The East Boston girls’ volleyball team dominated the Boston City League for two seasons, winning back-to-back titles. The Jets rattled off 49 straight wins against city foes before losing a 5-set match to Charlestown on Oct. 11. A week later, Latin Academy stopped Eastie, 3-1. Still, the Jets seemed in prime position to capture their third consecutive City League crown.
only needed 73 minutes to change that Thursday night.
The do-everything senior tallied all 34 of her team’s kills, putting on a fantastic display to lead Boston English to 26-24, 25-17, 25-23 sweep of the defending champions at Madison Park High School in the league semifinals. On Tuesday, the Blue Eagles will face off against Latin Academy, which lost in the finals to East Boston the past two years, for the championship.
Torres was spectacular, effortlessly gliding all over the court to make up for the deficiencies of some of her teammates. She received nearly every serve, was a nightmare to defend from the service line, and powered down countless attacking efforts from anywhere on the court, contorting herself to finish off whatever set was sent her way.
East Boston had no answer.
“Jerielis is the heart of the team,” said English coach Jessica Accosta
, Torres’s mother, through an interpreter, her sister Leilany Accosta
. “A lot of them want to imitate her. Jerielis has been playing for years, and she has tried to help them and mold them and she tells them what to do and how to get better. But she has carried the team.”
Torres’s presence has sparked a quick turnaround for English (13-1). As a freshman, Torres was an integral part of the 2015 Boston English team that went 15-1 and won the last City League title before Eastie started its run. The team struggled when she departed with to her native Puerto Rico, finishing 5-10 in 2016 and 7-7 in 2017.
Torres and her brother, Erick
, were forced to move in with their grandmother in Jamaica Plain after winds and flooding from Hurricane Maria destroyed their house in Manati. Accosta stayed behind with her husband, a police officer, before returning to the US later in the year. As a senior, and in her first full school year back in the US, Torres was the driving force behind ending the Eastie reign.
“We were a little scared coming in to play with such a team that has won twice already in a row,” said Torres through Accosta, her aunt. “. . . I feel very excited. When I finished the game, I was crying because I was tired. It was very hard, the game. Thank you to the coach and my team. We win and I’m very glad that my mom is the coach. I can’t explain it. I’m very excited. I can’t explain.”
English does not have the depth of talent around Torres that it did in 2015, but she has improved. She isn’t listed with a position because she quite simply has free rein to track down any ball she can get to. With the talent level of her daughter, Accosta had championship aspirations for her team, and knew they might be able to catch some teams by surprise.
“The first day we had to practice a lot,” said Accosta. “There wasn’t a day that we didn’t practice. I practice to bring them to the finals. From the first day I started in this, I told them that we were going to the finals.”
With Torres leading the way, English is one win from that goal. The Blue Eagles will need another Herculean effort from their star senior on Tuesday, but she is up for the task.
“We’re going to the finals and we’re going to give everything we’ve got there,” Torres said.
That same confidence runs in the family.
“On Monday, I’ll be working with them because I had the opportunity to watch the Latin game,” said Accosta. “Each team, if you look at them, there’s a way to beat them. I saw [Latin Academy’s] weakness and I’m going to work with them to beat them.”
■ Nicolette Brangiforte
, a 5-10 middle hitter, and fellow senior captain Zaira Garcia
stepped up for East Boston, which was minus graduate Cilianna Taveras-Batista
, the two-time City League MVP.
Brangiforte and Garcia supplied consistency from the service line and dominance at the net for the Jets (15-3).
“I think that they really wanted to prove that they would be able to lock it up without the past players being there,” said East Boston coach Vanessa Bigby. “The seniors that we have now, they’re really hungry . . . They stepped up by following in the footsteps of the girls that had left and when they had big shoes to fill, coming out and giving it 100 percent.”
Brangiforte stepped right into a leadership role for the Jets, helping to make the younger kids on the team feel accepted on a team steeped in a tradition of winning.
“Being a captain and coming back as a senior holding those titles, I told the girls to not worry,” she said.
“Most of them were intimidated to come onto the team or to play knowing that we were back-to-back City League champions with back-to-back undefeated regular seasons. I told them not to be intimidated and to play your game . . . Every single one of these girls knows how to play the game of volleyball, so if they play their game that they know how to play, they’re a lot stronger and a lot more confident.”
Eastie will still be a top seed in the Division 2 North bracket.
■ With its 3-2 comeback win over North Quincy, Quincy clinched a share of the Patriot League crown with the Red Raiders. They join a growing list of conference champions, joining Falmouth (Atlantic Coast), Newton North (Bay State/Carey), New Bedford (Big Three), Lynnfield and Masconomet (Cape Ann), Arlington Catholic (Catholic Central/Large), Pope John and Lowell Catholic (Catholic Central/Small), Essex Tech (Commonwealth/Upper), Greater Lawrence (Commonwealth/Lower), Acton-Boxborough (Dual County/Large), Concord-Carlisle (Dual County/Small), Bishop Feehan (Eastern Athletic), Franklin (Hockomock/Kelley Rex), Canton (Hockomock/Davenport), Sacred Heart (Mayflower Comp), Tri-County (Mayflower Voc Large), South Shore Voc Tech (Mayflower Voc Small), Lawrence (Merrimack Valley), Melrose (Middlesex/ Freedom), Barnstable (Old Colony), Bourne (South Coast), Rockland (South Shore), and Hopkinton (Tri-Valley)
■ With sweeps of Case and No. 19 Andover, top-ranked Barnstable has now won all 54 sets it has played this year. The Red Raiders can go 57 for 57 with a sweep of Duxbury on Monday. The Red Raiders won 57 of 58 sets in their undefeated regular season last year, dropping a single set the Hopkinton before entering the playoffs . . . No. 13 Bourne’s defeat to No. 7 New Bedford and No. 15 Arlington Catholic’s loss to No. 16 Lynnfield leave six undefeated teams left in EMass: No. 1 Barnstable (18-0), No. 4 Acton-Boxborough (16-0), No. 5 Franklin (17-0), No. 6 Lawrence (17-0), Essex Tech (18-0), and Tri-County (19-0) . . . The MIAA tournament seedings and pairings will be released on Tuesday.
Players of the Week
Daly Johnson, Needham — The junior setter totaled 73 assists in a 3-0 week for the Rockets, including dishing out 28 assists in a win over King Philip.
Janice Leao, New Bedford — Her 14 kills and eight blocks helped the Whalers hand Bourne its first loss of the year and also set a new school record for blocks in a single season with 82.
Melissa Morelli, Lynnfield — The junior stuffed the stat sheet in helping the Pioneers hand Arlington Catholic its first loss of the season, 3-1, finishing with 18 kills, 15 assists, and 10 digs.
Abigail Rae, Walpole — The senior outside hitter posted 21 kills and 19 digs in Walpole’s lone win of the week, a 3-1 victory over Medway.
Emily Zhang, Acton-Boxborough — With 38 digs from the senior defensive specialist, the Colonials were able to best Concord-Carlisle in five sets and stay undefeated in a 2-0 week.
Games to Watch
Saturday, Westborough at Melrose, 3 p.m. – The Red Raiders (12-5) host the Rangers (13-3) in a rematch of last year’s Division 2 state final.
Monday, Duxbury at No. 1 Barnstable, 5 p.m. – The top-ranked Red Raiders (18-0) can wrap up a second consecutive undefeated regular season with a win over the Dragons (12-7).
Monday, Peabody at No. 9 Danvers, 5:15 p.m. – The Falcons (15-1, 13-0 NEC) host the Tanners (13-5, 12-1 NEC) to determine the Northeastern Conference title in a rematch of a game Danvers swept in September.
Dan McLoone can be reached at email@example.com.