Lighting Up The Merrimack Valley - By Mike Lynch


Lighting Up The Merrimack Valley


So you think you are a little sore and have a few bumps and bruises after your most recent practice or game? You think you have it tough? Well check out these ladies who have faced "real life" adversity eye to eye and turned it into a positive experience for themselves and their city. They faced daily adversity for nearly their entire season. When the gas explosions rattled the Merrimack Valley life was altered for thousands. For one group of resilient young women from Lawrence, the high school gymnasium and the volleyball team was their retreat, their oasis, where they borrowed strength from each other. “After the gas explosions my best friend doesn’t have heat yet, one of my friends DIED," said captain Alondra Davila. "It's really hard for me and the coaches but we are doing it for Lawrence.”

Speaking through a translator at her side Viekla Sanchez explained, “really there are no words for me to describe how excited, how proud I am of our team and how much they prove every day they want to be the best.”

As the days grew shorter and colder in Lawrence, this team grew stronger winning their league title. With a loyal following from fellow students and a legion of fans, the girls won the North Sectional Championship with a record of 21-0 before falling in the state semifinal to Newton North out at Natick High School. “For me as soon as I step on the court I forget about everybody," said All Scholastic Abigail Heredia. "Volleyball helped me forget about the stress outside and everything else that has been going on since the explosions.”

Coach Marino Valdez has been taking care of his wife who was diagnosed with cancer - he has kept his family together and his volleyball team from splitting apart. “ We have taught our girls that life goes on," Marino told me. "The world does not stop because of your difficulty.” Alondra further emphasized the will of this team. “Our coaches wife has cancer, he manages to be here every day and he makes no excuses. We we don’t uses excuses. A gas explosion is not worse than our coaches situation. His wife almost died.”

Their undefeated season came to an end on November 13 exactly two months after the first gas explosion. They stood ten feet tall in the face of adversity and made their city proud. "We want to thank all of the people who supported us when they had so many problems of their own," stated Viekla. "We want people to know there is something positive happening in Lawrence. "Yes there was and yes there is something positive happening. You can feel the vibe when you step inside the massive halls of Lawrence High School. The strength of the girls volleyball team has energized a city and given its good citizens hope. So as you ice down your tired legs and arms after your next practice or game, think about these young ladies. It’s okay to borrow a little strength from them, they have an unlimited supply!


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