BERLIN — A year after falling one game short of a title, the Woodland High volleyball team made school history on Saturday.
No. 1-seeded Woodland (24-1) became the first NVL team in 35 years and the first team in the school’s history to win a state volleyball championship by taking the Class M crown with a 3-1 victory over No. 6 Foran. Game scores were 25-15, 25-23, 23-25 and 25-15.
“It’s surreal. I feel like I’m dreaming,” Woodland senior setter Samantha Lee said. “It’s unimaginable that we didn’t come out on top last time, yet we came back this year and won it.”
The title came in the Hawks’ second straight trip to the final. The Hawks were led by tournament MVP Brianna Pacileo. The senior outside hitter recorded a match-high 21 kills in the final outing of her all-state career.
“Last year we walked into the match and had no idea what we were getting ourselves into,” Pacileo said of Woodland’s 2012 championship loss to Ledyard. “This year, we knew what we felt last year and we knew what we had to do differently to win it.”
Lee was the driving force in Woodland’s title-clinching game. Taking serve with an 18-15 lead, she served out the last seven points, including an ace to set up match point.
“I’m actually pretty good at staying calm in those situations,” Lee said. “I don’t get too nervous because I know that if I make it a good serve, my team will protect it.”
“She’s a competitor,” Woodland coach Jim Amato said. “That’s one of the reasons I call her General Lee. Someone has to run the floor and put up with me all the time.”
Pacileo was Lee’s best protection, hammering consecutive kills to give Woodland a 21-15 edge. The Hawks won the championship on an attack error by the Lions.
“We didn’t play not to lose; we played to win,” Pacileo said. “There was no hesitation and we went out there aggressively. It’s one thing to get where we did, but it’s another thing to finish it — and we did.”
Look for more coverage of the title game in this week’s edition of the Citizen’s News.