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Vikings fight, fall to No. 1 Astros

  • The Mascenic volleyball team was knocked out of the NHIAA playoffs by No. 1 seed Pinkerton on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic volleyball team was knocked out of the NHIAA playoffs by No. 1 seed Pinkerton on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic volleyball team was knocked out of the NHIAA playoffs by No. 1 seed Pinkerton on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic volleyball team was knocked out of the NHIAA playoffs by No. 1 seed Pinkerton on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic’s Michael Sullivan and Brett Stauffeneker make a block at the net against Pinkerton. The Vikings went deep into the fourth set but the Astros closed them out and eliminated Mascenic from the playoffs. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Mascenic’s Michael Bowen and Brett Stauffeneker make a block at the net against Pinkerton. The Vikings went deep into the fourth set but the Astros closed them out and eliminated Mascenic from the playoffs. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The Mascenic volleyball team was knocked out of the NHIAA playoffs by No. 1 seed Pinkerton on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic volleyball team was knocked out of the NHIAA playoffs by No. 1 seed Pinkerton on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic volleyball team was knocked out of the NHIAA playoffs by No. 1 seed Pinkerton on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic volleyball team was knocked out of the NHIAA playoffs by No. 1 seed Pinkerton on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic volleyball team was knocked out of the NHIAA playoffs by No. 1 seed Pinkerton on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, June 08, 2017

The Vikings made a valiant game of it against No. 1 Pinkerton on Tuesday, but the Astros rallied to eliminate Mascenic from the volleyball playoffs.

Pinkerton the No. 1 seed at 17-1, has not lost to another New Hampshire team all season, their only defeat coming against Andover, Mass. And at first, it looked like the Astros might sweep the Vikings in straight sets, as Mascenic lost the first two.

“I don’t think it was jitters,” said second-year head coach Lauren Somero, “I think it was just honest mistakes. I think we make up for a lot of those when we’re able to terminate the ball with authority. We were a little bit low on that tonight, which I think was a result of our not being able to convert on defense and that comes with playing against the Player of the Year setter.”

Indeed, Astros’ star Cobi Moore racked up an eye-popping 34 assists in the game and kept Mascenic on their heels with his topspin-heavy jump serve. Meanwhile, Pinkerton focused their efforts on slowing the Vikings’ big hitter, Micah Howard.

“We know Micah’s gonna get his kills,” said Pinkerton head coach Colin Walker, “so we try to minimize them as much as we can with our serving and ball placement. If we can get a bad pass to the center, it makes it harder for them to set the ball to Micah.”

Despite all that, Mascenic was able to rally in the third set and win it. And as they played into the fourth set, the Vikings maintained a slim lead for the first 35 points.

“I think we kind of loosened up a little bit with the lead that we had,” Howard said after the game. “We got comfortable — a little too comfortable. I think we relaxed a little too much when we got up.”

Mascenic was up 20-18 when Pinkerton got the serve back and put it in the hands of Moore.

“When the game’s on the line, we want him to have the ball,” Walker said.

Moore, who had seven aces on the night, stroked one to bring the lead to just one point before the Vikings broke the serve. And with Mascenic in control, it looked like they might draw even.”

“When we were up by two, I felt confident that we were going to be pushing a fifth set,” Somero said.

Instead, Pinkerton rallied for six straight points and won it, leaving the Vikings in disbelief. Mascenic has grown by leaps and bounds since last year, and even since the beginning of last season, but closing out games has been their Achilles’ heel, Somero said.

“It's kind of been the story of our season,” she said, “to not be able to close when it mattered most.”

Nonetheless, the Vikings made a good bid at upsetting the mighty Astros. There is only one division for boys’ volleyball, which means Pinkerton (enrollment: 3,100) and Mascenic (enrollment: 344) are on the same level. Pinkerton has as many players on their bench as Mascenic does on their entire roster. The next team with a shot at unseating the Astros is Hollis-Brookline; the two square off at Nashua North today at 7 p.m.

Given the Pinkerton approach to shutting down the front line, Mascenic’s numbers were a little down form their usual.

“I was surprised with how well our middle played against them, to be honest with you,” Walker said.

Zach Totaro, who made All-State Second Team, had a team-high 10 kills; Howard had nine; Brett Stauffeneker made six blocks and four digs, and Jake Zina had five kills and four digs.

All-State First Teamer Howard, a junior, will be back to anchor the Vikings next year, but he’ll do it without the services of the Vikings’ three seniors.

“Brett Stauffeneker, this is his first year, and he did amazing for his first year having never played volleyball as a high school sport. Michael Sullivan, he came pretty far away from last year hitting weak side,” Howard said. “Alex Hall, he came out in times when we really needed him most.”

“It’s just really, really hard to say goodbye to this group of seniors,” Somero said. “They’re tremendous athletes, they’re tremendous teammates and all three of them are just tremendous people. They’re some of the best leaders that I’ve had. It’s really cool seeing the culture and the program grow like that but it’s tough to see them go.”