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Shorthanded Bears beat Belmont to kick off season

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by Joshua Spaulding
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Sports Editor - Salmon Press Newspapers

Belmont's Madeline Johnson goes up to try and block a shot from Newfound's Bailey Fairbank on Friday night. (Photo by Joshua Spaulding) (click for larger version)
September 24, 2020
BELMONT — The Newfound volleyball team, just moments before taking the court in Belmont for the first game of the season for both teams last Friday night, found out that they would be a little shorthanded.

Already with just eight players on the varsity roster, the Bears went up against the Raiders with seven healthy bodies and came through with a 3-0 win.

"My returning team is really, really strong," said Newfound coach Amy Fairbank, noting being shorthanded was something they can deal with. "All of them can set, all of them can hit, all of them can play the back row."

"As a coach, my job is to let the players realized you can't define a season by the scoreboard," said Belmont coach Adam Edgren. "In a way, I don't mind losing early in the season, I think we can learn more from a loss than from a win."

Malina Bohlmann got Newfound started in the first game, as the Bears got out to a 3-0 lead behind a solid hit from the sophomore. After the Raiders got on the board, she added another hit and the lead stretched to 5-1. A nice block from Belmont's Isabella McDonald helped her team get within two at 5-3 but Newfound answered with a service ace from Emalie Ruiter and the Bears went up 7-3.

Belmont rallied to get within two but Newfound got the lead back to five and then stretched it to eight before McDonald made another nice play at the net for the Raiders to get them back on the board.

A Bailey Fairbank ace pushed Newfound's lead to 10 and they opened it up to 11 on a couple of occasions but a couple of nice hits from Belmont's Kat Davies allowed the Raiders to stay alive. Ruiter and Alyzabeth O'Connell exchanged points at the net but a Bohlmann tip and two aces from Mikayla Ulwick gave the Bears the 25-12 win in game one.

O'Connell helped the Raiders early on with a hit but a pair of aces from Ruiter helped propel Newfound to a 5-1 lead. Bohlman had a hit and then added a service ace as the Bears opened the lead to 10-2. The Raiders got a couple more points but an ace from Danielle Walker and a hit from Fairbank continued to stretch the Newfound lead.

Mady Cryans had a nice hit for the Raiders and then Madeline Johnson added a service ace for the hosts, cutting the lead to 17-7. Fairbank helped the Bears continue to pull away with a hit and a service ace. Bohlmann sealed the victory with a big hit and Newfound had the 25-9 win and a 2-0 lead.

The third game saw Belmont get on the board first thanks to a nice dig from Lilly Carter and a hit from Davies kept Belmont in the lead. Bohlmann had a block for the Bears and Belmont's 4-2 lead disappeared with a pair of Bohlmann aces. Fairbank found a nice spot for a hit and Bohlmann added another hit as Newfound stretched the lead out to 9-5.

Walker added an ace for the Bears and Paulina Huckins found a nice spot down the sideline. Fairbank chipped in a block and the lead went to 12-5. McDonald answered with an ace for the Raiders and Davies had a big kill as well.

Fairbank had a nice dig and Huckins added a pair of aces to help Newfound open the lead up to 18-8. O'Connell found a nice spot for a hit but Bohlmann had a hit and a nice tip and then Ulwick added an ace to seal a 25-9 win and the 3-0 victory for the Bears.

"This team gets along beautifully, they're all super athletic, they all have a positive attitude and they're all willing to do what it takes," Fairbank said. "I just want to get through the season safe and healthy for them."

While the Bears were not required to wear masks, Fairbank told them that she recommended they wear them in the front line and she said that did take some getting used to for some of the girls, but they adjusted well.

"They're having fun," she said. "That's a huge thing for me."

"It's great to be in the gym, they're ecstatic to be on the floor," said Edgren, who had his team practicing outside during the preseason. "They were better late in the match than early and they were gaining more confidence.

"It's a challenge for any of us to be consistently confident when the scoreboard tells you you're being beaten," he continued. "But they're still learning the system and the offense."

Belmont will be back in action today, Thursday, Sept. 24, at Laconia at 5:45 p.m., will be hosting Plymouth on Monday, Sept. 28, at 6:15 p.m. and will be at Plymouth on Wednesday, Sept. 30, at 5:45 p.m.

Newfound will be in action today, Sept. 24, at home against Inter-Lakes, then has back-to-back games with Franklin, at home on Tuesday, Sept. 29, and on the road on Thursday, Oct. 1, with all matches scheduled for 6:15 p.m.

Sports Editor Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 279-4516, ext. 155 or josh@salmonpress.news.

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