BEACON FALLS — The Woodland volleyball team entered the 2011 Naugatuck Valley League tournament undefeated and the No. 1 seed. The Hawks proceeded to lose in a shocking quarterfinal sweep.
So when No. 2 Woodland found itself trailing No. 7 Naugatuck 17-13 in the first set of last Saturday’s tournament quarterfinal, Hawks coach Jim Amato called a timeout to jog some memories.
“In the timeout he just told us we needed to stay focused and that we needed to remember last year,” Woodland junior Brianna Pacileo said. “We knew we didn’t want to end this season like last season so we stayed focused and pushed through.”
It worked, as the Hawks furiously rallied to win 12 of the set’s last 16 points en route to a 3-0 (25-21, 25-19, 25-18) sweep, moving to the semifinals to face No. 3 Seymour.
Amato’s message focused on getting his players to lose their sluggishness.
“We had a discussion about how to play with enthusiasm and to get moving again,” he said. “We had to get the momentum back to our side. Sometimes they need to be reminded. When their memories are working, we’re good.”
Pacileo helped wake up the team from its slumber, pounding a kill off the Naugatuck (7-12) block to tie the first set at 17-all before reeling off two more spikes into the back row to make it a 19-17 Woodland lead.
With a 21-18 advantage, Pacileo dished three aces in a row with her jump serve, allowing the Hawks to pull away with the set, 25-21, on a Tayler Boncal touch kill over the block.
Pacileo powered Woodland (17-2) down the stretch in the second set, too, with a thunderous kill to make it a 20-15 lead. She tallied two more aces later in the set that helped the Hawks win the second, 25-19.
Pacileo had eight aces on the afternoon to go with her team-leading 10 kills.
“When we’re using hitters like Brianna and Tayler to help protect serve, we can get runs in,” Amato said. “It’s when we lose serve or give it away we have trouble maintaining that momentum. Then we start worrying about losing instead of fighting through the next point.”
Naugy pulled back into the third set and drew a 13-all tie before Pacileo showed up again. This time she turned the tide with a block before adding another ace to make it a 15-13 lead. Woodland steadily pulled away before Pacileo ended it at 25-18 on her final kill of the match.
“When we need a big point, it’s not just me, it’s the whole team,” Pacileo said. “We need the pass and the set, and once the set comes to me I’m determined to put it down and end the point.”
The Greyhounds ended their season with the loss, falling one victory short of qualifying for the state tournament.
“I thought we played very well,” Naugy coach Fred Scheithe said. “The thing that hurt us tonight, which over the last few games has been our downfall, was our serving. Kids that are usually pretty consistent with their serves struggled tonight. I have no idea why. But I’m proud of the way we played.”
Woodland was supposed to face Seymour on Tuesday but Superstorm Sandy forced the semifinals to be rescheduled for Thursday, after press time, at 5 p.m. at Wilby High before Friday’s final at Kennedy High. The Hawks split the Brass Division title and a pair of regular-season matchups with the Wildcats.
“We’re going to be pumped to play them and they’ll be pumped to play us,” Pacileo said. “It’s going to be a fight to the end.”