Salem’s Blue Devil soccer team doubled their amount of wins from the year before and qualified as the No. 12 seeded team in the tournament, and that pitted them against the No. 5 seeded Bishop Guertin Cardinals at Stellos Stadium last Wednesday afternoon. The Cardinals were able to sneak a goal past Salem junior goalie Taylor Morin with about eight minutes left in the first half, and that score would stand up until the waning moments of the game. Salem had their share of scoring opportunities too, but the shots were either saves or just went by both goal posts. Salem coach Tony Karibian admitted it was a tough defeat, but gave a load of credit to his kids. Karibian pointed out, “Their goal was legit and they earned it, and we shut them down from thereon. These kids have an amazing work ethic and they have a tremendous team attitude. I don’t mind saying that this is the team with the most ‘team comraderie’ that I’ve ever had from my nine seniors right on down the line. Guertin got a late goal when we were forced to move some kids up in order to try and tie it up, but they were really a pleasure to coach and I’m already getting pysched up thinking about all the kids I have coming back next season.” The Blue Devils finished the season at 6-10-1, but coach Karibian also knows that his J. V. coach Dennis Hajjar had a 12-3-1 team that has a lot of kids ready to step up to the varsity level next fall, and Justin Golden’s Salem freshmen also had a .500 record this season.
Taylor Morin is the junior goaltender who took over midway through the season, and he’ll be back better than ever next season along with several of Salem’s scoring forwards. Juniors Brett Miller, Tyler Rutledge, Mike Abi-Aad, and Cody Eller all come back with sophomores Peter Ventola and Max Gordon, and that’s going to mean a lot of Blue Devil goals. Karibian also had kids like Marcus Baldwin, Nick LaRochelle, and Brandon Cole returning on defense to make things even brighter.
Karibian did mention that he’s going to miss several of his players that literally played their hearts out. “Our co-captains Josh Richard and Aaron Mackey were just incredible and even more at the end of the season. I’m going to miss them terribly. Marc Baroni was a key defender for us and then I have the Fitzgerald boys, Corey and Craig, who never backed down from any physical play at any time. We’re going to have a lot of kids playing in leagues throughout the off-season and we’re excited about what we should be like next August.”
Only Coach Lisa Petry’s 2002 Salem girls’ soccer team had gone as far in the Class L playoffs as this year’s girls’ squad. Coach Kendrick Whittle’s 2008 Salem girls showed they belonged in the semi-finals last week when they shut out Goffstown 1-0 in Salem, and then blanked Manchester Memorial last Saturday afternoon 2-0 in Salem. Those two wins had the Blue Devils heading to Exeter this past Thursday night as they faced the No. 1 seed, Merrimack, who at 17-0-1, were only tied by this Salem team back in early September 1-1.
The Salem girls were very happy after their 2-0 win over Memorial seeing that their star Kaleigh Roberge only had five touches of the ball and no shots on net. Roberge had 19 of the Crusaders 26 goals all season long coming into the game. Salem had beaten this same Manchester Memorial team 2-0 in the regular season. The Crusaders had shocked Pinkerton 3-2 in overtime in the preliminary round earning the right to play Salem. Salem was also very happy that defensive players Christine Gossen and McKenzie Miller were back from injuries. Salem’s goalie, Sarah Snyder, had been outstanding all season long but she’d have to come up with seven saves, including a great diving save on a breakaway, to collect her second shutout in as many games in the Class L playoffs.
The Blue Devils had the better of the scoring chances in the first half, and midway through, senior Caitlin Peters drove a ball towards the Crusader net that senior Liz Edgerton collected and booted into the Memorial goal for a 1-0 Salem lead. Sophomore midfielder Gina Righini and junior forward Sarah Raye were once again the Blue Devils with the dirtiest uniforms, as they were both all over the field. Salem’s defense led by Avery Neusch and Hannah LaRochelle were all over Roberge, Memorial’s high-scoring forward, and the first half ended with the Blue Devils leading 1-0.
Kayla Provenzano had come on like gangbusters for the Salem girls in the second half of the season, and she created the highlight of the afternoon. Midway through the second half, Provenzano bent a corner kick around the Memorial defenders, leaving the Crusader goalie, who was standing less than 2 feet from the post, staring in disbelief as the ball landed less than a foot inside the goalpost. That 2-0 lead sent the Salem girls into a gung-ho mode, as Courtney Russell, Cassie Chase, and Amanda Vaudreuil were all attacking the Crusader net until the clock wound down and the Salem girls raced out to embrace their goalie, Sarah Snyder.
The Blue Devils had a very tough first round match against Goffstown on Wednesday afternoon after they had just traveled to Goffstown the week before and came away with a 0-0 tie. With eight minutes left in the first half, Salem’s Liz Edgerton sent a crossing pass to junior Sarah Raye, which she buried deep into the rear of the Grizzlie goal which would turn out to be the only goal of the game. Salem had changed their field during the playoffs (thanks to Salem Athletic Director, Dave Rozumek), to the field hockey field which was much drier and in far better condition. The Blue Devils returned the favor to Rozumek with the 1-0 win that had Sarah Snyder only having to make three saves on the afternoon. Hopefully another positive Salem girls soccer article can be written next Friday as they tangled with 17-0-1 Merrimack Thursday night at Bill Ball Field in Exeter.
Salem head coach Jack Gati has been on his offensive line to open a few holes up for 5-foot, 5-inch, 145-pound halfback Max Jacques to run through, and last Friday night they did just that. The sophomore back touched the ball 14 times and ran away with 210 yards and three touchdowns, as the Blue Devils raised their 2008 season mark to 4-5 with a 34 - 14 win over the Manchester West Blue Knights at Grant Field in Salem. There were other stars for Salem on the night, and it isn’t normal for a 6-foot, 1-inch, 175-pound defensive back like Tommy Tarallo to pick off three passes in the same game. Tarallo started the first half of the season as a defensive end, but got moved to the secondary when injuries mounted. Salem was also very glad to have senior running back Chris Najem back in the lineup for the first time in three weeks. It was Najem who got Salem on the scoreboard first, with a five-yard scoring jaunt just two and a half minutes into the game, but a missed extra point only gave Salem an early 6 - 0 lead. Max Jacques collected his first score of the night with 6:47 left in the first quarter when he darted 14 yards for a score to put his team up 12 - 0 when the two-point rush came up short. West made it a game with 1:41 left in the first quarter as Louis Rochette found Beau Breton open for a 25-yard touchdown pass, and when Thomas Stephan converted the extra point West only trailed 12 - 7. Salem sophomore quarterback Matt Cannone then took things into his own hands, and two plays later he hooked up with Blue Devil end Cory Lavallee on a super 41-yard touchdown pass. Max Jacques ran in the two-point conversion, and with still 1:23 left in the opening quarter the Blue Devils had a 20 - 7 lead, but that would change less than a minute later. Following Tarallo’s second interception of the game, Jacques took a handoff from Cannone and danced 58-yards down the sideline for his second score of the game, and after Lavallee nailed the extra point, the Blue Devils now had a 27 - 7 pad with 32 seconds still remaining in that first period. That score would hold up until halftime, but early in the third quarter Max Jacques would go 56 yards with his third touchdown of the game. Lavallee’s extra point made it a 34 - 7 game and The Blue Knights would get a last minute touchdown from Nathan Collins with four minutes left in the game.
The Blue Devils are not going to the Division 1 playoffs this fall, but they’re all going to be treating Friday night’s game against Manchester Central at Gill Stadium like a playoff game, and they’ll have plenty of youngsters returning next August to build this team into a bigger and better one.
The Salem Blue Devil volleyball team was very happy to return two regulars to the lineup who had missed almost the entire season. They welcomed them with open arms last week. Coach Dan Young had made out his lineup back in late August about who his starters might be, but because of injuries to seniors Courtney Wright, and Robyn Ciriello, he wouldn’t be able to use that line-up until last Wednesday night when the Trinity Pioneers came to Salem High to take on Salem in the preliminary round of the Division 1 volleyball playoffs. Junior middle hitter Erica Begin had also missed three quarters of the regular season and the six-footer would also loom big in the Blue Devils first two, playoff wins. Coach Dan Young was more than happy to finally have his team at full strength saying, “This is what I was hoping to go with a couple of months ago, but I’m glad we finally have everybody back. I guess it says a lot for the younger girls that kept us going for most of the regular season. Becca Weiss, Casey Peters, Melissa Paris and of course Amanda Saab have kept us right up there where we want to be and girls like Nicole Boucher, Melissa Ouelett, Kina Wilbur-Kamien, Sarah Scott, freshman Kerry White and a couple of other underclassmen have gotten extra playing time and have really delivered when we needed it.”
Last Saturday afternoon the number six seeded Londonderry Lancers came to Davis Gymnasium in Salem and the Blue Devils ran out to a quick 18 - 11 lead in the first game before coasting to a 25 - 14 win. Amanda Saab was once again showing the packed house why she should be a runaway choice for the New Hampshire Girls Volleyball “Player of the Year” as she was coming up with kills and blocks, and then running off four or five straight service points with her famous “Jump Serve” that other teams just can’t return about 75 percent of the time. Two other things that enhanced Saab and the Blue Devils were the addition of senior Robyn Ciriello at the net, and Courtney Wright either at the net or in the back row. The Lancers looked like they were going to make a run in the second game of the afternoon as they led 16 - 14, but Salem’s coach Dan Young called his first time out of the day, just as Amanda Saab was getting ready to serve. Saab returned to the court and served for seven straight points and now the Blue Devils led 21 - 16. Erica Begin had a couple of big kills and blocks at the net, as did sophomore Melissa Ouellet, but now it was Casey Peters who had some big serves for the Blue Devils. Young got another terrific two-way game from Becca Weiss as the coach never likes to take her off the floor, but the Salem girls were ready for the clincher after taking the second game 25 - 23. With Casey Peters and Amanda Saab serving net the start of this game, the Blue Devils caused the Lancers to call an early time out after jumping out to a 7 - 1 lead that quickly crept up to 16 - 3 by the time Saab was done serving. The Lancers were again forced to call another time out with Salem leading 22 - 6, before the Blue Devils completed the sweep with a 25 - 11 win.
On Wednesday earlier in the week, coach Young’s team had to host the number 14 seeded Trinity Pioneers and this wouldn’t be pretty as Salem swept trinity by scores of 25 - 10, 25 - 15, and 25 - 7 to advance to the quarter-final round. Amanda Saab led Salem with 11 kills despite not getting much playing time and Courtney Wright chipped in with eight kills. Sophomore Sarah Scott continued to impress, coming up with 25 assists, Becca Weiss served for a dozen points in her short time on the court, and Robyn Ciriello blocked five Pioneer shots.
Coach Young says his girls are excited about getting another chance to play Spaulding Wednesday night at Pinkerton Academy in the Division 1 semi-finals. Salem lost one of their two matches this season up at Spaulding and has rattled off ten straight wins since then.
The scary thing for Blue Devil boys’ volleyball opponents is that it couldn’t have happened on any other night than Halloween! Coach E. J. Perry’s four-time state champion Salem boys volleyballers put their 92 match winning streak on the line last Friday night at Pinkerton’s Hackler Gym, and they took on a very spunky Timberlane team for the state title. While the Owls are definitely an up and coming team, they were no match for this very hungry Blue Devil team. Timberlane was able to take early leads in all three games, but the Salem kids always seemed to put in overdrive in the later stages of all three games. Salem swept the finals by scores of 25 - 18, 25 - 23, and 25 - 18. Now the real scary thing about this team, is that only two starters, Sean Stewart and middle hitter Meme Okeke will be graduating in June and not returning, which coach E. J. Perry has eight of his top 10 players returning for another shot at title number six with a chance to keep that winning streak alive and maybe rising to something like 112 in a row by next fall.
Junior swatters Dan Tiner and Jason Kinney were both at the top of their game Friday night right from the start, but they also got some tremendous support from senior Meme Okeke and sophomore Joe Gallant along the front line. Junior Chris Barnes showed everyone why he’s probably the best setter in the state and Sean Stewart and C. J. DeMarco were coming up with dig after dig along the back line, and with the Owls holding a slight 14 - 12 edge in the first game, Stewart put Salem right back on top with five straight service points for a 19 - 15 lead. Dan Tiner came up with a couple of thunderous kills and Meme Okeke also had a couple of in-your-face rejections to close out the first game.
Junior Jared Scali joined his teammates in closing down the Owls in the second game as he entered the game and came up with two quick kills, but Gallant had two huge blocks. Okeke swatted four balls back at the Timberlane front liners and Tiner and Kinney came up with the clutch hits down the stretch for the 25 - 23 victory in game number two. Coach Perry had taken a early time out midway through that first game win, and it was very clear that he was very animated to his starters and letting them know that they had to step it up … And now! In the third and deciding game, Okeke seemed like he was suspended in air making several key blocks, sophomore Joe Gallant looked more like a seasoned veteran in whacking two big kills, and Jason Kinney and Dan Tiner had Owl fans heading for the exit with several big smashes at the net. Sean Stewart was joined on the court at the 22 - 18 mark of the third game by co-captain, Timmy Sullivan, and he stayed on the court until the end. Chris Barnes finished the evening with an amazing 33 assists, Stewart had 14 service points, team libero C. J. DeMarco came up with 15 dig ins to bring home the gold for the fifth straight year. It’s pretty tough to beat your team if you have four of your big men coming up with double figures for kills, but that’s what the Blue Devils had. Senior Meme Okeke closed out his high school career with 15 kills and six blocks, Jason Kinney had 14 kills and six blocks, Dan Tiner had a dozen kills and four blocks, and sophomore Joe Gallant was impressive with 10 kills and two blocks, and everyone but Okeke is coming back next fall.
Coach E. J. Perry had plenty of things to celebrate about following the awarding of the state plaque ceremony which Perry turned over to his co-captains Sean Stewart and Timmy Sullivan and they and the entire team walked over to the many Salem fans in the stands and thanked them all for their support. Perry said, “This one means a little bit more to me because none of these kids were here five years ago for the first one. I really think that this group might be the most talented one we’ve ever had, because there wasn’t any one or two big stars. They simply took turns doing the job, day in and day out. We’ve got eight of our top 10 kids coming back next year and with a lot more hard work I expect that team to be better than ever.”