BEACON FALLS — With the match and Woodland’s volleyball season on the line, Tayler Boncal admitted she was nervous.
With a 13-12 lead in the decisive fifth set, Boncal served up an ace as the No. 1 Hawks made big play after big play in a 3-2 victory over No. 8 Plainfield in the Class M state tournament quarterfinal on Monday afternoon.
Boncal finished with 15 kills, nine digs and helped Woodland advance to its first-ever state tournament semifinal.
“I was nervous, and I was trying not to think about the 13-12 score,” Boncal said. “I believed in my team and that we could do it.”
The Hawks scored the final three points of the set and won the match. The scores were 25-19, 18-25, 25-23, 21-25 and 15-12.
Woodland is scheduled to face fifth-seeded Tolland in Berlin Wednesday night at 7 p.m. It is the first breakthrough for the Hawks to the semifinals after making the quarterfinals in two of the previous three seasons.
Nicole Fowler had 16 digs and two kills for Woodland, while Samantha Lee had 33 assists to help keep the Hawks’ season alive.
Woodland held off a feisty Plainfield team and its Division I recruit Morgan Griffin, who finished with 26 kills and almost single-handedly led the Panthers to victory.
“In the beginning it was pretty scary, actually,” Fowler said of playing back row against Griffin’s spikes and serves. “I didn’t know how to react but I started moving up and it came right to me.”
Griffin started a 3-0 run with a kill early in the fifth set to give the Panthers a 5-2 lead. The Hawks, however, would not be denied.
Brianna Pacileo blasted a kill that deflected off a Panther defender and hit the ceiling light fixture, and the next point, a Plainfield attack error tied the set at 7-all. Pacileo finished with 12 kills, 13 digs and one block.
“They’re a solid team,” Plainfield coach Bob Arremony said of the Hawks. “They pass well, they set well and it came down to who got the last few points.”
The set would be tied four more times until Erin Wester made the defensive play of the match. Wester (five kills and two digs) returned an attack from Griffin for a block to give the Hawks a 13-12 lead.
“I saw the ball where it was and I knew I had to get it,” Wester said. “It was quite difficult because she’s a great player and she knows how to get around the block so you have to time it just right.”
The Hawks rebounded to take the final set after the Panthers won the fourth. Up one, the Panthers rattled off three straight points to take a 19-15 lead thanks to a kill by Cassidy Ball and two Woodland errors.
Woodland went through stretches of being tentative to being aggressive. It showed during a first-set victory for Woodland, then allowing 10 straight points in the second en route to losing the set.
“Once we shifted the tables from concern to energy, we were a better team,” Woodland coach Jim Amato said.