Concord, Coe-Brown volleyball happy to be playing each other, at all

  • Coe-Brown's Emily Morris steps up to the service line against Concord on Friday, Oct. 16 in Northwood. JEFF SULLIVAN—

  • Coe-Brown’s Emily Morris (4) and Kaitlyn Miller (3) get their team motivated  af ter winning a point during a match against Concord on Friday, Oct. 16 in Northwood. JEFF SULLIVAN /

  • Coe-Brown’s Molly Ewing goes up high for a spike on Friday. JEFF SULLIVAN /

  • Coe Brown’s Alexis Cowan goes up for a block against Concord’s Grace Ferguson as Concord’s Alexis Flynn (28) looks on Friday. JEFF SULLIVAN /

  • Concord’s Elizabeth Blinn, facing camera, and her team celebrate during a match against Coe-Brown on Friday, Oct. 16 in Northwood. JEFF SULLIVAN /

  • Coe-Brown’s Jesse Davis (5) hits the ball against Concord on Friday, Oct. 16 in Northwood.  JEFF SULLIVAN /

  • Concord’s Alexis Flynn (28) sets the ball on Friday, Oct. 16 in a match against Coe-Brown in Northwood.  JEFF SULLIVAN/

Monitor staff
Published: 10/22/2020 9:40:51 AM

They both wanted to win – that’s why Friday’s volleyball match went back-and-forth all night and took the full five sets to decide. But more than that, both Concord and Coe-Brown were simply happy to be playing.

“The team has really reacted well to this bizarre year we’re having. There’s kind of a renewed sense of gratitude. Practices have been more joyful and we bring a little bit of a different energy to matches because we’re just so grateful,” Coe-Brown coach Renee Zobel said after her team lost to Concord, 3-2, on Friday in Northwood.

Not every team is feeling as grateful at this point in the season. Bow High doesn’t have a volleyball team, but the school had to call off all of its weekend athletic events after a positive COVID-19 test at the school. Pinkerton Academy in Derry and Franklin High have also had to suspend athletics.

“We actually talked about it in our pregame meeting,” Zobel continued. “I just said, ‘Hey, a few teams have been shut down this week and we’re still here, we’re still playing this sport we love when other teams don’t have that opportunity right now or are having to make some adjustments.’ And we’ve had to make a ton of adjustments this season, too, but the players have been awesome with that.”

Concord coach Jonathan Flower and his team have similar feelings.

“I think all of it has actually made the season a little bit more special for the players,” Flower said. “Every game just might be our last and we know that and we try to approach it like that. And I think that the girls are even closer on both teams, both JV and varsity, than I remember them being for a very long time, and I think it’s kind of the backdrop of COVID that has made them cherish the season a little bit more.”

The backdrop of COVID is the only reason Division I Concord and D-II Coe-Brown are even playing during the regular season – this fall’s schedules were made based on proximity and not on division. However, the two teams have regularly arranged preseason games with each other since Zobel left her job as the Concord JV coach to take the Coe-Brown varsity position three years ago.

“It’s always fun to play against a team that I coached for a number of years, and I still coach some of those Concord girls on club and travel teams,” Zobel said. “And I love that we’re able to play out of division this year. It’s nice to be able to step up to teams in Division I and challenge ourselves to get ready for the tournament.”

These teams also met in the first game of the season. Coe-Brown won that one, 3-2, which continued a trend from the preseason meetings between these two over the last few years.

“Renee always seems to pull it out against us, she always has such a well-balanced team, so it was nice to finally beat her,” Flower said.

After losing its last two matches to Bedford, Concord (6-3) shook it off and opened Friday night’s contest with a 25-16 win in the first set. The Bears (3-3) cleaned up the ball control errors they made in that opening set to take the next two, 25-21 and 26-24, and grab a 2-1 match lead.

Concord stepped up its game in the fourth and took advantage of some Coe-Brown service errors to run away with a 25-12 decision and force a decisive fifth set. The Bears opened up a lead in the middle of that set during a rotation that put two of Concord’s big hitters on the back line, but the Tide rallied to take a 15-13 win and the match.

“They actually closed it out with a ball off the head of one of our players,” Zobel said. “Emma Ferguson bombed a ball and got a player right on the head on the 10-foot line, so it was a pretty dramatic way to end it. Emma had a very good night.”

Ferguson finished with an impressive 20 kills, which puts her just 12 away from reaching 500 kills for her career. She deserves credit for all of those monster hits, but she also needs to be set up for those kills, and the Tide did a great job with that on Friday.

“We had been struggling getting the ball to our setter to be able to set up our offense, so we’ve been focusing on that for the last several weeks and I think it’s really starting to come together,” Flower said. “We saw it tonight where we were able to turn serve receive into offense, instead of just being in survival mode, and that was really how Emma got to 20 kills because we were able to control the ball and get it to her.”

With the Tide getting her the ball, Concord setter Alexis Flynn finished with 34 assists to go along with four digs, two blocks and two kills. Elizabeth Blinn, who just passed the career 100-block milestone, had six more blocks and five kills. The Tide also got good games from Elli Cox (six kills), Grace Ferguson (five kills) and Peyton Trento (three aces, six digs).

Anneliese Wade finished with 12 kills for Coe-Brown. Emily Morris was excellent on serve receive for the Bears had wound up with nine digs and four aces, and setter Kaitlyn Miller had 24 assists and three aces.

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