Woodland sweeps Watertown off the court

WATERTOWN — Even though the Woodland volleyball team graduated an entire starting floor’s worth of players, there was nothing surprising about the Hawks’ opening night game at Watertown.

Woodland, new players and all, easily swept the Indians, 3-0 (25-12, 25-18, 25-7), to start off the season like usual—with a win.

The Hawks (1-0) return three regulars from last season—Adriana Ambari, Emily Wirsing, and Tayler Boncal—and all three helped the new players adjust throughout the match. As head coach Jim Amato saw, it took time before the team moved the ball where it wanted.

“It took a game and a half to get the passes where we needed them to be, but the momentum that we brought once we had those passes was great,” Amato said.

Ambari, who finished with a team-high nine kills along with eight aces and two blocks, felt more talk between players helped the team hit its stride.

“I think it was communication,” Ambari said. “All our passes were better later in the match.”

In the second game, the Hawks made a run to stretch their lead to 20-13 before Watertown called a timeout to slow the momentum. After cutting the lead to 21-18, Ambari converted two kills in a row to help propel her team to a 25-18 victory.

While the passing steadily improved, Woodland’s service game was stellar. The Hawks’ 25-7 win in the clinching third set was marked by several runs, including a pair of four-point stretches by Wirsing at the beginning and end of the set and an eight-point string by Ambari.

“Serving can make or break your game,” Ambari said. “It’s probably the most important thing you can do in volleyball.”

The strong serving by the entire team stuck out in Amato’s mind.

“It’s always good to be able to start a serve out in front to keep the defense on its heels a bit,” Amato said. “Maybe that’s something we can add to our game this year.”

The strong serving, improving passing, and vocal communication showed Ambari that the inexperienced varsity players, including Sehar Khalid, Brianna Pacileo, Sam Edwon, and Nicole Fowler, are quickly grasping the game at the varsity level.

“They’re involving themselves,” Ambari said. “They’re doing extremely well and they’re communicating well with the team.”

Though the score looks like a dominating victory, Amato said the team still has plenty of work to do to reach another Naugatuck Valley League championship game.

“We’re working on communicating, making sure that everyone is aware of what the rest of the team is doing on the floor,” Amato said. “We definitely want to make sure we cover. We have a lot of kids up the air hitting the ball so we have to cover them. And we want to be able to close out points.”

Those points of improvement should be key in the first test of the season for the Hawks when they visit Seymour, the defending league champion, on Friday at 6 p.m. Neither Amato nor Ambari said they’ll treat the game much differently than any other, despite the likely implications on the Brass Division standings.

“We look at every team as though we’re not playing an opponent; we’re playing volleyball,” Amato said. “We have to make our system work against anyone.”

“[It will be] the same thing that’s in my head for every game,” Ambari said. “Play your best and whatever happens in the end happens.”