Hawks shake off rust to top Chargers

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ANSONIA — Rust plagued just about every part of the Woodland volleyball team’s opening match Tuesday against Ansonia. The service game, passing, defending — all of them looked oxidized. But before the rust could result in a stunning loss, Brianna Pacileo pulled out the WD-40

In the decisive fifth game, Pacileo closed the match with a 10-0 service run, including eight aces, to lead the Hawks to a 3-2 (25-20, 24-26, 20-25, 25-17, 15-2) win over the Chargers.

Pacileo took serve at 5-2 in the fifth and, after Woodland earned a point on an Ansonia error, she dished seven straight aces for a 13-2 lead. Hannah Deegan delivered a kill to bring up match point, and Pacileo served another ace to end it.

“I was just thinking about getting it in,” Pacileo said of her final service run. “I know once I get it in my team would do everything they could to keep the ball in play and protect the serve.”

Her team didn’t have to do much protecting during the run. Four aces were clean serves to the floor and four others were unreturnable. Pacileo, who finished with match highs of 17 kills and 18 aces, utilizes a fierce jump serve that bites hard toward the floor after clearing the net.

“We’ve been in tight matches before, and there’s a certain level of pressure that comes with that,” Woodland coach Jim Amato said. “We’re fortunate to have several girls who have been in that position, and Bree’s one of them. When the game’s on the line, can you step up? We were able to step up.”

Woodland dug a hole for itself with sloppy play throughout the first three games. Although the Hawks pulled out a 25-20 win in game one, the match’s first two points saw Woodland lose points when passes fell to the floor. Abbey Rosato ended the game with a kill from her middle position.

The Hawks were in position to take a 2-0 lead in the second game as a Pacileo kill gave them seven game points at 24-17. But Ansonia went on a 9-0 run to close the game — five points of which came by Woodland errors — to tie the match.

Ansonia took game three, 25-20, before the Hawks sharpened their play in the fourth. Although service was an issue in the game (five service errors), Pacileo pounded five kills and both Deegan and Anna Khalid added two kills each near the end of the game.

Amato said the rough play throughout the first few games could be expected for the opening match of the season, particularly when half the players on the floor played sparingly on the varsity court last year.

“We’re working on basics and communications,” Amato said. “We have a few things to put together and girls in different positions. We’re going to learn together on how to move. But Rome wasn’t built in a day and it lasted a long time, so I ain’t about to start fiddling.”

Woodland will host Watertown on Thursday night before visiting Wolcott on Tuesday. Pacileo said that once the Hawks get a few matches under their belts, things will start clicking.

“We’re not the team we were last year, and that’s a good and a bad thing,” Pacileo said. “We need to get some stuff together, and by the middle and end of this season we won’t be this team anymore.”