DERRY – The Salem volleyballers hung tough through the opening set against New Hampshire’s reigning player of the year and her solid group of teammates, but the defending champion Blue Devils couldn’t hang with top-seeded Dover last night.
With Molly Wotton leading the way, the Green Wave capped their perfect season with a near-flawless performance last night in the Division 1 title game, running past the third-seeded Devils in straight sets. As has been the case during a year in which Dover lost only three of 57 games, the Green Wave rebounded from a tight 26-24 first-game win with convincing 25-11 and 25-16 victories in the final two.
“They played consistent, played strong the whole time,” Salem coach John Roemer said of Dover (19-0).
“We were with them the first entire match. I think if we had won that first one, we could’ve taken the rest.”
The opener featured five lead changes and 11 ties, the last at 24. Salem (18-4) held a 23-22 lead, which would prove to be the last time the Devils held an advantage the rest of the evening.
Playing behind the 6-foot Wotton, who is committed to the University of New Hampshire, Dover blew open a tight 10-9 lead in the second by scoring 15 of the ensuing 17 points, including each of the final 10. Wotton finished with nine kills and a whopping eight aces.
“They came out strong the second (game),” Roemer said. “We started to get nervous and started getting tentative. We stopped playing our game. We just came out flat and never recovered.”
It was more of the same in the finale, which was tied twice, the last being at 11. Like it did in the second, Dover finished with a flourish, scoring 14 of the final 19.
“We just never got back into it,” said Roemer who, after two seasons coaching the girls and boys, has a combined record of 47-5 (.903 winning percentage) and three state titles. “We never recovered and that’s unusual because we fought back all year. Today was the first time I think we played a little scared.”
Despite the loss, the Blue Devils appeared content with their accomplishments the past two seasons.
“It’s been great,” said senior captain Amanda Bickford, who had a team-high 12 kills. “Last year’s team was fun, but this year’s team was a lot closer. We’re a lot more like a family. We’re sisters.
“(Dover) was just a real good solid team. We tried to shut down the outside, but they just had other people that just coming at us.”
Dover 3, Salem 0
Kills: S — Amanda Bickford 12, Ashley Matthews 4; D — Megan Priester 11, Molly Wotton 9
Blocks: S — Olivia Burke 2
Assists: S — Rachel Towler 16; D — Mackenzie Geppert 23
Service points (aces): S — Matthews (2); D — Wotton (8)
Digs: S — Bickford 13; D — Geppert 11
Salem (18-4): 24 11 16 — 0
Dover (19-0): 26 25 25 — 3