Girls’ volleyball: Underdog Mascenic falls to juggernaut Inter-Lakes in state championship game

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic girls' volleyball team played Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III state championship game at Plymouth State on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/9/2019 8:08:22 AM

The underdog Vikings gave a valiant effort against undefeated No. 1 Inter-Lakes in the NHIAA Division III girls’ volleyball championship game at Plymouth State Friday night, but the Lakers and unstoppable senior star Emma Wheeler would not be denied.

“It feels unbelievable,” said Inter-Lakes head coach Randy Mattson after the 3-1 Laker victory, their first in school history after six appearances, including each of the past three years. “Right now it’s hard to put it into words. Really exciting and it’s historic because it’s the first time in history for our school, so it’s really great.”

No. 6 Mascenic (14-6) exceeded expectations throughout the season to make a scrappy playoff run and their 12th title game appearance, the Vikings’ first since 1997. 

“We were not the highest seed, but we came out on top of so many different teams when people probably didn’t think we could, and we showed them we’re not just going to back down just because we’re not the top seed,” said Mascenic senior setter Jaden Horrocks.

The Vikings didn’t back down against juggernaut Inter-Lakes on Friday, either, coming out strong and taking the first set 25-23 behind the strong serving of Elizabeth Spaulding (five aces, five kills), Annika Martel, Molly Rines and Sam Brundige (four digs). 

“They do a lot and make very few mistakes, and they really deserved to be here and I thought they played a great match,” Mattson said. 

But once Emma Wheeler got going, nothing could slow her down. Flanked by Molly Moynihan and Olivia Jenkins, Wheeler’s blocking ability forced Mascenic’s strong cross-court hitting game into tough angles and limiting the dangerous Martel to seven kills. And when she started hitting? Lights out.

“She’s the best player in this division for sure,” said Mascenic head coach Karen Gibson. “We respected her, we saw her already, we knew that she was great. We had hoped to take a little bit off, but she was able to hit around our block all night. That’s more demoralizing than anything, even though it only scores one point, it’s still just really tough to rally back from that.”

Wheeler had a stunning 28 kills in the game, pounding the ball into the floor on Mascenic’s side time and again, putting their return on its heels, and leading Inter-Lakes to three straight set wins, 25-12, 25-18 and 25-20. It was a fulfillment of a longtime dream for Wheeler, who’d come up to watch the state championship game with the Inter-Lakes varsity when she was in seventh grade and set a goal.

“She told me after that game that someday she wanted to play here and she was going to put the team on her back and bring them here, and she’s done exactly that,” Mattson said. 

Mascenic was overpowered, but they played hard until the final point.

“We weren’t hanging our heads,” Gibson said. “We weren’t thinking the game was over until it was actually over, so I am proud of them for that.”

Gibson took over the Mascenic program last-minute this summer, unsure of what to expect, and ended up with a dream run to the finals. 

“I had no idea if we were going to be a .500 team or if we were in the playoffs,” Gibson said. “At that point I genuinely had no clue. I definitely did not imagine this.”

The Vikings run was made possible by senior leadership from Horrocks, Rines and Spaulding, Martel’s athleticism, Brundige’s hard work, Kylie Millea’s net presence, and the continued improvement of senior latecomers Shelby Babin, who owned the back line, and Hughson, who patrolled the net. 

“Hughson played really well tonight,” Gibson said. “As only a second-year player, she’s playing in the state championship, going up against the best player in the division. She does everything she can do to keep us in the game with her strengths, her scrappiness – she puts it out there every night and I was really proud of her.”

The Vikings claimed their runner-up medals and trophy, the culmination of an incredible season and four years of blood, sweat and finally, tears. 

“This year just felt different,” Horrocks said. “There was a different vibe in the air, everyone’s attitude was different, we were all so positive and we wanted to get here so bad. This was the best season of my life. Every aspect of it was more than I could have asked for in my senior year.”


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