Hawks avoid game five drama vs. Naugy

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NAUGATUCK — The last time neighboring rivals Woodland and Naugatuck met on the volleyball court the match turned into a white-knuckle affair as the Hawks escaped in dramatic finish in five games.

There was a large crowd on hand in the Ed Mariano Gymnasium Tuesday night for the rematch, but there would be no game five this time. Woodland earned the 3-1 (25-22, 25-17, 21-25, 25-21) victory over Naugatuck to snap the Greyhounds’ three-game winning streak.

“This was a slugfest,” Woodland head coach Jim Amato said. “They were dropping some hard balls on us. We were consistent when we needed to be.”

Both sides played with a fevered pitch from the opening serve. Players dove to the floor to save volleys and leaped at the net to fearlessly block spike attempts as the noise in the gym grew louder with every point.

“We definitely found our passion again,” Naugatuck head coach Kevin Wesche said. “We just have to fix some of our little mistakes and close out these close games.”

Game one saw four lead changes and five ties before it was decided. Maddie Hupprich served the Hawks (11-2) up a 4-1 lead. Taylor Hyde and Cailee Bergin began to rise high above the net to form a human wall for Naugy (10-5) as Woodland returns started to hit the floor.

Molly Kennedy served up a run after several ties and Naugy wrestled away the lead to take an 18-16 advantage. The Greyhounds student section was in an uproar, but the poise of Woodland down the stretch came through. McKenna Cronin and Steph Krebbs put down several kills to give Woodland the 25-22 win in the set.

Naugy broke out to an early 5-3 lead in game two with Kelly Murphy in serve. Emily Brouillette served up a three-point run to put the Hawks in front for good. Fatima Khalid came on to support the middle row and that allowed the Hawks to attack the net. Lindsey Gabianelli put together a three-point run to open up a 20-16 lead forcing Naugy into a timeout.

Unforced errors by the Greyhounds kept them from closing the gap as Woodland took a 2-0 advantage with a 25-17 win.

Naugy made four unforced errors to start the third game and quickly fell behind 9-3. It appeared that a three-game sweep was in the making but the Greyhounds came out of a timeout with other ideas.

Jayla Piazza and Michelle Cordova began to make saves in the back row, and Emma Healy put on a display in serve that cut the deficit to 13-11.

Olivia Rotatori served up a run highlighted by an ace down the sideline, and Naugy was out in front 18-14. Hyde charged the net from the middle of the floor and blocked a spike attempt as Woodland retreated to a timeout.

Naugy closed out game three with Bergin delivering a three-point run in serve for the 25-21 win.

“Coach Wesche has these girls swinging,” Amato said. “Their defense was smothering. There wasn’t a lot of room out there to drop in a ball. The outside hitter (Rotatori) was getting up on us. Naugy will be a team to beat come tournament time because that’s how they’re designed.”

Julia Swiatek seemed to be on every big play for the Hawks in game four, and Jen Triana served up a 7-2 lead that the Hawks held throughout the set.

Naugy battled back to close within three points down the stretch, but a game five was not in the offering as the Hawks prevailed 25-21.

“We showed that we can have composure,” Wesche said. “Down 9-3 in game three we battled back and made the plays we had to in order to pull it out. I think we can build on the passion we showed in this game.”

Naugatuck will visit Wolcott on Friday. The Greyhounds will close out the regular season next week Oct. 24 versus Watertown, Oct. 26 against Ansonia and Oct. 27 versus Terryville.

Woodland will host Torrington on Friday. The Hawks close out the regular season next week with Holy Cross Oct. 24, Wolcott Oct. 26 and Amity Oct. 27.