LAWRENCE -- Abby Heredia has a nice, wide, bright smile and isn't afraid to show it off.

"I'm a pretty happy person," said the Lawrence High senior volleyball star. "I like to have fun."

But then there are other times, usually front and center at the net, when she doesn't look so bubbly, friendly or inviting.

In fact, it's more of a death stare.

It's usually a precursor of things to come, like a "kill," the legal kind, of course. When Heredia gets up almost two feet in the air and smashes the ball with her right hand, at scary speeds, intimidating is not a strong enough description.

The 2018 Merrimack Valley Conference MVP is the face of Lawrence High's undefeated season. When she's on the court, Lawrence usually wins the point, the game and the match.

The Lady Lancers pitched another shutout, 3-0, over Winchester High on Monday, improving its record to 19-0. Heredia was on top of her game, with 18 kills at the net, which is about three more than normal.

"I am very competitive," said Heredia, whose team plays in the Division 1 North semifinals tonight at 5 p.m.

"I get a little hyped sometimes," she said. "It seems like our team gets excited when I get a kill. So that gets me going."

"Kills" is a perfect description for the electric, smashing point. The fact that Lawrence lost only three games thus far this fall, means that Heredia, who averaged 15 kills per match, got five points for her team almost every game.

"It's not just the kill," said Heredia. "You have to give credit to the setters, who set me up for it. I'm so lucky on this team. We have a lot of players who know where I like the ball."

Methuen High coach Matt Twomey knows powerful middle-hitters. He had an all-time great last year in MVC and Eagle-Tribune MVP Abby Sullivan, who averaged nearly 20 kills a game.

"When you go up against someone like Abby, you try to figure out tendencies," said Twomey. "She goes to the left a little more, but she really doesn't have any tendencies you can focus on."

More impressive than Heredia's power shots, to Twomey, has been her improvement from last year when she wasn't even an honorable mention at the end-of-the-year awards.

"It's night and day," said Twomey. "You can tell how hard she worked. You don't get to her level without it."

Heredia came to Lawrence High in the fall of 2015 having never played volleyball.

"I had no idea about the sport," she said. "A girl who was going out for the team asked me if I wanted to go. I went figuring I'd give it a try. But I didn't think I'd stay with it."

She remembered the first tryout and smilied.

"I was the worst player ever. I'm serious," she said. "I would miss the ball. Then if I hit, I'd it over there [pointing right] and then over there [pointing left]."

But two things piqued her interest: The energy in gym. And coach, Marino Valdez.

"She was pretty bad at the beginning," recalled Coach Valdez, speaking through an interpreter, his daughter, Marleti Valdez. "But she listened very well and got better and better every day. I knew she had potential, but it was going take some time."

After her junior season, Coach Valdez told Heredia she could be great if she really committed in the off-season. 

"It's been the best experience of my life," said Heredia, whose college choices are between the Div. 2 University of New Haven and several Div. 3 schools in the Boston area.

"I love the sport and I love being on this team," she said. "We are all very competitive. We love winning ... love it. And we don't like losing, even one game."

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.

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