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Coe-Brown volleyball team cruises in finals for first-ever championship

  • Emma Easler was a force at the net for Coe-Brown.

    Emma Easler was a force at the net for Coe-Brown.

  • Coe-Brown junior Deborah Peabody jumps especially high for joy as Coe-Brown narrows the deficit before losing the set to Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013. Coe-Brown went on to clinch the championship in the fourth set.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown junior Deborah Peabody jumps especially high for joy as Coe-Brown narrows the deficit before losing the set to Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013. Coe-Brown went on to clinch the championship in the fourth set.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Emma Easler was a force at the net for Coe-Brown.
  • Coe-Brown junior Deborah Peabody jumps especially high for joy as Coe-Brown narrows the deficit before losing the set to Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013. Coe-Brown went on to clinch the championship in the fourth set.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown beats Windham in the NHIAA Division II championship at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Saturday, November 9, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

DERRY – From day one of the season, the Coe-Brown girls’ volleyball team set its goals to be the best team in Division II.

After a crushing five-set loss in the semifinals a year ago, the Bears knew what it would take to get back to the Final Four. But they didn’t want to just get back there. This group wanted much more.

“We set goals at the beginning of the season and everyone wrote down ‘we want a state championship,’ and we worked really hard all season to accomplish that goal,” senior Megan Rouillard said last night, after the Bears did just that with a 25-15, 25-18, 24-26, 25-14 victory over No. 2 Windham in the Division II title match at Pinkerton Academy.

Until a straight-set win over two-time defending champion Gilford in Wednesday’s semifinals, no Coe-Brown team had ever made it to a state final, let alone take the court with the championship plaque on the line. And there was no way the No. 1-seeded Bears were going to make it that far and walk away empty handed.

After spending much of the 2013 season as the top-ranked team in Division II – thanks to a 14-match winning streak to end the regular season – Coe-Brown finished it the same way.

“It’s so exciting. This was our goal all season and we did it,” said senior setter Sadie Steffen, who dished out 24 assists. “We got a taste of the Final Four and we definitely wanted to come back. We knew we had the potential and wanted to win the whole thing.”

With a 2-0 lead and just one win away from the school’s first volleyball title, Coe-Brown dropped its first game of the tournament and just the second since Sept. 23, as the Jaguars forced a fourth game by winning, 26-24. The Bears had no intention of letting it get to a fifth and deciding game. Clinging to an 11-8 lead, Coe-Brown scored eight of the next 10 points to go ahead 19-10. There was no looking back.

And when sophomore Katherine Dyer’s hit fell softly into the middle of the court between all six Windham players, the goal that took shape in August was complete. A 25-14 win sealed this Bears team as the best ever. Coe-Brown finished 18-1 overall and dropped only seven games all year. The Bears will enter next year on a 17-match winning streak.

“We just focused on one game at a time and it worked out for the best,” Coach Rick Veno said.

Windham was just the fifth team to win a game against Coe-Brown, and the only loss for the Bears came by a score of 3-2 on Sept. 14 to Somersworth. St. Thomas was the only other team to push them to five games and the Bears won that meeting.

Also included in that 14-match winning streak was a 3-0 sweep of Windham on Oct. 11. The win helped put Coe-Brown in the driver’s seat for the top seed and they took full advantage.

“My coach Jen Doig said to me, ‘we’ve played them once for first place already; what’s different about tonight,’ ” said junior Emma Easler, who collected a team-leading 23 kills and four blocks.

Coming into the championship match, the Bears and Jaguars were ready for what the other had planned. Despite it taking just three games for Coe-Brown to win the regular-season meeting, the games were close and a couple could have gone either way. The Bears were just the team to make more plays when it mattered. The same can be said for last night’s performance.

“The game we played against Windham in the regular season was probably the most intense game of the entire year and we expected it to be the same way coming in,” Rouillard said.

Much like the first meeting, Coe-Brown jumped out to an early lead in game one and never looked back. With a group of players like junior libero Deborah Peabody (25 digs) who were willing to do just about anything to keep the ball off the floor on defense, and junior Abigail Ahern (10 kills) and Easler pacing the offense, the Bears did exactly what Veno wanted – grab an early advantage on the way to the 25-15 win.

“We’ve got a lot of options on this team. A lot of girls that can really hammer the ball when they want to and that’s been our advantage over a lot of other schools,” Veno said.

The momentum carried over into game two. The lead was 11-6 after Easler blocked Windham junior Basie Bostic, and the Bears looked on the verge of making it another quick game. But the Jaguars (16-3) were in the title game for a reason as well. They were also there to win.

Windham scored the next five points to knot the score at 11. But that was as close as it would get. Coe-Brown rallied to take the next three points, the last coming on junior Katie Tomaszewski’s over-the-head winner, and never allowed the Jaguars back into it, winning 25-18.

In game three, the lead was 12-6 following a Tomaszewski block, but Windham was not about to waste another comeback. This time they took control behind freshman hitter Alexis Sawyer, who led the Jaguars with 14 kills, to force the fourth game by winning in extra points.

“I really don’t know why it changed the way it did because we’ve been an aggressive team all year. That’s why we’re in first place and the No. 1 seed,” Veno said. “I think they got a little nervous.”

The loss did not seem to affect Coe-Brown, as it once again jumped out to a lead. And with a state championship on the line, the Bears did what they had all season – win the game to clinch the match.

“I don’t think we played our best volleyball. We played just well enough to take a victory,” Veno said.

To get to the finals, the Bears defeated Portsmouth, 3-0, in the quarterfinals and ended Gilford’s streak of two straight titles and four consecutive finals appearances with Wednesday’s victory in the Final Four.

Every day, Coe-Brown worked to be the best possible team. Last night, the Bears proved they were.

“I knew my freshman year that I was going to get a state championship,” Easler said. “I couldn’t ask for a better team. We don’t have any single players who carry the team. We all contribute in one way or another.”

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