TOWNSEND -- In the eyes of second year North Middlesex volleyball head coach Mark Roy, this year's team is special.
"It is a very special year for me," said an emotional Roy. "I've coached these seniors for four seasons. They mean a lot to me and this program. They are focused, hard-working and your blue collar-type of team. They make me so proud to be their coach."
North Middlesex finished at the bottom of the Midland-B league heap with its record of 3-7 in the league and 7-11 overall. The Lady Patriots return eight players with quality playing time on varsity.
Junior Amy Flourney has been working very hard in the off season.
"She will be setting and doing some outside hitting," Roy said. "She has really solid soft hands and does a good job. She does a very good job."
Holding down the middle of the floor are junior Kristina Osborne and senior Emily Medrek. Osborne has the intangibles coaches dream of including her grit and ability to time blocks. Medrek is a strong middle who plays with a ton of finesse.
"She came back with power," the coach said. "She is like a double-sided sword. It's great. She can pound the ball when she needs to and when the kids get used to that, she can just pound it in. I am really pleased with how she has worked out in the off season."
"She is the type of kid every coach wants. She is small at maybe 5-foot-10. She is playing these big six-footers who like to pound the ball, and she blocks them with a big smile on her face."
The Lady Patriots will be captained by Samantha Jurgilewicz, a powerful and smart outside hitter with great floor vision. Jurgilewicz has the ability to dig with effectiveness and is a strong communicator.
"She is a very smart kid who hits her spots," the coach said. "She can use the power when she needs to and then she can soften it. She is a really good communicator and is always seeing what players are doing and not doing, which works out really good."
Co-captain Alysia Pearce is a right-side setter with a forceful hit and blocking ability.
"Alysia Pearce is a senior captain with a powerful hit," Roy said. "She is like the mom, she really is. Everyone sticks to her and she is always good at making sure they are on the same page and doing their job. She is very solid. She will be pushing to do really well."
Working the back row will be Milford, N.H. transfer, Sydney Wheeler. Wheeler has a ton of power and Roy expects the junior to make an immediate impact from the right side. Joining Wheeler on the back row is senior Jackie Potvin. Potvin is light on her feet, very coachable and gives 110 percent effort on every match point.
Defensive specialist Shannyn Muldoon is back for her senior season. Muldoon possesses a powerful serve and navigates the floor very well. At the libero position will be senior Katherine Koulopoulous, a great passer who is willing and able to do whatever is asked of her.
"She has good communication and a good back row hit," Roy said. "We are a blue collar team, and we have to be on every single game. We are always scraping to get some respect in our league."