NASHUA — There will be no asterisks needed for Salem’s state volleyball championship Saturday night at Nashua North High School.
The Blue Devils had handed Windham its only regular season loss but, in that matchup, the Jaguars were missing talented big man Nick Kasprzak, an absence which can make a big difference and seemed to marginalize the victory.
“I think there was some motivation because of that,” said Salem coach John Roemer. “They made a point about it, that he (Kasprzak) wasn’t there.”
Well, before a vocal crowd of about 600 fans, Kasprzak was certainly on hand for the state final, and he led the Jaguars with eight kills. But Salem (19-2) had too much depth and prevailed in four sets, 25-18, 25-22, 23-25, 25-23, winning its first state title since 2014.
With an impressive 40 assists, senior standout Roman Fabrizio efficiently directed an offense which featured no one big hitter but plenty of capable ones. Alex Stift, Anthony Bellomo and Jarrett Dennis all had eight kills and they were far from the only contributors.
“We have depth and that really helped us,” said Roemer. “I think we’re hard to defend.”
Windham coach Matt Bynon agreed, saying that “Salem was a little more aggressive and had more options. And they blocked really well.”
All of that was on display in the first set as Salem pulled away with the last six points for the seven-point win. In that final surge, Ben Laycock had a pair of blocks and Stift had a nifty deke kill. Earlier, Fabrizio chipped in with two kills and he also had a pair of aces.
“I think we had a lot of high energy,” said Fabrizio. “When we haven’t played well this year, we didn’t have much energy, but we had it tonight.”
That energy carried over to the second set and got a boost from some strong serving from sophomore Douglas Greenhalge. He had a late ace when Windham closed to within one, 21-20, had seven service points in the set and led the Blue Devils with 16 service points on the night.
“He (Greenhalge) did a great job,” said Roemer. “We brought him up from the JV because of his serving.”
Windham (17-2) was not about to go down easily, however, and rebounded with a 25-23 win in the third game behind Kasprzak, Tilman Pitcher and Neil Rea. The Jaguars then got off to a strong start in the fourth game, taking a quick 6-5 lead.
But the Blue Devils took control in the middle of the fourth game, going on a 9-2 run to take a 19-11 advantage behind some strong blocking, with one by Dennis standing out. Windham rallied, however and tied the game 21-21 despite losing outside hitter John Kane to injury.
However, Dennis put Salem back up on top with a spike, making it 22-21, and three points later ended the tense fourth set with a resounding kill to give the Devils the final point and the title.
“That was awesome — I’m so happy I could do that for my team,” said Dennis. “We wanted this so bad. We have a lot of seniors and we wanted this to be our last memory of high school.”
Said Roemer: “I thought Jarrett had his best game of the year. He really made it count. ... But we had a lot of kids step up.”
Bynon, while obviously disappointed, gave credit to Salem and stressed the positives of the Jaguars’ season.
“Salem was a little more aggressive and had more options, and they served better than we thought,” said Bynon. “They deserved to win.
“But I think we took a step forward this year. “We’ve made the semifinals four years in a row and this year we made it to the finals. We lose a couple of very good players but we have some good younger players coming up.”
Salem 3,Windham 1
NH Title Game
Kills: S — Jarrett Dennis 8, Alex Stift 8, Anthony Bellomo 8; W — Nick Kasprzak 8
Blocks: S — Dennis 2, Ben Laycock 2
Assists: S — Roman Fabrizio 40; W — Neil Rea 21
Service points (aces): S — Doug Greenhalge 16, Fabrizio 12, Jackson Cain 10; W — (Austin Carroll 6)
Digs: S — Noah Bourassa 18; W — Devin Ulbrich 9
Windham (17-2): 18 33 25 23 — 1
Salem (19-2): 25 25 23 25 — 3