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Hollis Brookline chasing another volleyball crown

Staff photo by TOM KING Becky Balfour's Hollis Brookline girls volleyball team has lost just two sets all season as the Cavs go for a fourpeat Saturday in the Division I volleyball finals

Now in her 20th season at the helm of a Hollis Brookline volleyball dynasty, coach Becky Balfour might be facing one of her most challenging ever.

True, the Cavaliers have been the dominant Division I force, riding a run of 54 straight match wins in the Granite State and four straight state championships.

But graduation hit very hard and the talent around the state – especially locally – continues to rise.

HB graduated a massive trio in Maddie Norris, Elizabeth Atkinson and Kyra Belden.

Balfour has players who delivered under the most extreme circumstances the past couple seasons like all-Division I honorable mention choice Sammie Shepard, Kaleigh Whalen, Maren Anderson and libero Ellie Jordan.

Those roles just become more prominent in 2019.

Contenders abound in Division I.

“I once again feel like the division is close,” said Wayne Siejkowski, coach of one of those potential contenders, Nashua South.

“I have seen a transition over the last couple of years to where a complete team effort is needed for a deep playoff run.”

The Panthers feature one of the most lethal players in the state, senior outside hitter Kara

Kelliher.

She is a returning Division I all-state first-teamer on a team that lost just twice, the second coming in the state semifinals.

Bishop Guertin graduated its heart-and-soul, libero Paola Matos, but coach Abby Savard’s Cards remain loaded for bear with five starters back from a 16-3, state semifinals club.

Both Nashua North and Merrimack have the chance to find the top half of the division, returning deep and experienced groups looking to make the step up.

Coach Mia Malafronte takes the reins of one of the state’s top small school programs, Division II state runner-up Milford.

The Spartans graduated D-II Player of the Year Julia Guarniere, but it looks like Gabby Monico could be the heir apparent, especially after the postseason run she put together in 2018.

Souhegan has Andy Gordon taking charge with optimism.

“While we probably won’t be the best in our division we will be an exciting team to watch, and hopefully a scary team to play,” Gordon said.

In Division III, Campbell returns just about everyone, including senior setter Jordan Kanaley, an honorable mention all-Division III choice a year ago, from a team that went 11-6.

“Four of the five seniors have been on varsity for four years straight. They have played against the top teams such as Winnisquam, Farmington, Interlakes and they have been to the final four twice,” said coach Melissa Miner.

DIVISION I

Alvirne

Coach: Kevin Cole

2018 Results: 3-15

Returning Starters: Emily Elston, Jr., outside hitter; Jacey Bryant, Sr., outside hitter; Olivia Cakounes, Sr., right side/middle

Returning Letter Winners: Anastasia Bradley, Sr., middle hitter; Ellie Fauteux, Sr., defense; Hannah Ferrara, Sr., defense; Makella Houdagba, Sr., setter

Promising Newcomers: Molly O’Donnell, Sr., outside hitter; Camila Isaza, Jr., defense

Coach’s Comments: “As my second year as head coach of this program, I’m extremely excited to see where my girls are at. I think the program-wide changes we are making have led to huge improvement in the athletes, and they are excited to get started. Expect to see some more wins from Alvirne this year as the girls have bought in to the team first working hard mentality.”

Bishop Guertin

Coach: Abby Savard

2018 Results: 16-3, Division I semifinals

Returning Starters: Lydia Litvak, Sr., middle hitter; Alicia Glasheen, Sr., setter; Libby Knapp, Sr., outside hitter; Kristen Coumas, Sr., outside hitter/setter/opposite; Madison Keating, Jr., outside hitter

Returning Letter Winners: Emma Charron, Jr., libero; Caroline Sullivan, Soph., opposite; Morgan Faulkner, Jr., defense/outside hitter; Dominique Von Muhlenbrock Rodriguez, Jr., outside hitter

Promising Newcomers: Ayshe Sozmen, Jr., middle hitter; Skyla Grenier, Soph., middle hitter; Petra Bajdak, Jr., setter/defense

Coach’s Comments: “Forget failure. Forget mistakes. Forget everything except what you’re going to do now.”

Hollis Brookline

Coach: Becky Balfour

2018 Results: 21-0, four-time defending Division I State Champions

Returning Starters: Sammie Sheppard, Sr., libero; Kaleigh Whalen, Sr.,, outside hitter; Maren Anderson, Sr., middle hitter; Ellie Jordan, Sr., libero/defense

Returning Letter Winners: Angelina Leonard, Jr., setter; Hannah Close, Jr., outside hitter; Jessica Cooper, Jr., libero/defense

Promising Newcomers: Sydney Powers, Sr., middle hitter; Lauren Ingraham, Sr., defense; Sarah Dryer, Jr., outside hitter; Emily Dryer, Jr., right side; Meaghan Coutu, Soph., outside hitter; Lily Roberge, Soph., middle hitter; Lydia Daskalos, Soph., middle hitter; Cheyenne Colbert, Frosh., middle hitter; Sophie Jordan, Frosh., setter

Coach’s Comments: “Hollis Brookline’s varsity team features a nice mix of returning players and promising newcomers.”

Merrimack

Coach: Tammy Lambrou

2018 Results: 5-13

Returning Starters: Anna Niezrecki, Sr., outside hitter/libero; Haley Smethurst, Soph., middle hitter/outside hitter; Anya Carver, Sr., outside hitter; Isabella Smith, Jr., right side

Returning Letter Winners: Maddie Curran, Sr., defense; Kaitlin McNicholas, Sr., defense; Johanna Koroma, Sr., outside hitter/middle hitter; Nadia Hackney, Sr., outside hitter

Promising Newcomers: McKenna Malone, Jr., defense/libero; Morgan Goodspeed, Soph., outside hitter; Lindsey Hui, Soph., right side; Evan Page, Soph., middle hitter; Sarah Hardy, Jr., defense; Grace Lawton, Frosh., middle hitter/outside hitter

Nashua North

Coach: Nicole Fitzgibbons

2018 Results: 9-10

Returning Starters: Abby Coy, Sr., outside hitter; Alexis Miranda, Sr., middle hitter; Haley Stanton, Sr., right side; Meg Valcourt, Sr., setter; Jamie Parker, Jr., libero

Returning Letter Winners: Jordyn Choate, Jr., right side; Alyjah McHugh, Jr., setter; Hannah Martin, Jr., right side/outside hitter

Promising Newcomers: Kelsey Laliberte, Soph., middle hitter; Mia Lopez Soph., setter; Olivia Mazerolle, Soph., outside hitter; Mina Regnery, Soph., libero

Coach’s Comments: “The program as a whole is very excited for this season and what it will bring.”

Nashua South

Coach: Wayne Siejkowski

2018 Record: 18-2, Division I semifinals

Returning Starters: Kara Kelliher, Sr., outside hitter; Catherine Covert, Sr., middle hitter; Paige Garland, Sr., right side; Cara Lecklider, Sr., outside hitter

Returning Letter Winners: Kaitlin Fitzgibbons, Sr., setter/right side

Promising Newcomers: Alexis Farrell, Jr., middle hitter; Anne Sherman, Jr., setter; Natalie Boyle, Jr., right side; Kim Hendrick, Jr., middle hitter/right side; Carol Leigh Leatherman, Jr., outside hitter

Coach’s Comments: “The South volleyball team will look to continue working together, focused on improving from last year. The program is returning the majority of the starters from last year, and hope to reach further into the playoff this year.”

DIVISION II

Milford

Coach: Mia Malafronte

2018 Results: 16-3, Division II state runner-up

Returning Starters: Gabby Monico, Sr., outside/middle hitter; Kailyn Chamberlain, Sr,, setter/outside; Robyn Krafft, Sr., outside hitter; Kaydee Mann, Sr., setter/right side

Returning Letter Winners: Emma Tronkowski, Jr., setter/right side; Stella Crosby, Soph., setter/defense

Promising Newcomers: Brianna Arnoldy, Jr., middle hitter; Sophie Palmer, Jr., defense/setter; Marissa Spirito, Jr., outside hitter; Izzy Unsworth, Soph., outside hitter; Gabby Guarniere, Jr., defense; Ella Williams, Jr., middle hitter

Coach’s Comments: “This group has talent, depth, heart and their potential has no limits. Looking forward to an extremely competitive and fun season.”

Souhegan

Coach: Andy Gordon

2018 Results: 8-9

Returning starters: Lauren Adriaansen, Sr. libero; Callie McBride, Sr., defense; Kat Stuopis, Jr., outside hitter; Ally McCall, Jr., middle hitter

Returning Letter Winners: Hannah Caroll Jr., setter; Julia Gester Sr., defense

Promising newcomers: Lynne McNamara, Jr., outside hitter; Caitlin Cooper, Soph., middle hitter/right side

Coach’s Comments: “This team graduated a lot of offense and size last season, but we have excellent senior leadership and they are buying into new schemes and systems. Besides the mentioned promising newcomers to varsity, we have JV players that should breakout this year at the varsity level and be able to contribute as the season progresses.”

DIVISION III

Campbell

Coach: Melissa Miner

2018 Results: 11-6, Division III preliminaries

Returning Starters: Jordan Kanaley, Sr., setter; Mallory Reczko, Sr., middle hitter; Caedran Sullivan, Sr., middle hitter; Alicia McKenna, Sr., opposite; Lorelei Brown, Sr., outside hitter; Chloe Steiniger, Jr., setter; Catherine Carignan, Soph., outside hitter

Promising Newcomers: Tori Allen, Jr., middle hitter; Elayna Montenero, Soph., libero/defense; Lauren Dionne, Soph., outside hitter; Bria Soule, Soph., libero/defense; Tianna Boyson, Soph., outside hitter; Morgan Bruner, Soph., opposite

“The teams goal is to reach the championships and this year’s team has a lot of potential. The seniors’ experience is what I am hoping will be an example to the younger players who have to step up and maybe play outside their comfort level. There is plenty of talent on this team, now we just need to put it all together and play as one.”