MA sophomore Logan Donovan records a hit on the ball during the Panthers' 3-0 loss to visiting Belmont on Sept. 30. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
October 07, 2013MOULTONBOROUGH – Poise. Plain and simple, the Belmont High School volleyball team displayed it on Sept. 30.
Despite trailing late in each of the first two games, the Red Raiders remained cool in crunch time, rallying for to win both frames en route to a 26-24, 25-21, 25-17 sweep of Moultonborough Academy during 'Dig For a Cure' night at MA to benefit breast cancer research.
"Tonight was just a fabulous night," gushed BHS first-year coach Missy Miner, whose team won for the eighth straight time to open the year. "This was the best I've seen them play this year. We worked like a team out there and the communication was great."
Veteran MA coach John Garneau was impressed with the Raiders, a program he coached from 1973 to 1995.
"They took it to us from the opening kickoff to the end of game three," he explained. "Let's just give them a lot of credit. They're a very poised team."
The Panthers rebounded on Saturday night however, as Garneau joined the record books by picking up his 500th career coaching victory in a road win at Mascoma Valley.
MA led for the majority of the opening game against Belmont, and the Panthers held a 23-20 lead thanks to an Ally Lively block.
But Belmont didn't crack late, and a Shannon Conway kill got the Raiders back on track. A great rally, kept alive with an outstanding one-handed dig from Shea Callahan, ended with a Megan Bailey block to pull the Raiders within 23-22. Still, a push kill from MA setter Rachel Duddy set up game point at 24-22.
That's when Belmont's ability to scramble paid off however, as a pair of long rallies ended with the Panthers hitting the ball out of play to tie the score at 24-24. Bailey followed with an ace, and another MA error handed the opening set to the Raiders, 26-24.
Game two went much the same way as the opener, as MA built a 19-12 lead after Jenn Lively put down a monster kill. But after Belmont managed a side out, Bailey took over at the service line to lead her team back. The senior setter put her jump serve to good use, rattling off six straight points – five coming via aces – to tie things up at 19-19.
"We practice against jump servers so much but she just devastated us," said Garneau of Bailey. "Megan Bailey is the best setter we've seen all year and she has the ability to just take over a match in a variety of ways."
Miner said there's no other player she'd rather have in that situation than her senior co-captain.
"She's my clutch player, that's who I want back there at the service line in that spot," the coach said of Bailey. "She's going to get us points. The girls have faith in that and it seems to bring our whole team up when they know she's serving."
Aces late from Conway and Jessie Bergeron put Belmont on top 23-21, and back-to-back blocks from Louisa Bergeron and Callahan allowed the Raiders to hold on for the come from behind 25-21 win.
"The girls are just fighters," Miner said. "They want it so badly and they know that if they keep fighting for every single point, good things will happen."
A tight third game was broken open midway through, as service runs from Bergeron and Jackelyn Robarge put the Raiders on top 16-11.
Jenn Lively and Jamie Mason notched a pair of kills each down the stretch to keep the Panthers alive, but Belmont kills from Bridget Annis, Louisa Bergeron and Conway set up match point. Jessie Bergeron finished off the sweep, as she registered an ace to account for the 25-17 final.
"Our confidence level is high right now," Miner said afterwards. "To beat a team the caliber of Moultonborough in three games…extremely high confidence. But the girls all know that we can't take any team for granted."
Duddy paced the Panthers with 12 assists on the night to go along with four aces, while Mason had eight kills and was 9-for-9 from the service line. Libero Dana Jackson totaled 17 digs while Logan Donovan chipped in 11 digs.