: Carrina Barron, fr., libero; Maddie Cueva, soph., outside hitter; Katie Cueva, soph., outside hitter.

Coach Allie Luppi (3rd season): “I think we will have a very strong team this year and a successful season. Our back row is going to be very competitive and scrappy. I expect them to serve-receive well and dive for everything. Our offensive players have some real powerhouse hitters that I expect to get a lot of kills and have a lot of fun.”

WESTFORD ACADEMY

League: Dual County League.

Last year’s record: 10-7.

Captains: Skye Anderson, sr., setter; Lexi Wilson, sr., outside hitter.

Promising newcomers: Sarah Cannuscio, soph., middle hitter.

Coach Brandon Eang (6th season): “We’re a young team this season, so we’ll see what happens. Our goal is to make it to the state tournament.”

WILMINGTON

League: Middlesex League Freedom Division.

Last Year’s record: 8-12.

Key players lost to graduation: Brittany Cimaglia, Gabriela Bond and Gianna Brunetto.

Captains: Raegan Sweeney, sr., libero; Savannah Andersen, sr., outside hitter; Maeve Cadogan, sr., middle hitter.

Other returning letterwinners: Julia Willson, sr., setter; Khrystyna Fedynyak, jr., outside hitter; Anna Rideout, sr., defensive specialist.Promising newcomers: Hayeligh Wilson, soph., opposite hitter; Madelyn McCarron, fr., middle hitter.

Coach Bruce Shainwald (4th season at WHS, 11th overall): “We have a great group of leaders this season that can help to bring the team together. We will rely heavily on them as we develop the newer players and get them integrated into the lineups. Our goal this season, of course, is to make it into the postseason. We are calling this project ‘Succeed in November,’ and I believe that they are up for the challenge.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

BILLERICA: Brooke Larson, sr., middle hitter; Samantha Gallagher, sr., setter; CHELMSFORD: Ahnasia McKinney, sr., setter/right side hitter; Grace Dionne, sr., outside hitter; Jenna Souza, sr., setter; DRACUT: Nadia Saar, sr., libero; Ashleigh Cox, sr., middle hitter; GROTON-DUNSTABLE: Carolyn Mullins, sr., middle hitter; LOWELL: Isabelle Soeun, sr.; Keara Page, sr., opposite hitter; LOWELL CATHOLIC: Madi Franz, soph., outside hitter; Elizabeth Cullen, sr., setter; NORTH MIDDLESEX: Dani Croft, sr., outside hitter; Sara Murphy, sr., middle hitter; Katie Kleeman, sr., middle hitter; SHAWSHEEN TECH: Deanna Goguen, sr., setter; TEWKSBURY: Alli Wild, sr., outside hitter; Emily Butler, sr., libero; Alexa Harrington, sr., setter; Westford: Lexi Wilson, sr., outside hitter; WILMINGTON: Raegan Sweeney, sr., libero; Savannah Andersen, sr., outside hitter; Maeve Cadogan, sr., middle hitter.