WATERBURY — The Naugatuck volleyball team came into the Holy Cross gym on Monday night with a 10-3 record on the strength of a four-game winning streak. The Crusaders stood at 5-8, having already been swept by the Greyhounds earlier in the season.
However, something was missing from the Garnet and Grey—specifically, three starters, who were out due to illness. That may have played a part in the outcome, but lack of execution at key junctures was the real culprit.
The Crusaders played their best match of the season, and as their lead grew so did their confidence level, as Cross took it to the Hounds in a three-game sweep.
“We finish the season at Kennedy, and we were looking to have the chance to tie them in the division,” Naugatuck head coach Fred Scheithe said. “Maybe this will serve as a wakeup call for us heading into the postseason. They weren’t as vocal out on the floor as they usually are, and that’s where we missed the starters.”
Naugatuck quickly fell behind in game one, trailing by a 13-5 margin. Five out of six serves ended with unforced errors, as Holy Cross began to gain some confidence.
Renee Augustine knocked in two service winners—Naugy’s longest offensive run of the game—to close the gap to 22-14. Alexis Granahan threw down an ace, and Lindsay Witkoski charged the net for a kill attempt that was deflected out of bounds to end the Greyhounds’ final serve in game one.
Julia Schiano finished it off for the Crusaders with a kill to the back row for the 25-20 win, as Holy Cross took a 1-0 advantage.
“That’s where we missed Catie Garrett, who is very vocal out on the court,” Scheithe added. “Renee filled in and did a real good job, but it was her first time starting in varsity. The thing that really hurt us was we were our own worst enemy. A lot of unforced errors and missing serves at crucial times.”
The Greyhounds again had trouble returning serve and after three service exchanges, they trailed 10-3.
But it was hardly for lack of effort. Cara Rinaldi took up serve for Holy Cross, extending the lead until Alexis Granahan got a fist on a return. Skye Stella chased it to the back wall and hammered it toward the net. Augustine managed to control it and send it back over the net. The Hounds’ hustle went unrewarded after the referee mistakenly called four hits then reversed the call and had the point replayed.
Naugatuck still trailed, 20-12, with Jessica Webber on serve when another all-out effort showed the heart of the Greyhounds. Andrea Granahan threw herself to the floor for a diving dig. Alexis Granahan was able to get a hand on it as it headed out of bounds and Melissa Miller spiked it over the net for a kill.
The play drew cheers from the Naugatuck fans, but it was too little too late, as the Crusaders won handily, by a 25-15 margin, to take a 2-0 advantage.
In game three, Naugatuck took charge, getting out to its first lead of the match. Webber and Miller attacked the net, as Witkoski set up the offense. Alexis Granahan dropped in a pair of aces to build an 8-5 advantage.
Holy Cross would not go away, managing to tie the game at 11-11. Julia Longo stepped in to serve and rattled off a run that was interrupted by the referees. There was a discussion at the scorer’s table about players being out of position that lasted more than five minutes. When play resumed, Naugatuck had lost a little steam, and Holy Cross regrouped.
Webber got back the lead for the Hounds with a three-point service run, but a collision in the front row handed serve back to the Crusaders. Schiano closed it out for Holy Cross in a 26-24 seat-grabber to complete the three-game sweep.
Webber led Naugatuck with 15 service points and four kills. Alexis Granahan had nine service points and five aces, with Longo adding 13 service point and three aces.
Naugatuck will be back in action Wednesday, hosting Ansonia, before traveling to Wolcott Friday. Next week the Hounds close out the regular season with Torrington and Kennedy.