EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 1, 2012

Salem advances to finals

Balanced Devils overcome Dover star

By Dave Dyer ddyer@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — DERRY — Dover may have boasted a more lethal weapon but, for the 20th straight match, the Salem volleyball team had more firepower last night in the Division 1 semifinals.

As a result, the Blue Devils (20-1) swept the Green Wave (25-21, 25-21, 25-20) to roll into Saturdays’ 5 p.m. finals against Goffstown (17-4), which upset No. 1 seed Merrimack in the other semifinal. Merrimack handed Salem its only loss of the season in a season-opening matchup.

“We were really nervous when we played them, playing for a new coach (John Roemer), and we’re so much better now,” said tri-captain Brianna Wojtas. “We’ve just really come together as a team.”

Wojtas was one of several Blue Devils who played well yesterday and helped overcome the exceptional talent of Dover star Molly Wotton, a 6-foot-1 junior powerhouse who is a prime candidate for N.H. Player of the Year honors.

Wotton finished the three-game match with 17 kills and surely would have had far more were it not for the defensive prowess of Salem’s back line led by senior libero Rachel Morrissey, who had 18 digs on the night.

Up front, Salem had too many weapons for Dover to handle.

The first game was deadlocked at 13 before the Devils put together one of their patented surges, led by junior Olivia Burke, who had four of her five blocks in Salem’s final 12 points.

In the second game, Dover led 14-11 before Salem put together a late string of points, the key one being a block of Wotton by Wojtas that put Salem ahead for good. Burke and Wojtas had two kills apiece from that point and Alyssa Kolbert capped off the game with a kill of her own.

“She (Wotton) is the best in the state so when I did get a block, I was pretty happy,” said Wojtas. “With our team, we have a bunch of good players, so we were confident, but not cocky, that we’d win.”

In the final game, Salem pulled away midway through once again, this time thanks largely to the serving of Morrissey, who strung together seven straight points that included two aces. Amanda Bickford had kills on three of Salem’s final four points.

Leading the team in kills with 10 and playing a strong game throughout was Hannah O’Shaughnessy while Kelsey Card came up with 28 assists.

“Our advantage is that we can put the ball down with seven or eight players,” said Roemer. “I felt we neutralized her (Wotton) as much as we could and took advantage when she was in the back row.

“Sometimes it takes awhile to get in our rhythm, but when we stay aggressive, it eventually comes.”

Salem 3, Dover 0

N.H. Division 1 semifinals

Kills: S — Hannah O’Shaughnessy 10, Amanda Bickford 7, Olivia Burke 5, Brianna Wojtas 5

Blocks: S — Burke 5, Alyssa Kolbert 3

Assists: S — Kelsey Card 28

Service points (aces): S — Rachel Morrissey 12 (4)

Digs: S — Morrissey 18

Dover (17-4): 21 21 20 — 0

Salem (20-0): 25 25 25 — 3

Next game: Div. 1 finals vs. Goffstown at Pinkerton Saturday, 5 p.m.