DERRY - There are dynasties and there are dynasties. Salem High School preserved its uninterrupted streak as NHIAA volleyball champions with a three-sets-to-one win over fiesty Windham on Saturday night.
A crowd estimated at over 800 packed Hackler Gymnasium at Pinkerton Academy. The fans were treated to a tightly fought contest filled with drama and passion on both sides. Each school's cheering section tried to outdo the other in volume and the players responded.
To say the Blue Devils dominate varsity volleyball in New Hampshire is an understatement. Salem is now 124-1 as a varsity team. The Blue Devils have won every title since the NHIAA made boys' volleyball a varsity sport in 2004.
Windham came out fired up, visibly more emotional than the Blue Devils. After trading leads in the first set, Windham pulled out to a five-point lead. Salem fought back but the Jaguars hung on to take the first set, 25-19.
Windham held the lead for most of the next two sets but the Blue Devils kept close and clawed their way back late to win them, 25-22 and 25-21.
In set four, Salem began to take control. Windham began to make unforced errors but fought hard to stay close. Despite spectacular marathon volleys where both sides made amazing digs to keep play alive, Salem kept extending its lead.
Eventually, the all-time champions could not be denied. Salem pulled away to win the final set 25-18 and clinch its ninth straight crown.
Salem coach John Roemer said Windham gave the Blue Devils all they could handle early on. "We had a hard time. We had to make adjustments," said Roemer of Windham's play early. Salem also had to adjust to the loss of top player Eric Denning.
Senior Andrew Ruffin of Salem said his teammates knew they had to meet the challenge. "When we were down we knew we had to bring things up energy-wise."
Ruffin also said the Blue Devils kept Windham guessing with different setups at the net.
Jaguar coach Chris Baribeau expressed pride in the effort his team gave all season.