NAUGATUCK — The Naugatuck volleyball team began the season as a possible contender and in a span of three weeks has become one of the frontrunners in the Naugatuck Valley League.
Ever since the Greyhounds fought back from a 20-7 deficit to Torrington in the fourth game of their season opener (they eventually dropped it, 25-20), Naugatuck has been unstoppable.
The confidence gained from that one match and the respect for each other that was earned that day is what has molded this team into a force in the league.
Since then the ‘Hounds have run off six straight wins — all by 3-0 shutouts — to put Naugatuck (6-1) at 19-3 on the season in game outcomes.
The streak continued Tuesday at Crosby as Naugatuck made quick work of the Bulldogs in a 3-0 (25-20, 25-11, 25-13) sweep.
“After that Torrington game these girls committed themselves in practice to get better and they have,” Naugatuck coach Kevin Wesche said. “They have put in the hard work. We don’t have that height at the net but they do move well on the court and they are quick using their speed to cover all of the court.”
That quickness and team speed was evident in game one against Crosby as the Bulldogs were putting up a fight. Livia Shehu (10 kills, 25 digs) and Gabriela Tejada (19 digs, 10 assists) proved to be a handful for the ‘Hounds to handle as Naugy clung to a slim 15-13 advantage.
Lauren Burns rattled off a pair of service winners to extend the lead to 19-15, but Kayla Rotatori (four kills, two blocks) and Ana Castelao (three kills, two blocks) had their hands full trying to deal with the height advantage of Shehu at the net for Crosby.
Kait Barry stepped into serve and finished off the Bulldogs with a service run as Ashley Whitney landed the winner on a block for the 25-20 final margin.
“We are getting better at our skills and the team is working together out on the court,” Wesche said. “Our serving has been very effective and we are using an unbalanced attack to keep our opponents on their toes.”
Naugatuck gained the momentum early in game two as it began to pull away from the Bulldogs. The floor coverage from sideline to sideline kept Crosby from finding any open space to land a point. Kait Barry (seven digs) and Erika Andreoli (five digs) reached Crosby returns and Kara Klimaszewski (nine assists) set up the attack in the front row as Naugy got out to a 14-6 lead.
Whitney (five kills, three blocks) began to control the net and Stef Barry (10 aces, 12 assists) sparked the offensive attack as the Greyhounds pulled away to a 25-11 win.
Stef Barry served up the lead in game three, landing three aces in the opening service run as Naugatuck jumped out to a 6-1 advantage. Rotatori and Kait Barry came through with a couple of blocks and kills at the net with Klimaszewski in serve as the lead swelled to 16-6.
Once again Stef Barry stepped into serve and began firing aces across the net to put the finishing touches on the 25-13 win for the 3-0 sweep.
“In practice we have been trying to scramble around and covering all of the court and it has been that kind of play that allows us to sustain the momentum in games,” Wesche said. “It has kept rallies going, and if the ball doesn’t hit the floor the opponent can’t score. That is what we have been focusing on. I have high expectations for this team because they are such a hard-working group. They are writing their own destiny right now.”
The Greyhounds face Ansonia on Wednesday before heading to Watertown on Friday. Naugatuck returns home on Tuesday to host Wolcott.