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Vikes can’t topple No. 1 Owls

  • The Mascenic boys' volleyball team traveled to play Timberlane in the NHIAA quarterfinals on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic’s Nate Long, left, and Dawson Somero go for a block against Timberlane. The Vikings were eliminated by the Owls in the NHIAA quarterfinals on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The Mascenic boys' volleyball team traveled to play Timberlane in the NHIAA quarterfinals on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Mascenic’s Micah Howard gets up for a set during the quarterfinal match with Timberlane Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • The Mascenic boys' volleyball team traveled to play Timberlane in the NHIAA quarterfinals on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' volleyball team traveled to play Timberlane in the NHIAA quarterfinals on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' volleyball team traveled to play Timberlane in the NHIAA quarterfinals on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' volleyball team traveled to play Timberlane in the NHIAA quarterfinals on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' volleyball team traveled to play Timberlane in the NHIAA quarterfinals on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Mascenic boys' volleyball team traveled to play Timberlane in the NHIAA quarterfinals on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Wednesday, June 06, 2018 6:12PM

Tuesday’s volleyball quarterfinal between No. 1 Timberlane and No. 8 Mascenic featured a battle of big hitters, as the Owls’ Player of the Year Sam Hovan and the Vikings’ POY runner-up Micah Howard squared off at the net. Both big men have game-changing power, forcing the coaches on either side to focus their team defense on slowing down the opposing stars.

“[Howard] is a stud,” said Timberlane coach Sean Hogan. “He’s really the real deal. He carries himself well, he’s an awesome kid … We talked all week about how to keep them out of system, knowing that he could hurt us.”

Hogan flipped his best blocker to the right side to focus on Howard – the first time all season the 15-1 Owls made such a move, he said.

On the other side, Mascenic coach Lauren Somero matched Howard up against Timberlane’s setter and stacked two blockers up against Hovan.

“Our plan was to get enough blocks on Sam that we were able to force them to move the ball around,” Somero said.

Strategies in place, the two teams went at it. Despite the Vikings’ best-laid plans, the Owls were able to get their net play working, with Hovan and company rocketing spikes at the Mascenic defense. Dawson Somero and Brandon Thompson did an admirable job absorbing Timberlane’s attack, but when a hitter like Hovan gets the ball in his wheelhouse, there isn’t much a defender can do but simply get a piece of the shot and try to keep it in play.

“He’s an amazing hitter,” Howard said. “He can jump out of his socks - he’s awesome.”

The powerful Timberlane offense kept the Vikings on their heels, and didn’t allow Mascenic setter Jake Zina to place the ball exactly where he wanted. Instead of the intimidating spikes Howard is famous for, the Vikings had to settle for well-placed tips to earn their points.

“Our biggest strength is our offense - what Micah can create at the net is unlike pretty much anyone - but if the defense isn't there, you can't play offense,” Somero said. 

Howard (five kills, one block, one ace) and Nate Long (five kills, three blocks) got their share of points, and the Vikings put together a few strings of success, but Timberlane was No. 1 for a reason, and the Owls put Mascenic away in three sets. 

“That team is legit - we probably just played the state champions,” Somero said. “They're very, very, very good.”

It was the last time Howard, one of Mascenic’s finest all-time boys’ volleyball players, would suit up with his teammates, though he’ll play in the senior all-star game on Sunday. 

“Coming down and playing with this team that I've been playing with for three, four years, I'm going to miss it,” Howard said. “It hasn't sunk in yet, but I know once I get home, and I think about it a little bit more and things start to digest, it's going to hit me. As of right now, I'm just looking back at the season, thinking about the good times and the bad times - I loved every minute of it.”