Hollis Brookline Defends NH Title, Despite 2:1 Enrollment Disadvantage

  0 Braden Keith | January 03rd, 2017 | High School, News

Hollis Brookline High School won its 6th New Hampshire State Championship in November at the NHIAA Girls’ Volleyball high school state championship tournament, one of three state championships awarded. They did so in spite of overcoming a huge size disadvantage against most of Class 1, the largest classification in the state.

Class I

  • Hollis Brookline def. Concord 3-1 (12-25, 26-24, 26-14, 25-15)

Hollis Brookline’s official enrollment is only 815, but which would normally put them in the middle-tier of Division 2 in terms of size. Instead, they’ve petitioned to compete with the state’s biggest schools, including 3,167 enrollment Pinkerton, and still managed to emerge as champions for the second-straight season. They were the only defending champion to repeat (or even return to the state championship game) statewide.

Concord, with roughly double the enrollment of Hollis Brookline, dominated the first set and looked like it might roll to its first state title in 11 years.

“First-game jitters,” Hollis-Brookline Coach Becky Balfour told the Concord Monitor. “It’s the finals, I don’t care how prepared you are, it’s the finals. I know we were here last year, but half my team wasn’t and the half that were here, only a few of them were starters so the finals is just a whole different beast.”

But, with a loud crowd firmly behind Concord after their first set at Pinkerton Academy, Hollis Brookline adjusted, hitting away from the block of Concord senior Lauren Hatch, who drove the first set run. The change worked, and after a close second 2, Hollis Brookline rolled in sets 3 and 4 to eventually take the title in overwhelming fashion.

“So they changed their offense around a little bit after we had them on their heels I would say in that first set,” Concord Coach Jonathan Flower said. “We were dictating the pace of the game and I think they changed things around for the second game and were really coming at us from the pins and we didn’t have an answer, so good for them.”

Concord, in spite of the loss, put several players into the state record books. Hatch finishes ranked 2nd all-time in state history in blocks after finishing the game with 16 kills and 4 blocks (she also has over 1000 career blocks). Concord setter Caitlyn Shea had 27 assists, which leaves her with 2,034 in her career – 24 shy of the state record.

Class II

  • Windham def. Somersworth 3-0 (25-22, 25-16, 25-20)

The Windham Jaguars topped the Somersworth Toppers 3-0 for their second state title in the last three years, completing a perfect 19-0 season in front of about 600 spectators. The program has grown into a volleyball powerhouse in Lexi Sawyer’s four years with the program, and they were able to cap off her career with another state title.

Just like in the Division I game, the eventual-champions had to battle through early nerves en route to their title.

“I think people forget that half of the starting lineup are sophomores,” said Windham head coach Jill Bartlett. “We were a bit in shock early on. People were trying to do too much. We had some stutter steps.”

The team trailed early in set 1 before eventually pulling the scoring to 22-21, and they wouldn’t give up another point in the set. That would be the last sniff Somersworth took of a set win as Windham rolled 3-0.

While the team graduates some of its program-making seniors (like Lexi Sawyer), they do return a cast of star underclassmen, including Lexi’s younger sister Taylor – who is just a sophomore.

Like Hollis Brookline in Class I, Somersworth is actually a class III school by enrollment that has petitioned to compete in class II.

Class III

  • Moultonborough Academy def. Farmington 3-2 (25-17, 16-25, 25-14, 13-25, 20-18)

In the most suspenseful of the 3 finals, Moultonborough Academy picked off Farmington 3-2. Incidentally, the combined student bodies of the two schools (Farmington 299, Moultonborough 184) is 1 more than the enrollment of the next-smallest single school (Somersworth – 482) to make a state championship game.

Moultonborough was led by 5’9″ junior outside hitter Alexa Price, who had 18 kills in the game. The Panthers leaned heavily on her and middle blocker Brianna Lear, who combined for 114 of the team’s 164 swings – or just under 70%. Those were season-highs for both players.

The win was the 7th in Moultonborough program history and first since 2011.

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of VolleyMob.com. Braden's first foray into sports journalism came in 2010, when he launched a swimming website called The Swimmers' Circle. Two years later, he joined SwimSwam.com as a co-founder. Long huge fans of volleyball, when Braden and the SwimSwam partners sought an opportunity to …

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