Hawks land in familiar spot

Woodland’s Sam White serves during the NVL semifinals against Torrington Tuesday in Beacon Falls. Woodland won, 3-1. –LUKE MARSHALL

Woodland’s Sam White serves during the NVL semifinals against Torrington Tuesday in Beacon Falls. Woodland won, 3-1. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — The Hawks finds themselves in familiar territory.

No. 2 Woodland returned to the Naugatuck Valley League volleyball championship game for the eighth time after defeating No. 3 Torrington, 3-1, in the semifinals Tuesday night.

Woodland (18-2) will face No. 5 Oxford (16-6), who shocked top seed and previously unbeaten Seymour (19-1), Thursday at 7 p.m. at Kennedy High in Waterbury for the title.

Woodland closed out the first two games against Torrington rather comfortably, as Sam White’s kill ended the first at 25-21 and Maddie Hupprich’s ace closed the second at 25-16.

Woodland’s offense faltered in the third as the Hawks gave Torrington (18-3) 17 of its 25 points on errors.

“I think we just got too overexcited,” said White, who had a match-high 16 kills. “Usually every set we lose our momentum a little bit and it takes us a little while to realize that’s not us. We get back in the huddle and figure it out.”

Woodland never trailed in the fourth, hopping out to a 9-3 lead. The Red Raiders cut the deficit to 9-7 before the Hawks went on a 12-0 run to all but end the match. Eleven of those points came on the serve of Gina Farina, who targeted the same spot in Torrington’s back row on almost every serve.

“We put a few new tools in her toolbox, so she’s able to pull a few new tricks out of her bag when she needs to,” Woodland coach Jim Amato said. “Tonight, she was working on a few things.”

The Hawks’ offense came from all locations as they finished a 25-9 win in the fourth. Carla Piccolo contributed seven kills from almost every position. Emily Brouillette and Stephanie Krebbs led the front-row defense and middle hitting attack, and libero Cameron Caswell set up much of the offense with her match-high 19 digs.

“Usually every year we have one or two big hitters and our middle blocker, but this year is the most athletic year I think we’ve ever had,” White said. “We can throw the ball up anywhere and know it’s going to be hit. On the other side, teams might be yelling, ‘Free! Free! Free!’ but we always end up crushing it back at them.”

The Hawks opened the tournament with a 3-0 win over No. 7 Ansonia Oct. 31. McKenna Cronin led the Hawks with 10 kills and two aces. Carla Piccolo added nine kills and 12 assists, Sam White had eight kills, and Cameron Caswell added nine digs.

Naugatuck entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed and fell to Oxford, 3-1, in the quarterfinals Oct. 31. Olivia Rotatori led the way for Naugy with six kills and three blocks. Alexa Blavas had four kills to go along with three aces. Ally Mezzo added five kills and four digs.

State tournament play is up next for the Hawks and ‘Hounds.

Woodland was the top ranked team in Class M, while Naugatuck was the 14th ranked team in Class L. Tournament pairings and dates are expected to be announced Friday.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article. 

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