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Panthers beat Belmont, reach Final Four

Behind the hitting of Brittney Hale and Kaitlin Slippy, MA volleyball team marches on to the semis

MA’s Kim Delaney gets up for a spike during the Panthers’ win over Belmont Saturday night. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
October 31, 2011
MOULTONBORO – It's off to the Final Four for the Moultonboro Academy volleyball team, as the Lady Panthers shook off a loss in game two en route to a 25-17, 23-25, 25-18, 25-14 win over 13th-seeded Belmont High School in the quarterfinal round of the Division III tournament Saturday night.

The win sends fifth-seeded MA (15-3) into the semifinals, scheduled for after deadline Wednesday night against top-seeded Winnisquam at Plymouth State. A win would send the Panthers to the finals against the winner of Epping and Farmington.

"It was a great Division III volleyball match," said MA coach John Garneau of the win. "So many great saves on both ends, everything you would expect from a match like this."

Both teams played well in a back-and-forth opening game, as back-to-back kills from Belmont's Myranda Lewis and Haley Bryan tied the score 13-13. But MA went on a run behind the serving of setter Rachael Duddy, as she tossed in a pair of aces to give the hosts an 18-13 lead. The Panthers would extend the lead thanks to kills from Brittney Hale and Kaitlin Slippy, and Hale put down a kill on game point to give MA a 25-17 win.

MA looked like it was on the path to extending its lead in the second set, as Hale gave her team a 20-13 lead with a flurry of kills behind the serving of Kassie Malm. But the Red Raiders (9-9) had other ideas. Nicole Derosia got it started with a kill and Lewis put down four in a six-point span to get within 22-21. MA led 23-22 and looked to close things out, but Belmont rattled off the final three points of the frame to even the match at one game apiece. Lewis mixed in an ace to set up game point, and MA was called for a net violation to secure the Raiders win.

"I thought Belmont was very much improved since the beginning of the season," said Garneau. "They're a very good defensive team and they serve-received well. They were dangerous coming in because they took Winnisquam to five games during the season, they beat Hillsboro-Deering (in the prelims). I was very worried about them."

While the momentum was clearly on the Red Raiders side of the net, MA came out firing on all cylinders in a pivotal game three. With Duddy's serving continuing to be a strength (seven aces on the night), the Panthers jumped out to an 8-1 lead and never looked back. Jen Lively put home a tip-kill on game point and MA captured the third frame, 25-18.

"We just lost that spark that we had in the second game," admitted Belmont coach Karen Hoey. "I think the jitters finally got to them a bit and it helped Moultonboro that they got off to a big early lead right away."

The momentum carried into game four, as Slippy poured in three quick kills and took care of business at the service line for a 12-4 advantage. Belmont's Rachel Weeks had an impressive block to give the Raiders hope, but Hale (20 kills) finished off the win on match-point with a thunderous spike.

"Both hitters (Hale and Slippy) had big nights," said Garneau, as the duo combined for 37 kills. "And Rachael (Duddy) was terrific all night long setting them the ball. That part of our game was definitely working for us."

The back row defense of Malm (nine digs), Kelsi West (13 digs) and Dana Jackson also impressed for MA, while Duddy totaled 36 assists to go along with 11 digs in an all-around solid evening.

Lewis led Belmont with 16 kills, five aces, six digs and two solo blocks in her final match as a senior, while Alyssa Woods (eight kills) and Vanessa Moses (five kills) also chipped in offensively.

"Myranda had a really great night…we're going to miss her," said Hoey. "Offensively we spread it out behind her, everyone helped out there."

Sophomore setter Megan Bailey had 13 assists and three kills for Belmont, while Derosia (eight digs), Jessie Bergeron (five digs) and Rachel Guyer (two aces, three digs) all paced the Raiders.

"This was the first time for a lot of them to make it to the second round of the playoffs," said Hoey. "So kudos to them, they have that fight in them to give it their all. We have a ton of potential going forward so I'm really looking forward to the future with this team."

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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