Sabers fall to Cardinals in 1st round

NASHUA – Matt Box doesn’t like to see his No. 8 Bishop Guertin High School boys volleyball team have to play a fifth game.

When it’s against No. 9 Souhegan, at least this season, it’s been a good thing.

For the second time in two weeks, the Cardinals and Sabers needed five games to decided a winner, and just like in the regular season, Bishop Guertin came out on top, despite blowing a 2-0 lead.

The Cardinals won the first two games, 25-14 and 28-26, but couldn’t close out Souhegan, as it won the next two, 25-22 and 25-20. The Sabers led 6-3 in the fifth game, but behind the serving of Brandon Levesque, the Cardinals won eight points in a row and took the final game 15-10 to win Friday’s Division I preliminary round match.

Kyle Cushion led Bishop Guertin (8-9) with 33 kills and 15 digs and Levesque had 44 assists. Joe Hyatt added 17 kills and Ryan Szczygielski had 25 digs for the Cardinals, who will face No. 1 Salem in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.

“I hate playing a fifth game, but if we go there, we’re going to play it,” Box said. “That’s when they pulled it out, and I think that’s the difference between my team this year as opposed to last year.

“We came out really strong and we got stuck in the middle. All in all, we let a few things go during the third and fourth set, but we were able to come back.”

Raju Gandhi had 15 kills and Josh Hansen added 12 kills and 25 digs for Souhegan (6-11), which was playing without three seniors due to graduation Friday night. The entire Sabers lineup consisted of juniors and sophomores, as Ely Marciano added 22 assists and Alex Craven had 18 digs.

“It’s tough when you’re not playing with your entire squad and your substitutions are different,” Souhegan coach Kim Roberge said. “To be down 2-0 and to come back, it certainly was a disappointing loss.”

Bishop Guertin led early in the first game, but Souhegan came back to tie it twice. The Cardinals ran off nine points in a row to take a 20-11 lead and traded points with the Sabers the rest of the way.

The Sabers led for most of the second game before the Cardinals rallied to go up 21-20. Souhegan retook the lead and was up 24-23, 25-24 and 26-25, but couldn’t get the match point, and Cushion served the final two points for Bishop Guertin to win 28-26.

“We’ve been training that way all week,” Box said. “I’ve been putting pressure on them with scores on the board and squeezing out wins being down. I think it paid off (Friday). We were down in the fifth (game) and we turned it around with a great run.”

The Sabers seemed to grab all the momentum after pulling out a win in the third game, leading most of the way in the fourth, and taking an early lead in the fifth. But with the Sabers up 8-6, Levesque started the Cardinals on the deciding run that put them up 13-8.

“We have to shut it off and focus on the next one because that’s going to happen,” Box said of how the Cardinals regrouped. “There’s nothing that you can do.”

Bishop Guertin will now face a Salem team that has won every championship since boys volleyball became a sanctioned sport in 2004.

“This year, we only had two returning varsity players,” Box said. “We had no hopes of seeing where we are right now. We’re going to focus on one point at a time and building on that. Anything can happen, and we’ve seen it.”