Old Rochester Bounced Out of Volleyball Final Four
It was a season many people expected to be a rebuilding year for the Old Rochester Regional Bulldogs volleyball team.
Understandable, considering the squad was coming off its first state championship in the program's history.
The Bulldogs lost six graduating seniors from their 2021 title-winning team including vital players Maggie Brogioli, Sally Butler, Kenna Soucy and Sydnee Pires. On paper, the remaining volleyball team was good, but not great.
Head coach Jimmy Oliveira didn't want to hear about the 2022 season being a rebuilding year for one second. While coaching the Coastal Region of the Bay State Games this summer, Oliveira made two bold predictions. He said the Bulldogs would win the SouthCoast Conference, which they did.
He followed iup with, "And we'll make it to the Final Four. Anything can happen there. We'll see what happens."
Oliveira guided his young team through the SouthCoast Conference without much resistance; their only league loss was to Case. But Oliveira keenly chose his out-of-conference games wisely. He knew that his team wouldn't be overly challenged in the SouthCoast Conference, so he sought out extra tough, out-of-conference opponents to prepare for the state tournament.
This strategy pitted Old Rochester up against the eventual No. 1-seeded Tewksbury Redmen for one regular-season game and the eventual No. 2-seeded Dennis-Yarmouth Dolphins for two regular-season games. The Bulldogs capped off the regular season against the mighty Dartmouth Indians team who will play their Division 2 semifinals game against Westborough Wednesday night.
The plan worked. While the Bulldogs lost all of the games listed above, they improved as the season progressed. The team was peaking just at the right time, and it earned them a first-round buy followed by tournament wins over Apponequet, Bedford and Norton to punch their ticket to the Final Four.
The wild ride ended Tuesday night at Sandwich High, the neutral host school for the semifinals.Dennis-Yarmouth overpowered the Bulldogs in three sets to earn a return trip to the finals. The Dolphins will face Tewksbury in Worcester this Saturday for the Division 3 Volleyball State Championship.
The Bulldogs were already talking about next year on the bus ride back to Mattapoisett.
And nobody on that bus used the word "rebuilding."