Hawks seize control of Brass Division

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Woodland’s Rachel Starkey dives for the ball Tuesday night versus Seymour. The Hawks won 3-2 to remain undefeated on the season. RA ARCHIVE
BEACON FALLS — It wasn’t pretty for the Woodland girls volleyball team, but the Hawks will take it.

Woodland needed all five sets but pulled out a thrilling, 3-2 victory over rival Seymour on Tuesday night to take firm control of the Naugatuck Valley League Brass Division and remain undefeated.

“We were lucky to get out alive,” Woodland coach Jim Amato said. “It was difficult to determine who was making fewer mistakes at a certain point. We didn’t settle into a rhythm. We made a lot of errors.”

The scores (24-26, 26-24, 27-25, 13-25, 15-13) would suggest a better-played match than it was, both coaches agreed.

“All of the games were close, but it was more of who was going to give whom the game,” Seymour coach Cathy Federowicz said. “I felt as though neither team really wanted to win. They came to play a little bit more than us, but it was a very sloppy game.”

Even a sloppy match, in which it seemed there were two or three times as many errors as kills, there were stars.

Woodland senior Adriana Ambari (14 kills) and sophomore Brianna Pacileo (15 digs, 11 kills) spurred the Hawks (14-0) to the fifth-set win. The two hitters accounted for all of Woodland’s kills in the fifth set—Ambari had four, Pacileo added three—and pulled out big points when the team most needed them.

“It’s just the energy and communication as a team, and how we come together to pull it through in the end,” Ambari said of Woodland’s 6-0 record in five-set matches.

Twice Pacileo notched kills with the Hawks facing two-point deficits, and her third gave Woodland a 12-11 lead. She also ended the match with an unreturnable serve.

“I had a bag full of emotions,” Pacileo said. “I didn’t know what was going on or what was going to happen. I just knew we needed to protect and work as a team to beat Seymour.”

Amato said the sophomore has shown a great deal of improvement over the last month.

Woodland’s Tayler Boncal prepares to serve Tuesday night against Seymour. The Hawks grabbed control of the NVL Brass Division with a 3-2 win over the Wildcats. RA ARCHIVE

“Brianna Pacileo has matured in the past 10 or 11 games,” Amato said. “A lot of the responsibility has fallen on her shoulders. Some of the things she has had difficulty with, she’s putting it all together now. She’s really been able to drive the ball to the floor.”

Pacileo’s trademark is quickly becoming smashing the ball as hard as anyone on the floor.

“I just go up there and try as hard as I can to put it in play,” Pacileo said. “When I realized in the first and second games that I could get it in play, I was trying to hit it harder.”

The first three sets extended past regulation. Seymour (11-3) won the first, 26-24, by fighting off two set points and winning the final four points. Woodland won the second, 26-24, and third, 27-25, also battling back against set points in each.

The Wildcats’ strongest game was the fourth, a 25-13 win to extend the match to a fifth set.

Woodland, which can clinch the Brass title with a win Thursday at Wolcott, took nothing but the win.

“It definitely wasn’t either of our perfect games,” Ambari said. “In the end, we were pretty even with what we were doing.”

“We didn’t have one of our best put together games,” Pacileo added. “But we did enough to get the job done.”

The Hawks visit Wolcott on Thursday and Ansonia on Friday before returning home for their final two home matches of the season next week, against St. Paul on Tuesday and Naugatuck on Thursday. Woodland’s next win will clinch the program’s second-ever Brass championship.