LAWRENCE – Vielka Sanchez made a great, diving save the other night in Billerica, keeping the ball alive as Lawrence High eventually won the point.
Immediate afterward the loud Lawrence cheering section started chanting, in unison, “M-V-P! … M-V-P!.”
A few minutes later, it happened again, this time after putting away ball about 15 feet from the net with a strong left handed slap.
“M-V-P! … M-V-P!,” they chanted.
Then again, after three straight aces.
You get the picture.
“Yes, I heard it,” said the 18-year-old Sanchez, a senior. “My coach calls me a (Swiss) Army knife. I love everything about this sport. But hearing that feels good. It gets me going even harder.”
Sanchez and Lawrence, which beat Haverhill on Wednesday, plays Winchester High Saturday at 6 p.m. at Tewksbury High in the Div. 1 North final.
While the fans appreciate greatness and the obvious great plays, Sanchez best work is the “secondary” stuff.
As the setter, she usually is the second player to touch the ball.
The third person, usually someone taller at the net, is supposed to finish the job Sanchez started.
“Even the average fan would appreciate how well (Sanchez) moves the ball around so smoothly,” said Haverhill High co-coach Vinnie Pettis.
According to her coach, nobody in Massachetts “sets” it better than Sanchez.
“She’s one of the five best I’ve coached or coached against,” said Coach Valdez, through an interpreter. “Her ability to make it easy for her teammates is special. She is a complete player. But as a setter, there’s none better in this state.”
Sanchez is a native of the Dominican Republic. She came her for a tournament when she was 12 years old visiting some relatives, and then, at age 15 she moved her for good. Her father, Victor, joined her a year later while her mom and three brothers remain in their native country.
When she arrived her for good, she didn’t not a lick of English.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know how to say ‘hi,’” said Sanchez, who started playing in the D.R. competitively at age 11. “But I worked hard on my English, very hard, taking extra classes. I really want to go to college and be a success.”
Volleyball and Valdez’s team that given her that opportunity.
“She always had talent. You could see it,” said Valdez, through an interpreter. “But she lacked confidence. She didn’t believe in herself.”
That is not a problem anymore.
When Sanchez is on the court, most of the success on this team centers on her touching, spiking, serving or, best of all, setting the ball.
“Honestly, I would’ve voted for her for MVP last year,” said Coach Pettis, who had been coaching the boys before transitioning to the girls in 2018.
“She’s got great, soft hands and a great mind,” said Pettis. “The old saying in our sport is a great hitter can make a great setter. But a great setter can make a great team. I’m kind of glad she’s a senior. But I will miss watching her.”
You can email Bill Burt at email@example.com.
Sanchez's future in air
Lawrence High's senior sensation, Vielka Sanchez, will be taking the SATs in December and is holding out hopes some Div. 1 or 2 teams would off her a scholarship.
A pair of Div. 2 schools have inquired, but no offers yet.
"She's not as tall as they like at those levels, but if they do their homework they will see how great she can be for them," said Lawrence coach Marino Valdez, through an interpreter. "Nobody loves the sport more, which is important at the college level."