Spartans volleyball rolls into semis before losing
Sixth-seeded Coe-Brown controlled the bulk of the action, ending the Milford High volleyball season in a 25-21, 13-25, 25-20, 25-21 state semifinals win.
“They just were super tight today. They played tentative and it cost us,” said Spartans coach Mia Malafronte, whose club finished at 15-3. “Our offense didn’t get going. The defense didn’t get going. We weren’t covering the places we needed to cover, and Coe-Brown was smart. They did their homework.”
The win ended another solid Spartan season and a fine era in school volleyball history.
“I lose six seniors. I lose Gabby. She’s a dominant player, and we’re going to miss both of our setters, Kailyn and Kaydee,” said Malafronte. “Kaydee is amazing. She’s had such a turnaround this year and become so valuable. I’m not going to lie, though. The future looks bright. We won the JV tournament, with a lot of talent coming up. And we finished today with two sophomores (Stella Crosby and Izzy Unsworth).”
In the semifinal loss, Robyn Krafft and Brianna Arnoldy (seven blocks, three kills) played their best volleyball of the night in the fourth, but as hard as they battled, the climb was too much.
Setters Kaydee Mann (16 assists, 7 kills, 4 digs) and Kailyn Chamberlain (13 assists, 12 digs) gave it all they had in their final matches.
Coe-Brown, which fell in the teams’ regular-season meeting by the same 3-1 score, moved into the finals with a 14-5 mark but fell to Gilford, which closed out its perfect season with a win, a 19-0 mark and the state title.
Souhegan High finished the regular season at 7-9, earning the ninth seed in the playoffs before the Sabers fell to Laconia in the tourney opener, 3-0.
It took 80 minutes and 32 seconds in the state semifinals, but the Milford High girls were eliminated by Hanover, the top seed, 1-0.
Neither team managed many significant chances during regulation, with the best opportunity probably coming in the eighth minute. There, Milford senior Emmy Sullivan found an incoming corner from near the penalty mark and found the crossbar, with fellow senior Aspen Tiapa immediately grabbing the rebound. Tiapa’s volley hit the left post, but an errant ricochet gave Milford another corner.
The second corner was safely cleared, and it would come back to haunt the Spartans, as other potential opportunities throughout the match were squandered much more easily.
“One of the big things we talked about was not taking bailout shots too far, we need to get into the box and take those shots closer,” said Milford coach Russ Matthews. “Sometimes those shots come because you’re either looking to open the space up or nobody knows what to do with it. We had that opportunity on the post and crossbar, if we finished that things might have been different.”
Despite the lack of threatening chances, Milford slowly grew its control over the tempo of the game as time moved on, leading one to just assume the deadlock would lead to a replay of the 2018 Final, where Milford and Hanover needed a penalty shootout to decide things.
Instead, Hanover junior Sage McGinley-Smith slotted home the game-winner on a shot that found its way past the left post almost immediately after the start of the overtime period.
“There were other chances like that during the game, but (in overtime) everybody was in the right place at the right time,” said Hanover coach Doug Kennedy. “Sage has a knack for being there for the key goal.”
Milford ends its year with a 12-3-1 regular season and postseason wins against Plymouth and Pembroke.
Souhegan High saw its season end in the quarterfinals with a loss to the second seed, Hollis Brookline.
Hanover went on to beat Bow in the championship match, 1-0.
Milford loses five seniors, but next year will be trying to squeeze the last ounces of talent out of what three years ago was the highly touted Syd Thibault freshman class. Ah, and then there are the Souhegan Sabers, who went one step further (quarters) than a year ago but lose nine seniors, including the talented Savannah Behn. They’re solid in goal as Hunter Stonebreaker (junior) has one more year. We’ll see what other younger talent surfaces.
In Division IV, Wilton-Lyndeborough started the season off on fire, 5-0 and outscoring the opposition 42-5. But Warriors coach Dan Ayotte warned that when the schedule toughened up there could be some bumps, and he was right. But they likely didn’t expect to lose in the first round at home to a Concord Christian team they beat twice. Chalk it up to experience, as they lose just two seniors and have a young nucleus led by current sophomore forward Elisabeth Jacob. They should be strong next season and beyond.
Milford may be the team to watch locally here, making the tournament under new coach Olf Mouyaka after a few tough seasons and may be able to sustain the loss of nine seniors as he works to beef up the program and numbers. Souhegan has suffered through its second straight non-tourney year, but longtime coah Dave Saxe went into this season looking for development and chemistry, and has a junior nucleus that should spell a look up.
In Division IV, Wilton-Lyndeborough had a fine showing this season, but probably expected to go further than the first round (1-0 loss to Lin-Wood).
Keep an eye on this team, as they lose just three seniors and have athletes – remember Sean and Troy Brennan from baseball? The future should be bright.