LAWRENCE — Twenty-three straights wins — a league and now a sectional championship in hand — and George Sullivan won’t budge.
“Losing nine girls, eight of whom were starters, this still has to be considered a rebuilding year,” claimed Sullivan, after a virtually whole new Andover crew grabbed the school’s second straight Division 1 North title with a 3-0 victory before about 500 fans last night at Lawrence High School.
Andover, fresh off its emotional victory over rival North Andover, showed similar bounce against the Hillies, never allowing Haverhill any life in a 25-16, 25-17, 25-22 win.
Hillies coach Bill Kaste saluted the Warriors and their effort, especially on defense where they simply wouldn’t allow the ball to hit the floor.
“They were very strong defensively and made it really hard on us,” said Kaste, whose upset-minded Hillies ended another fine campaign at 18-4.
“We came into this like every other match we played this year, looking to play our best and our hardest. I’m just so very pleased with my girls and the effort they gave.”
Haverhill oozed grit, especially down and out late in the third. Behind the fire of Allison Lahiff and Alexis Alestock, the Hillies nearly erased a seven-point deficit at 21-15. Haley Deroche’s pressure serving sparked the rally to ignite the “Nation” in the stands behind them.
But Andover is Andover, a juggernaut still. And with Addy Kennedy and Sarah Kenyon working their magic on the floor, the Warriors locked down on the title and a trip to the state semifinals at Bridgewater-Raynham Wednesday at 7 p.m. against 22-0 powerhouse Barnstable. “Our defense stepped it up again,” said Sullivan. “That was the key. We have people that can really hit and do something with the ball when you get it to them. But you have to get it to them and that starts with defense.”
Andover 3, Haverhill 0
Division 1 North title game
Kills: A -- Chelsea Hu 14, Rachel Schnakenberg 11; H -- Haley DeRoche 8, Abigail Sonugu 7
Blocks: A -- Schnakenberg 8, Maddy Reppucci 7
Assists: A -- Azita Bakhtyari 33; H -- Orenla Llupo 21
Service points (aces): A -- Mackenzie Kennedy (Sarah Kenyon 2); H -- (DeRoche 3)
Digs: A -- Addy Kennedy 4; H -- Alexis Alestock 27
Haverhill (18-4): 16 17 22 — 0
Andover (23-1): 25 25 25 — 3