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Bears sweep to title

Winnisquam volleyball finishes perfect playoffs with 3-0 win over Epping

The Winnisquam volleyball team celebrates its Division III championship at Plymouth State University on Friday, Nov. 5. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
November 10, 2010
PLYMOUTH — As far as tournaments go, it doesn't get much better than what the Winnisquam volleyball team did in the Division III playoffs.

The Bears won all four of their games by 3-0 scores, closing out a perfect playoff season with a victory over the Epping Blue Devils in the Division III finals on Friday, Nov. 5, at Plymouth State University.

After dispatching Belmont, Moultonboro and Mascenic in the first three rounds of the Division III tournament, all by 3-0 scores, coach Mike Livernois and his girls knew that Epping might provide a bit of resistance in the path to the championship. The Blue Devils, seeded third, had rallied from 10 points down, trailing 2-0 to Farmington in the semifinals and had come all the way back to win by a 3-2 score.

"They certainly don't back down at 2-0," Livernois said. "Every ball matters and what we told our kids was to play every ball."

Epping certainly came close to handing the Bears their first loss of the playoffs in both the second and third games of the finals, but the Bears held strong and picked up 25-23 victories in both to earn the right to celebrate on the court in front of the hundreds of fans who made the trek up Route 93 to cheer them on.

"It's the whole Bill Belichick philosophy of do your job," Livernois said.

Livernois was the team's coach when Winnisquam last won a volleyball title, back in 1998, but this is his first year back at the helm after being away from the team for a few years. He coached the Bears for 15 years in his previous stint.

"It's very satisfying to have a group of girls who didn't question, allowed me to teach them and didn't give me any attitude," said Livernois about stepping back into the job. "They came in with great attitudes on day one and we haven't let anything get in our way.

"They're a great group of girls and they earned every step of this," he added. "It's been a pleasure to work with them."

Senior Carolyn Hajdusek recorded 12 kills in the finals and fell just four kills short of 500 for her career, but her coach was quick to point out she would trade that individual accomplishment for the state title.

"We know she'd take the state championship over 500 kills in a heartbeat," Livernois said. "She wanted this and they all wanted this."

The first game was all Winnisquam after Epping hung around early. A big block from freshman Bailey Long opened the game for Winnisquam and a couple of kills from Hajdusek kept the Bears just ahead of Epping. Hajdusek then stepped to the service line and ripped off a pair of aces to up the lead to 7-3.

Epping fought back to close the gap to 8-5, but a block from Elyssa Clairmont helped to propel the Bears back out to a bigger lead and with a 14-7 advantage for Winnisquam, Epping called timeout to regroup.

The break didn't slow down the Bears, as Hajdusek recorded a big kill and Clairmont added an ace to stretch the lead to 17-7. An ace from Stephanie D'Abbraccio helped up the lead to 19-8 and another big kill from Hajdusek made it a 20-10 advantage for Winnisquam. The lead stretched to 22-11 and Epping called another timeout.

D'Abbraccio made a nice play low at the net to get the Bears one point closer to the win. Epping netted a couple more points, but a kill by Danielle Sarber closed out the 25-13 win.

Epping bounced back strong in game two, pulling out to an early 9-5 lead, despite an ace from Clairmont and another kill from Hajdusek.

However, Winnisquam bounced right back, quickly closing the gap with the help of a service ace from Shawna Kilcoyne. The Bears pulled even at 11 and again at 12 before taking the lead. Hajdusek had a couple of big kills to help push the Bears to a 20-14 lead, but Epping didn't back down.

The Blue Devils rallied to cut the lead to 20-17, but a nice tip from Clairmont put the Bears up 21-17. Epping then rattled off three points in a row to cut the lead to 21-20, causing Livernois to call a timeout for his team to regroup.

Winnisquam won the first two points out of the timeout, with an ace from Mary Cartmell accounting for one point. Epping cut the lead to 23-21, but a service error put Winnisquam within one point of the win and brought an Epping timeout. The Blue Devils got the next two points to make it 24-23, but another service error gave the win to Winnisquam, 25-23.

The third game just about brought the house down in Plymouth, as the fans from both sides were treated to an intense match that once again came down to the final points.

The two teams went back and forth early, with Hajdusek getting a kill and D'Abbraccio netting an ace. Epping took a 6-4 lead, but three aces in a row from Hajdusek pushed the Bears back in front by an 8-6 tally. A great tip from Sarber and an ace from Kilcoyne helped keep Winnisquam in front, but Epping kept things close, keeping the gap at about three points.

A Hajdusek kill made it 16-13, but Epping rallied to eliminate the gap and took an 18-17 lead and Livernois called timeout to bring his team together.

Epping won the first point after the timeout to up the lead to 19-17, but a great play from Cartmell at the net cut the lead to one and two plays later, perfect placement on a tip by Clairmont put Winnisquam on top 20-19 and Epping called timeout.

Out of the break, a big kill from Sarber stretched Winnisquam's lead to two, but again Epping rallied. The Blue Devils roared back to tie the game at 23 and Livernois again called a time out. His team got the next point and Epping called timeout.

However, on the following play, Hajdusek drilled a ball to the back row to set off the celebration and seal the 25-23 win, which gave the Bears a 3-0 win for the title.

"I thought Epping played a great match," Livernois said. "They pushed us every match. They did their school and their city proud.

"I thought we played a great defensive game," Livernois stated, pointing to the dig statistics for Kilcoyne (21, a season high for the team), D'Abbraccio (10), Hannah Twombly (nine) and Cartmell (eight).

"We were focused and we didn't make a lot of unforced errors," the Bear coach noted.

Sarber had four kills, while Clairmont had 15 assists, three blocks and four tip kills.

"I thought Danielle (Sarber) was big in the second game," Livernois said. "And Elyssa (Clairmont) had a couple of big tip kills to change momentum."

The Bears finished the regular season at 15-1, the only blemish on the record coming in a September game at Prospect Mountain. The championship team includes Hannah Twombly, Lauren Pike, Carissa Archibald, Danielle Sarber, Shawna Kilcoyne, Stephanie D'Abbraccio, Mary Cartmell, Carolyn Hajdusek, Hannah Chapin, Elyssa Clairmont, Bailey Long and Dallis Austin.

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