Hollis Brookline volleyball team will defend its Division I title

DERRY – Five weeks ago, even in defeat, the Bishop Guertin volleyball team walked off the floor in Hollis energized by the fact that the Cardinals had just slugged it out with the very best and actually scratched out a game from the host Cavaliers.

Since that moment, Guertin ripped off 10 of 11 wins to steamroll into Tuesday night’s Division I state semifinal with Nashua South.

And the Cardinals left no doubt in the semis, making it 11 of 12 in straight sets – dousing South 25-13, 25-16 and 25-14 – to earn another shot at the beasts of Granite State volleyball.

“It’s about who steps on court ready to play,” said Bishop Guertin coach Abby Rosen, whose No. 3 seeded Cardinals advance with an 18-3 mark. “We are ecstatic. We lost a lot of valuable starters, to be here two times in the last three years. I couldn’t be more proud. We will compete.”

Saturday night at 7, Guertin will be right back here at Pinkerton Academy, facing top-seeded Hollis Brookline, for the state title. Guertin is one of just two teams to take a game off of the unbeaten Cavaliers this season.

Guertin got the jump on South, late in Game 1, with the score knotted at 18-18. With Elizabeth Knapp serving, the Cardinals made the decisive move to 22-18.

A pair of Knapp aces sandwiched a Marianna Gomez kill during the rally, The senior Gomez would punctuate the finish with back-to-back kills in the 25-23 Guertin win.

“Their offense is phenomenal, and our defense is what made the difference,” said Rosen. “Paola Matos played great defense. Mariana (Gomez) was phenomenal. She just reached her 1,000th career dig. I mean, she was our libero for three years. She switched to outside. I’m so proud of her. I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

“The whole team just played great defense.”

Game 2 would not be as suspenseful as Guertin’s height advantage began to show, and the Cardinals defense came alive as well in an impressive 25-16 display.

Knapp would finish with an amazing 10 aces with 13 major kills.

Gomez and Matos combined for 22 digs. Julia Pascucci chipped in six killls, a dozen assists and nine digs.

Guertin rolled to the 25-14 decision in the third, ending South’s dream season at 15-6.

“I could tell from the very onset the mindset was different than the other night, they walked into this gym,” said South coach Wayne Siejkowski, whose club pulled off the shocker of the tournament with a 3-0 sweep of No. 2 Pinkerton in the semis.

“We just didn’t seem to be as enthused to be here as they have been. We did not play that well. We did not play our game. We did not play South volleyball.”

As Siejkowski said, the future is certainly bright for South volleyball.

“Overall, I think it’s been an incredible season from where we were just a couple years ago. My goal was to go 13-5 and make the final four. They hit that mark starting three sophomores, a couple of juniors and two seniors,” he said. Being so young and having such a season, I’m extremely ecstatic.”

He will have to replace a pair of very special seniors, though, in Amber Hedquist and Alexie Dearborn.

“This is Amber’s third year varsity. She is the heart of this team, always upbeat, always there to make sure everyone is on board. Alexi was our JV setter a year ago when I asked her to make the change. She really latched on to libero. Over the course of the year, she’s done everything I’ve asked of her.”