HB volleyball reaches Division I semifinals

By ANDREW SYLVIA

Correspondent

HOLLIS – Hollis Brookline secured a return trip to the final four with a 3-1 victory over Bishop Guertin in Saturday night’s Division I girls volleyball quarterfinals.

The No. 4 defending champion Cavaliers squared off with No. 8 Exeter in the semifinals on Wednesday. Results were not available by press time. With a victory, HB would see either No. 2 Concord or No. 3 Dover in the finals 5 p.m. Saturday at Pinkerton Academy.

BG got off to a quick start, winning 10 of the game’s first 15 points, but the hosts quickly took over the lead thanks to five straight points during service from senior Hannah Balfour.

Balfour’s streak was the difference in a 25-21 victory for the Cavaliers in the first set and a key rally in the second set proved pivotal for HB there.

Ahead 9-7, BG could not finish off a point that saw both teams send the ball over the net a half a dozen times.

The two teams remained neck and neck for the rest of the second set, but the Cavaliers extended their advantage with 25-18 result, thanks in large part to three more consecutive points during service from sophomore Natalie Cook.

BG won the third set 25-17, but the Cavaliers controlled the contest in the fourth set, scoring 15 of the set’s first 21 points before finishing off the Cardinals 25-13 to clinch the match victory.

The Cavaliers lost 3-1 to the Cardinals in Nashua in late September, a contest that HB coach Becky Balfour said was due in large part to issues with serves and hitting that she worked hard on to address following that match.

"When we played them at their place, they definitely served really strong, so we needed to return it this time," Coach Balfour said. "If we can get some offensive, pushing it there with our service and hits, it gives us some momentum."

Hannah Balfour also added 38 assists, complimenting 29 combined kills from sophomores Maddie Norris and Elizabeth Atkinson, as well as 18 digs from freshman Sammie Sheppard.

On the other end, Bishop Guertin coach Abby Savard praised her players for their efforts in this match as well as everything they had done up to this point building the Cardinals’ program.

"The pressure on them tonight was so high and there was so much emotion," Savard said. "Volleyball is a game of runs, and they just got a few more runs than us."

The fourth-seeded Cavaliers (17-3) will face underdog Exeter at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the semifinals at Pinkerton Academy in Derry.

Eighth-seeded Exeter (14-6) reached the semifinals with an upset win over top-seeded Spaulding (17-2).

HB defeated Exeter in straight sets earlier in the season, just four days after their loss to BG, which concludes its season at 15-5.