Playoff powers return to peak shape: South Shore high school volleyball Top 10 rankings

It went by fast, but the first month of the high school volleyball season has nearly come and gone.

So far, a flurry of South Shore teams have bounced back strong after postseason gut-checks a season ago.

For example, the collection of Canton, Duxbury, Rockland and North Quincy are within the handful that went the furthest in the state tournament last fall. All four found their way onto our first iteration of Top 10 rankings this time around.

Note: This is a pound-for-pound ranking. Records are accurate, as of Tuesday morning.

1. Canton (5-0)

It looks like the Bulldogs are back for another strong year. This time around, they've had as dominant a start as you can have. Undefeated Canton has yet to lose a set in its first five games against the quality competition of North Quincy, North Attleboro, Sharon, Milford and Stoughton. Led by senior outside hitter Jess Wright – who recently secured the 500th kill of her career – and senior setter Erin Bigham, Canton returns this fall coming off a 13-7 regular season and trip to the Division 2 Sweet 16 as the No. 13 seed in 2022. The future head-to-heads with Oliver Ames are two games to circle on the calendar.

2. Notre Dame Academy (7-2)

Since being on the wrong side of a sweep to Barnstable in the season-opener, the Cougars have rattled off seven consecutive wins and, in the last four, haven't surrendered a set against the likes of Stoughton, Falmouth, Fontbonne Academy and Archbishop Williams. The team is led by senior outside hitter Olivia Flaherty (a five-year varsity starter and two-time Catholic Conference All-Star), junior libero Ava Orlando (a three-year starter) and senior setter Sofia Danick (a team captain and two-year starter). Last year, NDA went 8-12 and advanced to the Division 2 Round of 32 as a No. 31 seed.

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3. Duxbury (4-1)

Duxbury comes back this fall as, again, one of the area's elite. Last season, the Dragons cruised through the regular season with an unblemished 19-0 record (12 of those wins came via sweep) and finished with the No. 3 seed in the Division 2 bracket. The team advanced to the Elite Eight but had its run stopped by No. 6 Melrose, 3-1. This time around, North Quincy was the culprit in handing out the team's first regular-season loss, 3-2, on Sept. 20, but Duxbury has maintained its merit with wins over Whitman-Hanson, Norwell, Plymouth South and Plymouth North.

4. Cohasset (6-1)

A first-year program, it's Cohasset's first go-around in the South Shore's high school volleyball mix. So far, so good. Led by coach Nikki Kandalaft, setter Casey Nichols, libero Clouette Lyons and outside hitter Taylor Soderberg – the team's trio of senior captains – the Skippers have impressed early in the South Shore League race. Cohasset has already swept East Bridgewater and Abington, sealed one against Mashpee and edged out wins against Carver and a Patriot League foe, Hanover. Upcoming meetings with perennial powers Norwell and Rockland loom large.

North Quincy's Brooklyn Rizzo gets under a Quincy shot during girls volleyball action at Quincy High School, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022.
North Quincy's Brooklyn Rizzo gets under a Quincy shot during girls volleyball action at Quincy High School, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022.

5. North Quincy (5-3)

The Raiders began this season on the wrong side of sweeps to a pair of still-unbeatens, Newton North and Canton. Since, North Quincy, now winners of five of the last six, has returned to Patriot League play and recaptured the dominance of last year's 21-2 season. The team – led by senior middle hitter Ava Bryan (a four-year varsity player), senior outside hitter Brooklyn Rizzo and senior libero Kathy Mo – has secured wins over Hingham, Pembroke, Quincy, Duxbury and Hanover in the early going.

6. Oliver Ames (5-2)

Mark it down for another season: Oliver Ames is competitively in the Division 2 mix. In 2022, the Tigers went 16-4 and clinched the No. 5 seed in the state tournament bracket. The year before, they went 15-4 in the regular season and were ranked No. 7 in the pool. This season, it's senior outside hitter Sarah Hilliard, senior libero Rachel Fleischman and junior setter Clare Kavolius leading the charge, as, on Monday night, the team clinched arguably its most impressive win thus far: a sweep of NDA. Hilliard had 15 kills and four aces, Kavolius had 26 assists, senior Cece Cupples had three solo blocks at the net and senior Claire O'Rourke had eight kills and eight digs.

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7. South Shore Tech (7-1)

Another year, another impressive start for South Shore Tech. Piggybacking off of last year's 17-3 regular season and trip to the Division 5 Sweet Sixteen, the team opened the 2023 season winners of seven in a row until last week's 3-1 loss to Cape Cod Regional Tech. The trio of Mia Bradshaw, Hannah Nota and Alyssa Viola has led the way.

8. Whitman-Hanson (5-1)

Whitman-Hanson finished last year's regular season with a 10-10 record. In the first month of this season, the team is already halfway to that win total. The Panthers' success has been spearheaded by junior Caroline Gray, who has been a varsity starter since her freshman season and recently registered her 1,000th career assist. So far, W-H has secured wins over Rockland, Hanover, Marshfield, Pembroke and Hingham. Future games against North Quincy, Duxbury and Scituate will be quality tests.

9. Rockland (6-2)

These Bulldogs suffered a tight, 3-2, contest to the aforementioned Whitman-Hanson squad in the season opener but, since, have won six of seven. Five of those six wins came by way of a sweep. Senior setter Maggie Elie – a four-year starter, two-time South Shore League All-Star, 2022 SSL Tobin Division MVP and Enterprise All-Scholastic selection – is back on the court to facilitate things for senior hitters Nayla Chaves and Tori Hynes. Elie recorded her 1,000th career assist in last week's sweep of Sandwich. Rockland has bounced back strong after last year's 15-3 regular season and its trip to the Division 4 Sweet Sixteen.

10. Plymouth South (4-2)

Plymouth South finished last season in such a way it seemingly carried over to this season. The Panthers closed 2022 as winners of five of seven, until the season-ending loss to Billerica in the first round of the Division 2 tournament. So far, the team has secured all four of its wins (over Scituate, Hanover, Dennis-Yarmouth and Plymouth North) via sweep. The win over its crosstown rival was the most impressive, as senior captains Lenox Garron-Cibrey, Molly Simpkins, and Chloe Brady led the Panthers to a 25-15, 25-15, 25-18 final over the Eagles. The Patriot League race is one to follow as the season moves along.

On the bench: Norwell (4-2), Plymouth North (5-3), Scituate (4-3), Pembroke (4-3), Carver (4-2), Brockton (3-4), Archbishop Williams (3-4)

This article originally appeared on The Enterprise: South Shore high school volleyball Top 10 rankings