Hawks return to dominance against Eagles

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BEACON FALLS — It’s taken about half the season, but the Woodland volleyball team is finally playing like the perennial powerhouse usually does.

The Hawks haven’t been playing poorly—they were 8-0 entering Tuesday’s match against Kennedy—but their dominant, 3-0 (25-10, 25-16, 26-24) win over the Eagles showed the quick progress of the relatively young squad.

“I think one of the things that kept us in the game was our communication and our relentless pursuit of the ball,” said Woodland coach Jim Amato, who felt those aspects of the team’s play have improved since the start of the season. “Everyone was calling each other’s names and everyone’s eyes were on the ball. Our defense was great.”

The most trouble Woodland (9-0) faced all night was in the third game when Kennedy continued to force ties and stay close to the Hawks.

The Eagles held their last lead in the game at 12-11 but managed to tie the score at 19-19 and 24-24, including fighting off three match points.

Amato pointed out the net play by seniors Adriana Ambari (nine kills, four aces, three blocks) and Sam Edwon (five kills, two blocks), especially late in the third game, as a big reason why Woodland swept.

During a 6-4 run late in the third, Edwon accounted for almost all of her stats with four kills and a block to put the Hawks up, 24-21.

After the Eagles rallied to survive three match points and tie the game at 24, Ambari used her touch for a soft kill to set up another match point, which the Hawks won on a Kennedy error following a pair of crafty, one-handed dig returns by Tayler Boncal.

In addition to the hitting of the tall seniors up front, Amato was impressed with the outside hitters, Boncal and Pacileo. Boncal, a junior, had varsity experience last season, but Pacileo, a sophomore, is relishing her first go-around this year.

“We want them to hit, that’s why they’re there,” Amato said. “Brianna brings a whole new dimension. She was on her knees and she hit it. She was running across on a switch and hit it on her way by. You can’t coach that—you really don’t want to—but when it’s that good, you can let it slide.”

Woodland had no problem coasting to victories in the first two games. A 6-0 run, highlighted by a few Pacileo serves that could not be returned, closed out game one, 25-10, before a service run by Boncal helped set up a 25-16 victory in the second.

Also notable was the performance of sophomore Samantha Lee, who filled in as setter for the ill Emily Wirsing. Lee transitioned seamlessly, recording 22 assists, two aces, and five digs.

“Emily was out sick today, so we had to call an audible and bring up a JV setter and let the chips fall where they may,” Amato said. “She worked hard and is a smart kid.”

The Hawks finish their first lap around the Naugatuck Valley League in the next week. After hosting Holy Cross on Thursday night, Woodland visits Naugatuck on Friday before heading to Torrington on Oct. 12.