The Winnisquam Regional High School Unified volleyball team capped off a perfect season with a 25-6, 25-11 sweep of Pembroke Academy in the NHIAA Division I state championship match on June 13. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
June 16, 2014PEMBROKE – A dominating run finished in just the same fashion. And as a result, a state title road the bus back up Route 93, with a police escort into Tilton on June 13.
The Winnisquam Regional High School Unified volleyball team capped off an undefeated season with a convincing win, as the top-seeded Bears swept second-seeded Pembroke Academy, 25-6, 25-11, in the NHIAA Division I state championship match.
"That was a great way for them to end this year," said Winnisquam head coach Mike Livernois. "It's a really nice group of kids and they worked really hard this year. They've really grown as a team and learned how to work together. You saw the results of that today."
Indeed the Bears had it all working in the finals. Buoyed by the play of Richard Estes, DJ Aldridge and Caitlyn Allerdice, Winnisquam stormed out to a commanding lead right away, as the squad took a 7-2 lead in game one behind two straight aces from Estes.
That lead ballooned to 18-3 thanks to strong serving from Mo Raymond and Aldridge, and Winnisquam took a 1-0 lead when Aldridge put down a kill on set point for a 25-6 win.
"We really played under control today which is not that easy to do with such a mixture of players and ability levels," said Livernois of his team's dominance. "We've tried to make this as close to a volleyball experience as we can. We run a 5-1 formation with a setter, just like we do in the fall season, and we attack as well. In that sense, we play just like every other Winnisquam team."
Game two started off much tighter, as Pembroke, which beat Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough in the semifinals to advance, actually held a 9-8 advantage. But a 10-0 run from the Bears quickly changed things, with Allerdice serving three straight points to jumpstart the run. A kill from Estes off a feed from Carissa Archibald also aided the cause, as Winnisquam stormed ahead for an 18-9 lead.
Estes' three straight points at the service line put the Bears up 22-11, setting the stage for Meghan LaBelle, who served it out and an error from Pembroke on match point gave Winnisquam the 25-11 win that secured the state championship.
"This was just a nice experience for everyone," Livernois said. "Playing on a team like this, everyone learns to resolve differences and get along. It's a tremendous growth opportunity for them."
The title comes in just the second year of the Unified program for Winnisquam, as the Bears closed out year two with a perfect 8-0 record. That included a 2-0 sweep of fourth-seeded Spaulding in the semifinals.
"I think this is the hardest Unified sport," said Livernois of volleyball. Unified also offers basketball in the winter and soccer in the fall. "In basketball and soccer, one person can carry it up the court or field and move through everyone. In this sport, it's important that they all have to do their jobs to be successful."
The Winnisquam roster featured seven seniors, including varsity volleyball stars in Archibald and Raymond. Watching the fall volleyball players help lead the way for the rest of the team was certainly a fun sight for Livernois and his coaching staff of Kevin Archibald and Jonathan Ledoux.
"It's almost like they were able to pay it forward," said Livernois of his varsity players. "They were able to take what they do and what they know about volleyball and help the non-volleyball players throughout the season. I think it was a rewarding experience for everyone."
The full roster for the state champion Bears includes: Kaylee Howard, Caitlyn Allerdice, Kayla Langan, Maria Denault, Autumn Chaffee, DJ Aldridge, Chantel Cremer, Richard Estes, Connor Archibald, Kyle Sawicki, Carissa Archibald, Mo Raymond, Meghan LaBelle, Amanda Blier, Raj Rawal and Steven Hanser.
Winnisquam's regular season march featured wins over Alvirne, Laconia, Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough, Gilford, Franklin and Spaulding.