Milford sweeps Gilford in volleyball semifinals

DERRY – Chuck Roberson felt he’d be able to tell how his Milford High School girls volleyball team was going to play in Thursday’s Division II semifinal by the way the Spartans acted during his pregame speech.

If the players didn’t seem like they were listening, Roberson knew they were prepared.

The No. 2 Spartans were, staying just ahead of No. 3 Gilford in the first game and hanging on for close wins in the final two to beat the Golden Eagles 3-0 at Pinkerton Academy. Game scores were 25-18, 25-22 and 25-23.

The win sends Milford (17-2) to the final for the first time since 2002, when the Spartans won their second straight Class I title and reached their fourth championship game in a row.

Olivia Rougeau led the way for the Spartans, recording 14 kills, 12 digs, three blocks and two aces, while Jess Scott had 10 kills and 18 digs and Amanda Alcox added 18 digs and two kills. Abby Blanchet also had 21 assist and eight digs as Milford was locked in from the first serve of the match.

“I told them that if they didn’t pay attention to me at all in the six-minute talk, then I knew they were ready because they never do,” Roberson said. “I was worried how the nerves were going to be because we hadn’t been here, but … it was cool.

“I’ve said this all year long, and it’s hard to believe, but this team has been on the court for 25 times, counting scrimmages, and they have showed up the same way in the first game every single time. That doesn’t happen in volleyball. We just come out and play.”

Rougeau, a junior, gets most of the attention, as she was named the Division II Player of the Year earlier in the week, but the Spartans got steady play from all six players on the floor throughout the match.

“Olivia can play, but they all play so well,” Roberson said. “They mesh. They’ve been playing together forever.”

In Game 1, Milford took control of a close match behind the serving of Hanna Hembrow and Scott, as the Spartans won nine of eight points to go up 13-8. Every time Gilford (15-4) got close, Milford would respond and pull away a little more.

“When we won the first game, we all just calmed down,” Rougeau said. “We were nervous at the beginning but then it was just like a breeze and just played our game perfectly.”

The Eagles took an 11-9 lead in the second game before the Spartans won seven points in a row behind serving by Alcox. The lead remained at five for most of the match, as Milford led 22-17 before Gilford came back to make it 23-21.

But a couple of mistakes by Gilford helped the Spartans take the second game.

Milford again had a five-point lead in Game 3, and twice Gilford came back, first closing to 18-17 before the Spartans took a time out. Milford built the lead back up to five, but the Eagles took four in a row to make it 22-21 before the Spartans took the match.

“It’s a dream come true,” Rougeau said. “We’ve worked so hard and it’s unbelievable that we’re here.”