DERRY — If Windham high school and St. Thomas Aquinas weren’t rivals before, the two schools certainly are now.
Less than a week after the Windham field hockey team bested St. Thomas in the New Hampshire Division 2 semifinal, the volleyball team did the same last night — earning a berth in the state title game.
Second-seeded Windham volleyball defeated the third-seeded Saints 3-0 last night at Pinkerton. The Jaguars advance to the Division 2 state championship on Saturday against Coe-Brown.
“We’ve never made it to a championship, so it feels unbelievable,” said senior setter and captain Melissa Cino, “The fact that St. Thomas has been our rival all of these years and the fact that we’ve come back and beat them twice this season is just a great feeling.”
In September, St. Thomas pushed Windham to five games before the Jaguars still pulled away with a win.
“We’ve grown so much since then,” said Cino, who also cited defensive adjustments made throughout the season as a reason for the team’s improvement.
Last season, Windham was knocked from the tournament in the quarterfinals by the team that they will play on Saturday for the state championship — Coe-Brown — by a 3-0 score. As a result, the girls had a collective goal to get past the quarterfinals, where they fell each of the last two seasons, and earn some revenge.
“Our curse was round 2,” said head coach Jill Bartlett. “We talked on Monday at our first team practice after round 2 and I said to them ‘I’m ready to go all the way. If you guys are, I am,’ and they all bought in, so here we are.”
Junior libero Hannah Scott was overjoyed at the chance to play for a state title.
“It’s crazy just to say that in the beginning of the year that we were going to make the playoffs and break through quarterfinals, because that was our goal,” Scott said. “And then to make it past the semifinals is just crazy…It’s crazy to see just how much our team has grown, both as a family and as a program.”
This isn’t the first time that coach Bartlett will be aiming for a state championship with some of these players. Melissa Cino, Ali Conners and Sam Crichton are all part of Windham’s lacrosse team that Bartlett has coached to a Division 3 state championship the past two seasons.
Windham will play top-seeded Coe-Brown this Saturday at 5 at Pinkerton Academy for the New Hampshire Division 2 state championship.
Windham 3, St. Thomas Aquinas 0
Kills: Lexi Sawyer 9
Blocks: Emiline Sundman 7
Assists: Melissa Cino 25
Service points (aces): Hannah Scott (4), Sundman (4)
Digs: Scott 12
St. Thomas Aquinas: 20 26 21 — 0
Windham (13-1): 25 28 25 — 3