Girls’ volleyball: Mascenic upsets Epping to earn Final Four berth

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team celebrates after upsetting Epping in the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III playoffs on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team traveled to Epping for the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III playoffs on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team traveled to Epping for the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III playoffs on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team traveled to Epping for the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III playoffs on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team traveled to Epping for the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III playoffs on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team traveled to Epping for the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III playoffs on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team traveled to Epping for the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III playoffs on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team traveled to Epping for the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III playoffs on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team traveled to Epping for the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III playoffs on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team traveled to Epping for the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III playoffs on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team traveled to Epping for the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III playoffs on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team traveled to Epping for the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III playoffs on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team traveled to Epping for the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III playoffs on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team traveled to Epping for the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III playoffs on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team traveled to Epping for the quarterfinal round of the NHIAA Division III playoffs on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/2/2019 12:46:11 AM

The Mascenic girls’ volleyball team is Final Four-bound after beating Moultonborough on Wednesday and then upsetting Epping in the quarterfinals 3-1 Friday.

“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” said Viking senior captain Jaden Horrocks Friday night, after the No. 6 Vikings (13-5) upset the No. 3 Blue Devils (15-3). “We’ve never come this far, and it’s the greatest experience I’ve ever had in my life.”

With the game – and a berth in the semifinals – on the line, it was an effort play from Horrocks that swung the tide in Mascenic’s favor. Epping was up 23-22 in the fourth set, where a win would have tied things up and sent the Devils into the fifth with a blue wave of momentum, when Horrocks made the dig of a lifetime, full extension in the front row, diving parallel with the net and somehow not only getting the ball up off the floor – but impossibly, over the net.

“We had a winner’s mentality, we worked so, so, so hard in practice, and we never gave up,” Horrocks said. “We got down on the floor, we put our blood, sweat and tears into this entire game and it really showed.”

Head coach Karen Gibson’s gameplan going in was to keep the ball away from Epping’s senior setter Oakley Lustenberger, but after shaking off the jitters of the first ten points in the Blue Devils’ raucous gym, Gibson and the Vikings readjusted to probe their opponent’s weakness.

“There was a big hole in the middle,” Horrocks said, “and we knew that was their weakest spot – we call it the soft middle. So we knew if we tipped it there, they’d be scrambling for it and they wouldn’t be able to set up a good play, so we always went there.”

Outside hitter Annika Martel did the heavy lifting in that regard, forgoing the mighty strikes for touch tips into that soft middle and coming up with huge plays time and again. 

“She’s starting to get more of that mentality that she knows she’s the person we go to to score,” Gibson said, “She’s accepted that role, and she did an awesome job with that tonight.”

Martel’s misdirection tied the first set at ten apiece, and she’d follow it with an ace to give Mascenic their first lead; later in the set, she’d find the soft middle again with a deft touch, serve another ace and reel off five straight serves to close out the set 25-20.

“Our serves were good tonight,” Horrocks said. “That’s one of our team strengths.”

Miscommunication in the second set dug the Vikings a hole they couldn’t climb out of, and they went down quietly; a Mascenic team of years past might have backed down in that situation, but not these Vikings. 

“I don’t have to get my team up, really,” Gibson said. “They usually do that themselves, and they have the maturity to recognize that we did a lot of things poorly in that set. I didn’t have to pump them up at all, they wanted it.”

Elizabeth Spaulding put together six straight serves to tie the third set up and take a 13-7 lead, but Epping battled back, tied it at 13 and took another lead before Mascenic’s Kylie Millea dropped a tip in to tie it at 20. From there, Sami Brundige served the Vikings to victory and Mascenic was in control entering the fourth set. 

The Epping pep band couldn’t have known it, but they inadvertently made the Vikings feel right at home by launching into a rendition of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” – the song Mascenic basketball teams have run out to for what seems like an eternity – as the teams took the court for the fourth set; fittingly, that set went off the rails, full speed ahead. 

The whirlwind final set saw Spaulding, Shelby Babin, Molly Rines and Brundige all over the floor with dig after dig, while Sam Hughson – maybe Mascenic’s most improved player – pogo-sticked up and down at the net to block and tip. 

The Vikings pulled ahead briefly, 18-15, but Epping came back and took a 21-19 lead and could have seized the day by putting it away and rolling through a fifth set. Mascenic, however, wasn’t done yet.

“They showed a lot of poise,” Gibson said. “This is a loud gym, Epping brings a great energy and I was proud of my girls to keep their poise in that fourth.”

Back and forth they went, until Horrocks made her epic dig to put Mascenic up. 

“She refused to lose,” Gibson said. 

Tied at 24, the Vikings broke Epping’s serve and scored, and then set Millea up with a spike to finish the game and send Mascenic into celebratory frenzy. 

Incredibly, things got sweeter for the Vikings from there, as word came in – No. 7 Campbell had upset No. 2 Winnisquam, meaning Mascenic’s semifinal matchup at Plymouth State Wednesday wouldn’t be against the defending champs who’d smoked them back on Oct. 2, but rather, the Campbell team the Vikings had already swept twice in the regular season. 


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