SEYMOUR — The Woodland-Seymour volleyball rivalry has taken on storied proportions over the past few years and Tuesday night’s battle met all the criteria.
The Wildcats came in with a scary 45-1 record in game sets and the Hawks countered with a 39-8 mark of their own in game sets. Neither team was perfect as serves fell into the net and returns were deflected out of bounds. But volleyball is not a perfect game. It’s more of an all-out furry of diving to the floor, blinding blasts across the net and fearless defenders willing to stand in harm’s way.
Woodland took the early lead in games one and two, but Seymour battled back to earn the wins. In game three the Wildcats held the upper hand and then fended off a furious Hawks rally to hang on for the 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-21) win over Woodland.
The score only tells part of the story. The real meat and potatoes of the story unfolded over a frenzied hour and a half.
The Hawks’ (13-1) emotional leader Cameron Caswell opened the match by serving up a 4-1 lead as the decibel level began to climb in the gym. Seymour (16-0) used its imposing front row of Jessica Litwa and Faith Thurmond to stay within striking range and the game was deadlocked at 8-8.
That’s when the Hawks served notice as Carla Piccolo drilled a few services to the floor. On the next Woodland possession McKenna Cronin added a couple of service winners and then Piccolo passed it off to Sam White for a kill to open up a 14-9 advantage, leading to the Wildcats first time out.
Seymour benefitted from a couple of Woodland returns that strayed out of bounds and heading down the stretch the game was tied at 19-19. Seymour’s libero Shari Minagla was stopping everything that came her way until Maddie Hupprich assisted Cronin for a side out kill.
It was there for the taking as Woodland held a 22-20 advantage, but a serve in the net put the fate of the match into the Wildcats’ hands, and Seymour responded. Aleksandra Frye stepped into serve and gave the ‘Cats their first lead of the game at 23-22, leading to a Woodland timeout.
Gosia Frye set up an assist and Thurmond delivered a kill for game point as Seymour completed the 25-22 comeback win.
“We got out passed and out slashed,” Woodland head coach Jim Amato said. “That is the class of the NVL right there; they are firing on all cylinders. We just didn’t have enough up front with Jess and Faith doing the job for Seymour.”
Game two played out with the same scenario as the Hawks got out in front early. Ally Mayne and Stephanie Krebbs came on to shore up the middle row. Jenna Boncal and Emily Brouillette took on the task of trying to neutralize the Seymour tandem in the front row.
White served up an 8-4 lead only to have Thurmond respond for Seymour with a run that tied the game at 10-10. Caswell dove to the floor to keep a return alive, but there was no one close enough to get a fist on it and Seymour finally pulled ahead 16-15. The Wildcats managed to stay in front to pull out the 25-21 win.
“We usually thrive on defense but we got out defensed tonight,” Amato said. “We didn’t lose this game, we got beat, and Seymour rose on this occasion and got the best of us. But we will see them again.”
Woodland began to lose a little bit of steam in the third match as Seymour got out to a 12-6 advantage and forced a Woodland timeout. Ruthie Costanza took up the middle row and Gina Farina served up a run that closed the gap at 14-13.
The Wildcats stretched their advantage to 22-15, but Woodland wouldn’t go down quietly. White served up a run to get the Hawks within 23-20. Seymour regained control and put the finishing touches on the 25-21 win to earn the sweep.
“I think the biggest difference in this game was how we can dominate on the net,” Seymour head coach Cathy Federowicz said. “We struggled a little tonight with our setting, and you can only play defense for so long, but our two hitters on the net are tough to return on.”
The consensus is that these two high-flying teams will meet again very shortly at the NVL tournament for round two.
Woodland will host Naugatuck Wednesday. The Hawks will close out the regular season Friday versus Torrington, Oct. 26 against Masuk and Oct. 28 at Watertown.