The season Hopkinton High School girls volleyball put together in 2022 included a winning record and a trip to the state tournament. While it would have been a banner campaign for many programs around the state, the Hillers were not used to a first-round exit after winning a state championship the year before.
But heading into the final days of the 2023 regular season, Hopkinton has a strong group of experienced players and a record that once again has the Hillers among the state’s best.
“This is what I was expecting,” coach Emma Sweetapple said of the strong campaign. “Last year was sort of a rebuilding year coming off the state championship and losing pretty much the entire starting lineup.”
Sweetapple used a deep bench last year to get as many players into matches as possible, gaining them valuable experience for this season. The strategy has paid off, with several younger players leading the way.
Sophomore Gabby Pattie is leading the Tri-Valley League in assists, and juniors Adriana Aquino and Elsa Woodbury are big hitters on the outside of the HHS attack.
Siena Verna, a senior, is the team’s libero and has teamed up with Pattie to help the Hopkinton defense be one of the team’s greatest strengths.
“The two of them working together has led our defense and enabled our offense to play as well as they have,” Sweetapple said.
Newcomer Evie Woodbury is one of the team’s middle blockers, and Sweetapple said she is “really proving herself at the varsity level.”
Sweetapple said the team’s confidence was up significantly after a string of wins through the first half of the season. The Hillers took an 11-3 record into the season’s final week.
“Last year was a battle, but having a lot more players coming up this year who saw a lot of court time last year helped build the confidence for the players going into this season,” Sweetapple said.
The top spot in the TVL was well within Hopkinton’s reach with a strong finish to the regular season. The Hillers also are looking to build on last year’s tournament appearance, which resulted in a first-round exit.
“We want to move beyond that this year,” Sweetapple said.
Keeping on-court communication at a high level is something the Hillers are working on, their coach said.
“We have been working together as a team, but we have had some games where we get a little bit too comfortable and make too many errors,” Sweetapple said. “That’s something we just can’t do as we get closer to the tournament. This team is relatively young but fully capable of stepping up and minimizing these errors.”
Sweetapple said the Hillers’ team chemistry has been strong all fall, and she is pleased with the level of talent on her roster.
“Skill-wise, we are very strong all around,” she said. “We are a very good serving team, and our defense is our specialty right now, we have a really solid back line.”