Hawks return to title game

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Greyhounds fall short in semifinals

Woodland's Samantha Lee serves Tuesday during the NVL semifinals versus Wolcott at Wilby High School in Waterbury. Woodland swept Wolcott, 3-0, to advance to the title game. –RA ARCHIVE
Woodland’s Samantha Lee serves Tuesday during the NVL semifinals versus Wolcott at Wilby High School in Waterbury. Woodland swept Wolcott, 3-0, to advance to the title game. –RA ARCHIVE

WATERBURY — As is usually the case in Woodland’s most important volleyball matches, star hitter Brianna Pacileo came through when it most mattered.

Pacileo finished with a semifinal-high 15 kills and added seven aces as the top-seeded Hawks swept Wolcott, 3-0 (25-23, 25-19, 25-21), to advance to the Naugatuck Valley League tournament championship.

Woodland will face No. 2 Torrington in tonight’s championship at 7 p.m. at Kennedy High. The Red Raiders eliminated Naugatuck in the semifinals in a five-game match.

After Woodland (20-1) took the first two games against fourth-seeded Wolcott, the Hawks found themselves clinging to a 13-12 lead in the third. Enter Pacileo, who made sure the Eagles wouldn’t extend the match.

Pacileo powered a 10-4 run with five kills and an ace to give Woodland a 22-16 lead that held up the rest of the way. The Hawks clinched the match on a Wolcott service error.

“We know that the third game for us is always a little down because in the back of our minds we know we’ll come out on top eventually,” said Pacileo, one of the state’s leading hitters and servers. “I knew I needed to step up right there to get the rally going so we could finish it.”

Wolcott coach Kaity Craig tried to plan her team’s defense around stopping Pacileo with plenty of double blocks, but Woodland’s All-State hitter still found gaps.

“It’s hard,” Craig said. “The kid can jump and the kid can hit. She can hit sharp; she can hit deep; she can hit everywhere. She’s a great player and there’s no way around it.”

“There’s a lot of hard work that’s happened behind that,” Woodland coach Jim Amato said. “There are a lot of girls who get the ball to her who want to see her put the ball down.”

The Eagles were pesky throughout the match thanks to persistent hitting by Kayla DePara (nine kills) and Bethany Gallucci (five kills). The Hawks took each of the first two games on Wolcott errors after the Eagles narrowed their deficit to two points in each.

“Wolcott came out swinging and they never stopped,” Amato said. “We couldn’t get our double up fast enough and they were drilling through our singles.”

The Hawks’ middle hitters, Abbey Rosato and Anna Khalid, tacked on six kills apiece while Samantha Lee dished out 28 assists.

Woodland’s run to the final comes after a string of disappointing NVL tournament results. Since winning their second league title in 2009, the Hawks faltered in the 2010 final, the 2011 quarterfinals and the 2012 semifinals.

“I was definitely reminiscing about last year,” Pacileo said of last season’s loss to Seymour. “It was in my mind, but we’re looking forward. It’s great to be back in the finals this year.”

Naugatuck falls short: In the first semifinal matchup, No. 2 Torrington outlasted No. 3 Naugatuck, 3-2 (25-22, 25-20, 15-25, 20-25, 15-8).

Naugatuck’s Erica Andreoli makes a save with support from teammates (7) Kara Klimaszewski and (11) Lauren Burns during the NVL semifinals versus Torrington Tuesday night at Wilby High School in Waterbury. Torrington beat Naugatuck, 3-2. –RA ARCHIVE
Naugatuck’s Erica Andreoli makes a save with support from teammates (7) Kara Klimaszewski and (11) Lauren Burns during the NVL semifinals versus Torrington Tuesday night at Wilby High School in Waterbury. Torrington beat Naugatuck, 3-2. –RA ARCHIVE

The Red Raiders jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Naugy (17-5) evened the match. The Red Raiders immediately took control of the decisive game, grabbing a 10-2 lead thanks to an 8-0 service run by Carly Ruzbasan and cruised to the win.

Naugy took control of the third and fourth games with long service runs. Lauren Burns’ 9-0 service run gave the ‘Hounds a 15-7 lead in the third that held the rest of the way, and Stef Barry (six kills) strung together a 6-0 run late in the fourth to help send the match to a fifth game.

“It’s tough for the girls to come all the way back,” Naugatuck coach Kevin Wesche said. “They dug down, they focused, they came together and they started making better passes. We got a little more of an attack on the net.”

Naugatuck and Wolcott will meet in a consolation match tonight at 5 p.m. at Kennedy. The Greyhounds will open state tournament play next week.