Contenders for the crown

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Maddie Hupprich and Woodland will look to defend their NVL title when tournament action begins Saturday. –FILE PHOTO
Maddie Hupprich and Woodland will look to defend their NVL title when tournament action begins Saturday. –FILE PHOTO

The NVL volleyball tournament begins this weekend, and Naugy and Woodland both appear to be contenders for a title run.

Both teams are wrapping up the regular season heading in the right direction. Woodland won five of its last six going into its final match Thursday versus out-of-conference opponent Amity. Naugy won six of its last seven heading into its regular-season finale Thursday versus Terryville, a non-NVL opponent.

The NVL tournament begins on Saturday with the quarterfinal round. No. 3 seed Woodland will host No. 6 Holy Cross at 11 a.m. and No. 5 seed Naugy plays at No. 4 Kennedy at 2 p.m. The semifinals are Nov. 1 at Naugatuck High School and the final is Nov. 3 at Woodland.

Naugy stood at 13-6 overall after the Greyhounds’ 3-0 wins against Watertown on Monday and Ansonia on Wednesday. Naugatuck head coach Kevin Wesche has seen his team improve as the season has progressed.

“They have been getting stronger and more aggressive at the net both defensively and offensively,” Wesche said. “Taylor Hyde has been challenging opponents at the net with tips and blocks while Olivia Rotatori has been very productive finding the floor on the other side with intense spikes. Kelly Murphy has been effective getting the ball to the net allowing our hitters to get better swings.

“Defensively Molly Kennedy, Emma Healy and Michelle Cordova have been bringing up balls and digs with improved passes to make the sets possible. Cailee Bergin and Jayla Piazza have also been huge contributors in the process. The biggest factor is their confidence under pressure to perform and execute.”

The Hawks are 15-3 and defeated its first-round NVL opponent earlier this week. Woodland beat Holy Cross in four sets on Monday.

Setter Maddie Hupprich had 29 assists, six aces and seven kills, while Steph Krebbs had a team-high 15 kills in the victory. Both will be key components to the team’s offense heading into Saturday.

“Maddie has been able to give us great distribution of the ball on offense,” Woodland head coach Jim Amato said. “Her serve is also like a weapon and she can hit from any place on the floor.”

Amato will also look to McKenna Cronin, the team’s primary outside hitter, to continue her hot play. Cronin had six kills in the recent win over Holy Cross.

“McKenna brings heat with her swings,” Amato added.

Taylor Hyde and Naugatuck will look to stake the claim to the NVL volleyball crown when tournament action begins Saturday. –FILE PHOTO
Taylor Hyde and Naugatuck will look to stake the claim to the NVL volleyball crown when tournament action begins Saturday. –FILE PHOTO

He also expects Emily Brouillette and Krebbs to be involved a lot at the net. The duo combined for 21 kills in Monday’s win over Holy Cross.

Naugy opened the season with a 3-0 win over Kennedy back on Sept. 9, and it also took each of the league’s top teams — Seymour, Torrington and Woodland — to five sets during the season.

“I believe the teams in the top tier of the NVL can compete and or defeat those of the best in state,” Wesche said. “Since we have come so close to beating those teams it gives the players confidence and makes me believe, on any given night, we can compete in postseason play with the top programs in the state.”

Woodland will be looking to repeat as NVL tournament champs, and its only losses thus far this season were to Torrington and Seymour, the numbers one and two seeds, respectively. The next week could give them a chance for rematches.

“Any time you lose, it gives you pause, and it gives you a chance to refocus as a team,” Amato said.