This state tournament stuff can be addicting.
Once you get there, you want to go back again and again.
Such is the case for coach Jim Ray's Tewksbury High girls volleyball team, last fall.
"We've got our sights set on going back (to the tournament)," said Ray, who is entering his sixth year as the TMHS volleyball coach. "We've got a great group of experienced kids coming back. It should be a fun season."
of accomplished returning players. Luppi was chosen to the Merrimack Valley Conference all-conference team as a junior in 2010. She will captain the team along with seniors Liz McVey and Jess Bridle.
"Allie does everything well," Ray said. "She's very quick to move to the ball, she anticipates well and she sees the court well. She's a very physically strong individual and she excels in the classroom, too. She's the total package out there."
Already, Ray has fielded a number of calls from area college coaches inquiring about Luppi.
"She's one of those types of players who only comes along once in a number of years," Ray said. "She's by far the most outstanding player I've had the pleasure of coaching."
Bridle and McVey return as two of the team's starting setters.
"Jess is a total team player," Ray said of Bridle. "She spends more time worrying about the other players than herself. Liz is a very good leader. She knows the setter and hitter match-ups. She does not hesitate. When she sees the opening, she takes it."
at outside hitter, as is Shannon Shikles, who will play right side hitter.
Three more seniors, Grace Carew, Courtney Downing and Lindsey McQuesten, have moved up from junior varsity and are expected to see plenty of action.
Five juniors round out the varsity roster including defensive specialist Alyson Mulloy and hitters Kelli Sugrue, Jen Iannacci, Sam Laferriere and Missy Cordwell.
"We have a really good mix of returning players and some younger players that give us a lot of depth," Ray said. "The challenge for them is going to be learning how we run our offense. But once we begin to gel, I think we're going to do very well."
Those juniors will have to replace the likes of graduates Alex Remiggio (playing volleyball at Worcester State) and Amanda Fleming (playing at Mass. College of Liberal Arts) if the team hopes to improve on its 11-7 record from a year ago.
The team has never won an MVC Division 2 championship, and Dracut High will likely provide the biggest obstacle to overcoming that hurdle this year.
"Dracut had a strong team last year and they didn't graduate many people," Ray said. "And of course Andover and Central (Catholic) dominate in Division 1.
"But we have our sights set on winning the MVC Division 2 (title)," Ray added. "I think it's going to be fun to see how we compare to these other teams. Our girls want to work and they want to play and I think they have what it takes to do it."
Tewksbury opens its season on the road Wednesday (today) with a non-league game in North Andover. The home opener is Friday afternoon against Notre Dame Academy with the varsity match starting around 5:00 p.m.