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Salem’s Amanda Bickford (1) and Olivia Burke try to block Goffstown’s Jessica Williamson in the state championship match on Saturday, Nov. 3. (Dan Moberger Photo)

Salem volleyball team defeats Goffstown to capture state Div. I title

Goffstown and Salem battled in the Division I volleyball finals Saturday, Nov. 3, held at Pinkerton Academy. After fourth-seeded Goffstown took the first set, No. 2 Salem snagged three straight to bring home the championship.

While Salem cruised through the first three rounds without losing a set, Goffstown had to battle through its semifinal game against top-seeded Merrimack. The Grizzlies won 3-1 to earn a chance at Salem in the finals.

The match was highly-contested from the first point to the last.

'The girls battled all night,' Salem head coach John Roemer said. 'Everything we talk about has been team all year, and they pulled together as a team.'

The first three sets were decided by just two points each. Goffstown got hot early and came out on top 25-23 to take a one-set lead.

But Salem found its own heat-streak at the right time in the second set, and then again in the third. The final set was do-or-die for Goffstown, but Salem would not be denied, and won the title with a 25-17 fourth set.

'The girls realized that Goffstown was going to give a fight,' Roemer said. 'I don't think they thought Goffstown was going to give as big of a fight. And Goffstown played phenomenal tonight.'

Goffstown head coach Matt Leonard was astonished with his Salem opponents. Although he said, 'This is, by far, the best team in Goffstown history, not only in the standing, but also in the way they compete,' he gave credit to the Blue Devils and Roemer.

'They, right from the go, established themselves as one of the best teams in the state,' Leonard said. 'They just won 21-straight games, and it's hard to stop a team on that much of a roll.'

Both sides graduate several key seniors from their squads, but retain a strong group of players for next year's teams.

For Salem, Samantha Sirmaian, Hannah O'Shaughnessy, Brianna Wojtas, Melissa Ring, Rachel Morrissey, Kelsey Card and Hannah Latham graduate with a state championship under their belts. Losing the three captains means losing the three players who run important parts of the game.

Card ran the offense as the team's setter, Rachel was one of the best players in the state at the libero position and Wojtas was a force at the net on both offense and defense.

'The seniors brought a lot of leadership today,' Roemer said. 'The three captains - Brianna, Rachel and Kelsey - they were the leaders on the team all year. They basically made this team tick.'

Goffstown also loses six seniors from its championship runner-up team, including the two captains.

Two-year captain and four-year starter Abby Cook leaves a vacant spot at libero. She's hoping to play volleyball at a Division I college next year, Leonard said. Jenn Cashin, Goffstown's other captain, provided the 'pump up' factor for her teammates. Other seniors Leonard will lose are Kat Greenan, Kendall Ives, Elle Dever and Meg Callannan.

'This is the standing we're going to put up to every team coming in the future in Goffstown,' Leonard said. 'It's going to be real hard to replace those seniors. They are integral to everything that we do.'

Regardless of the loss, Leonard said he was proud of how his team played throughout the entire year. The Grizzlies do return key parts of this year's squad, namely hitters Jessica Williamson and Rene Roggenbuck, who has an outstanding championship match with 22 kills, six blocks and three aces.

Salem loses its starting libero and setter, but returns talented players Amanda Bickford, Olivia Burke, Shari Juranovits and Kayla Hannon, Card's likely replacement as the team's setter.

Roemer said he hopes the achievements of this year's squad will spark more interest in volleyball and translate into future triumphs.

'It's awesome for the school,' Roemer said. 'The more we have success, the more interest from the younger girls that want to play.'

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