George Sullivan has coached Andover High volleyball for 28 years with a stellar 441-161 record.
So it carries an awful lot of weight when he says, “Azita Bakhtyari is probably the best setter I’ve ever had.”
And she’s only a junior.
The 5-8 Bakhtyari was named MVC Division 1 MVP, All-Scholastic and Division 1 All-State (16 players made it). She’s been contacted by several Division 1 and Division 2 schools including Boston College.
“Everybody said, ‘No question, she’s the best in the league,’” said Sullivan. “She’s a real gamer, highly skilled. She has natural ability and pushes herself hard to be better.”
She’s also tough as she played through an ankle injury.
Her sister Ava (AHS ‘12) was a two-year co-captain and Azita will be, too. This fall she had 589 assists, 69 digs, 67 kills, 79 aces and a 96.6 service percentage for the 23-2 Division 1 state semifinalist Golden Warriors.
Born and raised in Andover, Bakhtyari is a two-year starter and a three-year letterman. The National Honor Society student is ranked in the top 10 percent of her class. She also is the manager of the boys’ volleyball team.
2013 Volleyball All-Stars
Name School Year Position
*Azita Bakhtyari Andover Jr. Setter
Chelsea Hu Andover Sr. Outside
Amanda Williams Central Sr. Middle
Abigail Sonuga Haverhill Jr. Middle
Alicia Miller Methuen Jr. Middle
Erin Cox No. Andover Sr. Setter
Emily Murray No. Reading Sr. Middle
Amanda Bickford Salem Sr. Middle
Olivia Burke Salem Sr. Middle
Christina Nye Timberlane Sr. Outside
Melissa Cino Windham Sr. Setter
* Denotes Eagle-Tribune MVP
Chelsea Hu, Andover Senior, Outside Hitter
All-MVC. All-Scholastic. Division 1 All-State. Co-captain. Had 195 kills, 47 aces. “At the beginning, she didn’t play defense but after the second game we couldn’t take her off the floor,” said coach George Sullivan. “She was a great player and very, very coachable.” 5-foot-8. Two-year starter. Three-year letterman. National Honor Society. First language was Chinese.
Amanda Williams, Central Senior, Middle Hitter
Two-time All-MVC. Had 25 kills in tourney loss to Lexington and three other 20-plus kill games. Finished with 324 kills and 74 blocks. 6-footer. Quad-captain. “We played as tough a non-league schedule as anyone in the state including (nationally-ranked) Barnstable and she was as good as any of those players,” said coach Gannon Paris. Returning Eagle-Tribune All-Star in basketball.
Abigail Sonuga, Haverhill Junior, Middle Hitter
Known for her soaring leaping ability. Her 243 kills broke Sara Rodgers’ 15-year-old school record. Added 24 blocks and 43 aces. MVC Division 2 MVP. Division 1 All-State. Two-time All-MVC. 5-foot-9. Led Hillies over 21-0 Peabody in North semifinals. “She was our go-to player. She has the ability to dominate. She can hit the ball hard or finesse it,” said coach Bill Kaste. Captain-elect.
Alicia Miller, Methuen Junior, Middle Hitter
Immense with 16 kills, 10 blocks, 19 service points, 7 aces in big win over Chelmsford. All-MVC. MVC All-Star as sophomore. Quad-captain. 5-foot-11. “Other teams had to game-plan for her,” said coach Matt Twomey. Also plays basketball. Her mother, Diana Madruga, was an Eagle-Tribune All-Star in softball and basketball. Her 6-8 father, Shalawn Miller, twice led UMass Lowell in rebounding.
Erin Cox, North Andover Senior, Setter
Becomes only the 10th three-time Eagle-Tribune volleyball all-star in the last 26 years. All-MVC. Division 1 All-State. Had 446 assists, 26 aces, 100 digs and 33 kills in 18 matches. 5-foot-8. Had 36 assists in season-opening win over Andover, the Knights’ first ever win over the Warriors. Four-year starter. Being recruited by several schools. Her sister Emily was an All-CAL player in 2009.
Emily Murray, North Reading Senior, Middle Hitter
Had 173 kills, 35 blocks, 62 aces, 113 digs in 21 matches. Finalist for CAL MVP honors the last two years. Three-time team MVP. “She’s probably the shortest middle in the league (5-7), but she gets higher over the net than most kids,” said coach Mike Milone. Has thrown shot put 39-4.5, ranking her seventh all-time in area. Ranked in top 10 percent of her class. Wants to do both sports in college.
Amanda Bickford, Salem Senior, Middle Hitter
All-Division 1. Three-year starter. Led Devils to 18-4 record and berth in Division 1 finals. 5-foot-8 co-captain. Had 40 aces, 210 kills and 238 digs. For her career exceeded 500 kills and 500 blocks. Helped Salem to Division 1 title in 2012. Terrific scholar-athlete. Averaged 9.5 points in basketball. Will play softball and volleyball at St. Anselm’s. Ranked 17th in class of 365.
Olivia Burke, Salem Senior, Middle Hitter
Second-team All-Division 1. Co-captain. 6-footer. Recorded 40 aces, 210 kills and 238 digs for Division 1 runner-up. Three-year starter. “Olivia is a great presence at the net,” said coach John Roemer. Captain in indoor and outdoor track with bests of 5-3 in high jump, 16-8 in long jump and 35-4 in triple jump. Ranked 14th in class of 365. Her older sister Brittany was a gymnastics captain.
Christina Nye, Timberlane Senior, Outside Hitter
All-Division 1. Three-year starter. Finished with 725 digs, 530 kills and over 100 aces in her career. 5-foot-7. Her brother Mike, is an Owls assistant coach. Tri-captain. “She’s one of the best defensive players I’ve ever seen,” said third-year coach Sean Hogan. “I can’t imagine there were more than one or two girls in Division 1 with more kills this year.” Star on Division 1 champion softball team.
Melissa Cino, Windham Senior, Setter
Repeat member of All-Division 2 team. Led Jags to best ever season, a 16-3 record and berth in the Division 2 finals. Four-year starter. Notched 450 assists and 321 service points. Had whopping 1,417 career assists. 5-foot-6. Two-time captain in both volleyball and lacrosse. Eagle-Tribune All-Star in lax. Ranked 32nd in class of 170. Her father was a lacrosse All-American at West Point.
Honorable Mention All-Stars
Andover: Rachel Schnakenberg, Sr., MH; Mackenzie Kennedy, Soph., setter; Wyllie Boughton, Soph., OH
Central Catholic: Kaleigh Smith, Jr., OH; Olivia Imprescia, Sr., setter
Fellowship Christian: Leigh-Ann Trepanier, Jr., setter; Delaney Kenny, Jr., libero
Greater Lawrence: Ivonne Ruiz, Sr., setter; Alyssa Goulet, Soph., MH
Haverhill: Haley DeRoche, Sr., OH; Allison Lahiff, Sr., MH; Ornela Llupo, Jr., setter
Lawrence: Rosemarlin Morrobel, Sr., MH; Natalie Suarez, Soph., libero
Londonderry: Taylor Collins, Sr., MH
Methuen: Janelle Crowe, Sr., setter; Kelly Dorandi, Jr., libero
North Andover: Merry Eagan, Sr., MH; Rachel Karpinski, Jr., OH
North Reading: Hanna Lesch, Sr., OH
Pelham: Julia Barsalou, Sr., OH; Holly Joyce, Jr., MH
Pinkerton: Courtney Collins, Sr., MH; Kelsey Cummings, Sr., OH; Olivia Mathieu, Soph., OH
PMA: Samantha Fox, Sr., OH; Amari King, Jr., OH
Salem: Alyssa Kolbert, Sr., OH; Alyssa Matthews, Sr., libero
Timberlane: Ginny Fagan, Sr., libero; Jane Buckley, Sr., MH
Whittier: Dominique Ortiz, Jr., MH; Amanda Pelletier, Soph., defense; Chantel Riendeau, Soph., MH
Windham: Talia Lombardo, Jr., MH; Emiline Sundman, Jr., MH; Lexi Sawyer, Frosh., OH
Former Eagle-Tribune MVPs
2012: Elizabeth Wait, Andover; 2011: Alexis Michal, Central; 2010: Katie Schwarz, Londonderry; 2009: Carolyn Eddy, Central; 2008: Jadith Lorenzo, Lawrence; 2007: Meghan Thomann, Andover; 2006: Casey Stoodley, Salem; 2004-05: Samantha Kerivan, Andover; 2003: Ashley McLaughlin, Andover; 2002: Jess Cegarra, Timberlane; 2001: Karen Harrington, Salem;
1999-00: Robin Young, Andover; 1998: Janice Coppolino, Andover; 1997: Samika Hawkins, Lawrence; 1996: Marie Neibert, Salem; 1995: Kendra Welch, Methuen; 1994: Liz Bonfanti, North Reading; 1993: Jeannie Tamayo, Lawrence; 1992: Kerri Camuso, Salem; 1991: Nathalee Black, Lawrence; 1990: Damarys Rosario, Lawrence; 1989: Shannon O’Donnell, North Reading