Merrimack girls volleyball eases way into D-I final four

MERRIMACK – Despite owning the top seed in the Division I girls volleyball tournament, Merrimack wasn’t going to take anything for granted in its quarterfinals matchup against eighth-seeded Bedford.

Whether it was due to that additional focus or Merrimack’s dominance, the Tomahawks are now within two wins of consecutive championships.

The Tomahawks (19-1) overcame a four-point deficit in the third game to secure a 3-0 (25-23, 25-17, and 25-21) victory over the Bulldogs (12-8).

Tammy Lambrou’s squad lost only one contest during the regular season, and they headed into the quarterfinals riding a nine-game winning streak. Still, there was no reason to be comfortable against a tough Bedford squad, especially since No. 6 Bishop Guertin had downed No. 3 Concord earlier in the day.

"This was an interesting year," Lambrou said. "It was really anybody’s game. Looking at some of the teams that played today, there were lower-ranked teams that ended up beating higher-ranked teams. I think the top 10 in the state are beatable on any given day, so you just never know."

That was certainly the case in the first game, as Merrimack never pulled away by more than four points. The Tomahawks managed to keep their cool, and they used a dominating run from Katie Flynn to get the necessary breathing room. The senior finished the contest with 11 service points, 15 kills and 37 digs.

The Tomahawks were dominant during the second game, with Elise Jolly picking up several points for her team. Bedford managed to go on a late run, but Jolly and Jo Coffey notched several clutch scores to lead Merrimack to the victory. The duo combined for 27 service points, 28 digs. Jolly also added three aces and 18 kills.

The third game was a different story, as Bedford held the lead through much of the frame. The Bulldogs took an early four-point lead on the back of Courtney O’Connell and Rachel Larrivee. The two squads traded late leads, but some timely mistakes by the Bulldogs and clutch points from Jolly, including the match-winning spike, secured the victory.

"We started to make a lot of mental mistakes," Lambrou said of the third game. "Bedford capitalized on that. They did a great job of feeding Courtney the ball, and we just let up a little too much. But at the end, we figured it out and finished."

Merrimack’s Alexa Ladue finished with nine service points, four digs and seven kills, while teammate Lianna Klinger compiled nine service points and 19 digs.

The Tomahawks will next take on fourth-seeded Hollis Brookline (17-3) in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Thursday at Pinkerton Academy in Derry.