GLASTONBURY — Woodland High’s All-State hitter, Brianna Pacileo, was the focus of a Waterford double-block throughout Wednesday’s Class M semifinal. That was fine by the Hawks; they had plenty of other girls ready to go.
Hannah Deegan and Anna Khalid combined for 21 kills as No. 1 Woodland reached its second straight Class M final with a 3-1 victory over the No. 5 Lancers. Game scores were 25-21, 22-25, 25-10 and 25-18.
“There’s a saying in street racing: ‘Run what you brung,'” Woodland coach Jim Amato said. “That’s what we did. Anna Khalid made sure everyone knew this was her house and Hannah Deegan kept bringing smoke at the net.”
Pacileo still managed to pound 13 kills through the blockers of Waterford (15-7), but the combination of Deegan on the opposite side and Khalid in the middle presented enough options for setter Samantha Lee (27 assists) to soften the pressure.
“They both had excellent games tonight,” Pacileo said of Deegan and Khalid. “I have a lot of confidence in them because I know if I’m not on my game, they’re there to pick me up.”
Khalid’s kill broke a 19-all tie in the first game to give Woodland (23-1) a lead it didn’t relinquish. Pacileo followed up with an ace, and Abbey Rosato later ended it with one of her four blocks.
“I just wanted to make the most of [my chances] and try to put the ball down,” Khalid said. “We always work well together and we make each other feel comfortable. I tried not to think that it was a state semifinal; I tried to think that it was practice.”
Waterford’s lone victory came in a second game that saw 14 ties, including five straight from 18-all to 22-all. Three straight kills by Alexandra Moger (17 kills) gave the Lancers a 25-22 win.
The fifth-seed’s momentum lasted until 5-3 in the third, when Pacileo finally started to get back into a groove. She pounded three kills in four points to give the Hawks an 8-5 lead, and Jill Gorman later added a nine-point service run as they cruised to a 25-10 victory.
“It’s a little disheartening when the ball gets put back down on me, but I have to keep swinging because I know my team will pick up the ball,” Pacileo said. “Sam was mixing it up really well and throwing off the blockers.”
Woodland fought through five ties in the fourth before a four-point service run by Lee gave the Hawks a 16-12 lead that they kept through the end. Waterford rallied to as close as 17-16, but Khalid was there to stop the momentum. She came up with a kill to start a 5-0 Woodland run that allowed the Hawks to close out the match.
“I was so pumped,” Khalid said. “I just wanted to do it again.”
Woodland’s defense also limited the Lancers to just 27 kills while four Hawks — Pacileo (29 digs), Lee (10), Rachel Starkey (17) and Gorman (11) — registered double-digit kills.
“We have a saying: ‘Nothing hits the floor but you,'” Amato said. “Some people look at our hitting stats and don’t realize we can play defense. That’s really what carried us through tonight.”
It carried them straight into Saturday’s Class M final against No. 6 Foran (15-6), which beat Rocky Hill, 3-1, in Wednesday’s other semifinal. The championship is set for a 1 p.m. start at Berlin High.
Woodland lost to Ledyard, 3-0, in last year’s final.
“We have a lot built up about not bringing it home last year,” Deegan said. “We’re getting it this year.”