Winnisquam senior outside hitter Carissa Archibald hugs head coach Mike Livernois following the Bears' 3-0 loss to top-seeded Nute in the Division III state championship match Friday night at Plymouth State. The defending champion Bears settled for a runner-up finish. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
November 11, 2013PLYMOUTH – This time, the shoe was on the other foot in the Division III state championship match.
One year after capturing a state title thanks to a 3-0 sweep of Nute High School, the third-seeded Winnisquam Regional High School volleyball team saw the top-seeded Rams exact some revenge on Friday night. Nute flipped last year's sweep in its favor this time, capturing the crown with a 25-18, 25-17, 25-19 win at Foley Gymnasium on the campus of Plymouth State.
"We lost to the team that outplayed us tonight," admitted Winnisquam coach Mike Livernois. "Last year I thought we did that to them. They forced us to make mistakes."
The thoughts of last year's loss weighed heavily on a Nute squad that wound up finishing a perfect 20-0 on the season while dropping just one set along the way (in the quarterfinals to Moultonborough Academy).
"The girls never gave up," said Nute coach Kristin Wilson, the Division III Coach of the Year. "They didn't get rattled and that was such a huge difference from when we played (Winnisquam) last year. We were prepared to not have to feel the same way we did after that match."
The main difference from last year was indeed Nute's ability to remain composed in key times. It seemed every time Winnisquam would put together a mini-run, the Rams would gather themselves and answer that run with one of their own.
"I think (Nute) definitely had more composure than last year," said Livernois, whose statements after the match very much echoed those of Wilson. "They got rattled last year and they didn't this year. They were prepared tonight and they wanted it."
The Rams came at Winnisquam with a multitude of options offensively, though senior Heidi Cloutier stood out in the middle. Cloutier was all over the floor, putting down 14 kills to go along with six blocks in keeping the Bears off-balance during its offensive sets.
"She probably had the best game of her entire career tonight," Wilson lauded of Cloutier.
The variety of weapons – which also included Ella Gourlay and sisters Alisha and Nichole Flanagan – made things difficult for a Winnisquam defense that did its best to keep rallies alive.
"(Having multiple weapons) is their strength and it's also our strength, I think," Livernois said. "I think that's why these two teams are here playing for the title."
The Rams jumped out to an 18-11 lead in the opening set, forcing Livernois to call a timeout after two straight kills from Cloutier. Winnisquam would make a run to answer, as kills from Hannah Chapin and Mo Raymond were sandwiched between a Bailey Long ace. Winnisquam clawed within 20-18, but the Rams put that composure on full display, winning the final five points for a 25-18 victory.
"We were able to set the tone from the beginning," said Wilson of her team's early lead and game one win.
The Bears jumped ahead in the second set, taking a 6-2 lead on the serving of junior setter Erica Doubleday. Winnisquam would cling to a tight 16-15 lead in game two on a Chapin kill, but yet again, Nute saved its best for down the stretch. A healthy dose of Nichole Flanagan forced Livernois to use a timeout down 19-16, and the Rams continued to dominate the end of the stanza en route to a 25-17 win when Gourlay put down a pair of kills.
"They made the plays," said Livernois of Nute's late-game heroics in the second set. "It's a game of mistakes and we made more than they did in those tight spots."
The Bears didn't give up despite the 0-2 hole however, as a newly-subbed in Marissa DeBlasie put the team up 12-10 at the service line when Long put down a kill.
But the overriding theme of the match came into play yet again in the third, as Nute's Cloutier stepped up huge in the final few points and the Bears struggled with a few errors. A 7-0 run at one point put the Rams on top 20-13, and while the Bears closed within 22-18 thanks to a kill and a block on consecutive points from Carissa Archibald, Nute held on for the 25-19 win that secured the team its first championship since 2008.
"We played a very respectable match," Livernois said. "They were close scores, we just didn't show enough composure at the end of each game."
Chapin's nine kills led the Bears on the night, and the senior added six digs in her final match. Long (six kills) and Archibald (five kills) also closed out their careers with the runner-up finish, as did fellow seniors Mo Raymond (four kills, six digs), Dallis Austin (seven digs), Clarissa MacDonald, Hannah Kilcoyne and Kaylee Howard. Doubleday totaled 21 assists in the loss.
"To post a 69-10 record in four years with two state championships and a runner-up, that's a pretty impressive record to leave in any sport," said Livernois of his senior class. "The set the bar for these next teams to follow."