Hollis Brookline volleyball falls to Nashua North

John Connelly had a simple message for his Nashua High School North girls volleyball team before last Thursday’s playoff game against Hollis Brookline.

The Titans needed five games to beat the Cavaliers during the regular season, so the North coach told his players they needed to play their best, or the season will likely be over.

No. 6 North not only played its best game, but the Titans went above Connelly’s expectations and defeated No. 11 HB 3-0 in the Division I prelims. Game scores were 25-22, 25-21 and 25-20.

“This was the thing we tried to drive home about postseason play, you bring your A-game that night or there’s a chance your season will be over,” Connelly said. “The girls took that to heart. They played their positions better than I thought they would.”

The Titans (13-6) got a solid game from junior Taylor Choate, who finished with 14 kills, seven service points and five blocks, including one near the end of the third game that seemed to take momentum away from the Cavs (9-10).

North also got a big night from sisters Rosa del mar Casalduc (seven kills, eight service points) and Roshely del mar Casalduc (six kills) while Adaeze Okorie had six kills and two blocks. Sarah James and Sabrina Ivory combined for 41 assists and Erica Vendituoli had 38 digs and 13 service points.

“Our defense kept moving, it stayed tenacious and they kept backing each other up,” Connelly said. “That was the key.

“The phrase all night was move your feet. That is my motto. If you’re standing still, you’re doing something wrong. The girls are a good group, they’re very smart and they’re good listeners. I just stand there and try to look cute and they work their tails off.”

HB got 10 kills from senior Sav Werne and another eight from sophomore Bella Zampieri while Kayla Barron had 12 assists and Emma Turner added nine. Senior Jessica Ciarcia had 14 digs.

“I think they can hold their heads high because they played hard,” HB coach Becky Balfour said. “They did everything they could and that’s all you can ask for as a coach. It’s been a joy and refreshing to coach these girls this season.” After North took the lead in Game 1, HB came back and took control, going up by as many as five points, 16-11. But the Titans rallied behind the serving of Taylor Iannone, who helped North tie the game at 16.

The teams traded points, with HB taking a 21-20 lead, but North won four of the final five points for the win.

In Game 2, the Titans got out to a 12-2 lead but the Cavs came back to cut it to 15-10. North went on another run, winning six points in a row with Vendituoli serving, to go up 21-10.

But HB wasn’t done. The Cavs were down 24-16, but cut the lead to three before losing a long point on a ball that appeared to be out by a few inches.

The Titans got out to a 10-3 lead in Game 3 before HB could respond. The Cavs were able to tie it at 20, but North had just enough to hold on for the win.

“Unlike any other sport, volleyball is a game of momentum,” Connelly said. “In between the sets, I call the two minutes the death period. A hot team can go cold just between the two minutes, and a cold team can get hot.

“Hollis is well-coached. She’s a legendary coach. When you know you have an opponent who is that well-prepared, you have to impress upon the players to not take them lightly.”