Cavaliers girls volleyball advances to final four

HOLLIS – Volleyball is a cruel and beautiful sport. Amid the flurry of shots, rallies and speed it all ends in an instant. The ball touches back down to court, and it’s joy for one team and tears for another.

Locked in a tight battle deep in the fifth game, Hollis Brookline’s Bella Zampieri let fly a shot that caught the top of the net before gently falling to floor to give the Cavaliers a 15-13 win and propel fourth-seeded HB to a 3-2 win over fifth-seeded Dover in Saturday’s Division I quarterfinal.

The Cavaliers (17-3) took the lead early in the deciding game and fended off ties at six, eight and 10 to hold off the Green Wave (15-5).

"We don’t want to play not to lose; we want to play to win," HB coach Becky Balfour said. "When you’re playing to win sometimes you make mistakes. I like the fact that we played aggressive. I liked the fact that we stayed composed. That’s kind of been the story of our season."

In a match full of runs, the Cavaliers had to pull out all the stops to get the victory. A solid 25-15 win in the opening game led to a perplexing 25-16 loss in the second game, when HB gave up six of the first seven points and never led. The Cavs rebounded with a convincing 25-19 win in which they opened up a five-point lead early and cruised before Dover took over with a 25-18 win in a Game 4 to force the deciding fifth game.

HB leaned on its seniors and they rose to the moment. Maddy Blake had 13 kills and 10 digs, while Zampieri had seven kills and 22 digs. Zampieri, the school’s all-time digs leader, went over 1,000 for her career during the match.

"I’m just trying my best," Zampieri said. "I want to go far. My whole team wants it. I have full confidence in my team, and I know they’re going to put it down."

HB also got big performances from Maddie Norris, who had 14 kills, and Hannah Balfour, who had 44 assists.

Next on the schedule was perennial power and top-seeded Merrimack (19-1) in Thursday’s semifinals at Pinkerton Academy in Derry. The match was not finished at presstime.

The Cavaliers were the only team to beat the Tomahawks this fall.