LAWRENCE — Coach Tony Hajjar took time to embrace his Lawrence volleyball team, comforting those in tears, before appropriately summing up the crushing loss.
“My guys gave it all they could and that’s what I expect from them,” said Hajjar. “The game could have fallen either way, and we did our best, but it just didn’t happen tonight.”
For five sets, Lawrence gave Acton-Boxboro all it could handle.
But, in the end, the No. 4 seed Lancers could not take advantage of a few leads, and dropped a heartbreaking 23-25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-20, 15-13 loss to No. 2 Acton-Boxboro in the North championship game last night at Central Catholic High School.
The win sends Acton-Boxboro to the state semifinals.
“We did all we could,” said Tyler Cerullo, one of just three seniors on the team. “We battled the whole way. We played our hearts out. I give it up to all the guys, including the sophomores, on how they stepped up during the tournament. But we just couldn’t come through in the end.”
The Lancers looked sharp out of the gates, holding off a late rally to win the first set. They then fell behind 12-0 in the second, but rallied back before Acton-Boxboro tied it 1-1.
Lawrence again fell behind in set No. 3, this time 8-3, before completing a comeback and going ahead 2-1, needing one more win to clinch the match.
But the Colonials fought back to force a decisive fifth set, and while the Lancers grabbed a few brief leads, for a time looking like momentum was on their side, they could not seal the deal.
“Their defense and passing turned out to be better than ours,” said Hajjar. “Acton-Boxboro is a very good team and we just couldn’t match them on a few things.”
Junior libero Julio Vicente stepped up for the Lancers, scoring team-highs with 11 service points and 33 digs. Joel Carmona added 13 kills, Marquis Rios had 12 kills and Andy Henriquez chipped in with 35 assists.
As emotional as it was for the Lancers following the loss, the squad also did their best to keep their heads high.
“We also went much further than I expected this season,” said Hajjar. “This team is so young. I just wanted to make the playoffs, and look how far we went. The North finals is pretty impressive.”