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Hanover volleyball opens season with winning streak

  • Hanover High's Katie Peterson practices spiking the ball during the team's workout in Hanover, N.H., on Oct. 5, 2020. Watching is assistant coach Willet Parkins, a 2020 Hanover graduate who played on the team. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Following safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic, from left, Lilly Clapp, Emily Gammell and Alice Rodi disinfect volleyballs during a break as Carolina Quirke fetches her water during practice in Hanover, N.H., on Oct. 5, 2020. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hanover head coach Megan McFarland speaks with her team, including from left, Caitlin Fillinger, Carolina Quirke, Lilly Clapp and Esther Hacker and assistant coach Willet Parkins during practice in Hanover, N.H., on Oct. 5, 2020. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Esther Hacker defends at the net as Carolina Quirke attacks during the Marauders' volleyball practice in Hanover, N.H., on Oct. 5, 2020. Watching are teammates Lyric Wilson, left, and Lilly Clapp. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/6/2020 5:23:22 PM
Modified: 10/9/2020 10:28:36 AM

Editor’s note: Hanover had a match Tuesday night with Mascoma. Due to print deadline, the score and updated record couldn’t be included in this story.

HANOVER — For a team that can’t play in front of any of its fans, the Hanover High girls volleyball squad seems to be doing just fine.

The Marauders are off to a 4-0 start, their best in recent memory. And while COVID-19 guidelines don’t allow spectators to attend their matches, energy hasn’t been a problem.

Volleyball’s also the lone sport in New Hampshire requiring athletes to wear a mask during competition, since it’s played inside.

The Marauders adjusted to that after the first two weeks of practice, having to work harder at communicating with one another since masks muffle voices. A few sweaty face masks have been the only result.

“It’s been very quiet,” joked junior Katie Peterson. “We have to work extra hard to build any energy since there isn’t a crowd. It’s also really peaceful, and there’s aspects to it that I like.”

Peterson leads the Marauders with 33 digs so far this season. A dig is when player receives an attacked ball and keeps the ball in play.

She’s also being recruited by a range of NCAA Division I and II colleges across the country, thanks to her strong play on the club volleyball circuit.

She most recently made the Smash Volleyball 17 team out of Massachusetts, one of the top New England programs.

Originally from Texas, Peterson moved to Hanover in eighth grade and ultimately made the decision to focus on volleyball instead of swimming, another sport she was successful in.

Marauders coach Megan McFarland is still happy about the decision Peterson made.

“I’m so glad she chose volleyball,” McFarland said during the team’s Monday afternoon practice. “Her work ethic really stands out. She’s never going to let a ball hit the floor, if she has any willpower over it.”

Peterson’s played a role in Hanover’s success this season, but freshman Talia Daft has been a welcome surprise.

The only freshman on the varsity roster, Daft has registered a team-high 25 aces.

A recent move to Hanover from California brought her to the Marauders. Her club experience back in the Golden State has set herself up for playing time.

“Just getting back into everything was a challenge at first,” said Daft, who also has notched four digs. “And it has been really different playing with a mask on and not having anyone in the gym.”

McFarland is now in her fourth season as Hanover’s coach.

A sixth-grade teacher in Lebanon, she graduated from Keene High and played volleyball at Rivier University in Nashua for three seasons.

After college, she returned to Keene where she coached the Blackbirds before taking over the Hanover program for the 2017 season.

McFarland’s made her imprint since then.

Last season she started a developmental team, which is aimed to get freshmen involved and up to speed with the sport, since so many NHIAA Division II programs across the state have players on club teams.

The nearest club program to Hanover is in Concord, so it’s understandable not many travel.

But the fundamental skills also shouldn’t be taught at the junior varsity but refined, McFarland said.

She’s also made an effort to make volleyball a family atmosphere at Hanover.

The program has adopted the term ohana — a Hawaiian term meaning family — and has put it on the walls of the gym.

Plus her husband, Kevin, is her JV coach.

“Volleyball is a family sport,” McFarland said. “For the better or worse, you have to make it work with the players on the court. Ohana, which is from Lilo and Stich, for us means nobody is left behind.”

Hanover has never won a state title in volleyball, and McFarland isn’t sure if its even won a playoff game, either.

She’s been honest that the schedule this season has been easy, but that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t like to see how they stack up in D-II.

The NHIAA will have playoffs, but it’s unknown if rankings will be part of the process.

The Marauders’ record puts them in a good position for a high seed, but they first have to get permission from school authorities to participate.

Hanover has five games left on its schedule, including an outdoor match at Mid Vermont Christian. McFarland expects the school will have a decision on playoffs by the last game of the season. Until then, she’s focused on her group of four seniors, who haven’t been able to play a game in front of their families this season and won’t be able to on senior night.

“As seniors, it’s definitely really important for us to have our parents there,” senior defensive specialist Alice Rodi said. “Especially on senior night. Our parents come, they bring flowers, we take pictures. It’s sad we won’t be able to do that. But I just feel so lucky we can even play.”

Pete Nakos can be reached at pnakos@vnews.com.

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