After a disappointing, come-from-ahead loss in the Naugatuck Valley League tournament quarterfinals Oct. 28, Naugatuck High volleyball coach Kevin Wesche decided his team needed a break.
His decision helped the Greyhounds bounce back from defeat and earn a first-round victory in the Class L state tournament Monday.
No. 14-seeded Naugatuck defeated No. 19 Foran, 3-1, to earn a trip to the second round. Naugatuck (15-7) will visit No. 3 Stratford on Thursday night.
Naugy held a 2-1 set lead in the NVL quarterfinals two weeks ago against Woodland and also held a 13-8 advantage in the fifth and final set, but the Greyhounds squandered both edges and were dispatched from the tournament.
Wesche decided that the girls needed a few days off before preparing for the state tournament.
“We started by giving them two days off, Sunday and Monday,” Wesche said. “It helped everyone regroup, and then we got back to fundamentals with block coverages and some other things we struggled with (against Woodland). We had a scrimmage and did fairly well. We had confidence going into the game (against Foran).”
That confidence was well founded as Naugy came away with the 3-1 win. The game scores were 25-20, 29-27, 22-25 and 25-23. Wesche said all of the work the Greyhounds did on block coverages paid off during the match as they withstood a 16-kill barrage by Katherine Kiernan and a 13-kill attack by Britney Lynch.
“Our block coverage was excellent, when we went to challenge their big people,” Wesche said. “When they did get the ball over, we were able to dig it and get an attack ourselves.”
Naugy’s attack all season has come from different directions, and it was the same situation Monday. Cailee Bergin led the way with eight kills, two aces and 13 assists, while Brielle Behuniak tacked on six kills, nine assists and three aces. Aryana Powell contributed four kills, two aces and a block, and Jayla Piazza tallied 13 digs.
“It certainly makes it more problematic for our opponents because they don’t know who to key in on,” Wesche said. “We always have three hitters across the front, so we keep them off balance. We don’t have super strong hitters, but we come at them from different angles.”
Hawks bounced: The Woodland volleyball team isn’t used to bowing out of the state tournament in the first round, but the Hawks suffered an early-round exit to cap off their rebuilding season.
No. 21-seeded Woodland dropped a 3-2 decision to No. 12 Waterford in the Class M first round Monday. The game scores were 17-25, 22-25, 25-18, 25-21 and 15-13.
That match was a rematch of the 2015 Class M semifinal in which the Lancers upset the top-seeded Hawks, 3-0. Woodland’s loss Monday was the first time the Hawks exited the state tournament in the first round since 2008.
Woodland (11-11) will lose just one senior, Julia Swiatek, one of the team’s top defensive players. The rest of the Hawks’ lineup was composed of juniors, including leading attacker Steph Krebbs.