Youthful Volleyball Team Rebuilds For 2012

This is the Second in a series of recaps summarizing the most successful fall season at Merrimack in at least 10 years.


November 30: Cross Country
December 1: Volleyball
December 2: Men's Soccer
December 5: Women's Soccer
December 6: Football
December 7: Field Hockey


LINK: Support Merrimack Athletics / Follow us on Twitter / Online Store

NORTH ANDOVER, MA – The very young Merrimack volleyball team couldn't finish out matches like first year head coach T.J. Hajjar would have liked. The Warriors were in almost every contest until the end but they could not come up with crucial points when they needed them. The lack of finish may have been due to the youth of the 2011 team. This year's team was compromised of six freshman, one sophomore, three juniors and only one senior. Merrimack finished 5-22 overall, 2-13 in the conference.

"Five out of our eight newcomers started for us this year," said Hajjar. "These girls had to learn and adapt to the speed of college volleyball from day one and with such a young team I am truly excited about how they played this year. We competed at both ends of the ball with every team. The girls never gave up this year even when the losses on paper looked very intimidating."

Returning only four players from a 2010 team that qualified for the Northeast-10 conference tournament, the Warriors started the season off strong with a win on the road at Saint Anselm 3-2 behind an outstanding performance by standout freshman Stephanie Sheehan (Smithtown, N.Y.). Sheehan recorded a career-high 19 kills and eight digs in the contest to give the young Warriors an early taste of success in the 2011 season.

Sheehan yet again led the Warriors in their second game of the season against Mercy as she recorded her first career double-double with 13 kills and 10 digs. Merrimack was unable to rally behind Sheehan's efforts and lost the match 3-1. The Warriors lost four straight games after winning their first contest of the year. Sheehan was named Northeast-10 rookie of the week for her efforts in her first two career contests.

The month of September was not very friendly to the youthful Warriors as they closed out their first month of action with a 3-12 overall record losing many close sets in overtime. Merrimack defeated Post 3-0 and Assumption 3-2 behind strong performances by junior Jenna Reilly (Northport, N.Y.) and lone senior captain Nicole Duarte (Windham, NH). Reilly recorded a season-high 18 kills and four blocks against Assumption while Duarte chipped in with 11 kills herself.

"Losing so many close games in overtime this year and playing the top teams right to the end, makes the girls and I believe that next year looks very promising," stated Hajjar.

The month of October hit and so did the injury bug for the young Warriors as two key starters for the Warriors were sidelined due to injuries. Team captain Brianna Trabucco (Canton, Mass.) was sidelined with an ankle injury which forced freshman Allison Cote (Chelmsford, Mass.) into the starting lineup at setter, a position she had never played before. Wheaton College transfer Jackie Jones (Amherst, NH) also went down with an injury and missed some valuable time for the Warriors.

"I think the girls did great this year with all the injuries that that took place and losing keys starters for long periods of time," Hajjar said. "If all the girls come back healthy and some of our new recruits come in ready to play I believe we will have a very solid team next year."

The Warriors lost their first eight games of October due to many injuries but finished out the season going 2-2 as the key players came back from injuries.

Sheehan was the only member of the Merrimack volleyball team to be honored by the Northeast-10 conference as she was awarded with All-Rookie team honors in her first season as a Warrior.

"I would have to say our offense was by far our strongest suite this year, led by freshman Stephanie Sheehan," proclaimed Hajjar. "Moving forward our defense needs to get better to turn those close losses into wins."

The Warriors closed out the 2011 season with many bright spots including only losing one member of its team next season as Duarte will be graduating after three strong seasons as a Warrior. Some of the key returners to the squad next year include Sheehan, Trabucco, Reilly, Jones and Shaunda Forcier (Gonic, NH). With a year of experience and a strong recruiting class coming in, look for Merrimack to be around the top half of the conference in 2012.