BEACON FALLS — For the first 105 points of Tuesday night’s volleyball matchup between Woodland and Watertown, there was nothing particularly exciting or flashy—just the Hawks’ dominating play.
But on point number 106, with Woodland leading two sets to none and 21-8 in the third, the intensity and skill of senior leader Jessica Patrizi shined through even more than normal. After rifling a jump-serve, Patrizi hustled from the center of the court almost 20 feet to the back line to keep the ball in play with the flick of an outstretched forearm.
When the ball came back to Woodland’s side seconds later, she ran all the way back up to net to make a perfect set to Lindsay Boland, who finished the play with a thunderous kill. Just a few points later, the Hawks sealed a 3-0 (25-15, 25-11, 25-11) win.
To the average spectator, it might have seemed like Patrizi could have conserved her energy with Woodland holding such a wide lead over Watertown. But this play showed that train of thought never leaves the station on coach Jim Amato’s team.
“It’s a never-say-quit attitude,” Amato said. “Jess Patrizi is not going to let a point go. She’s not going to let a ball hit the ground, she’s not going to give up on a play. The evidence was she ran past the 30-foot line, made the pass there, came back up inside the attack line, and made a perfect pass.”
“In practice we always go for the ball,” Patrizi said. “We try not to let the ball hit the floor. When it does hit the floor, we do five push-ups, so I guess we’re all just used to going for the ball. That’s what I was thinking pretty much, just go for it.”
The intensity and determination of that play was a constant all night for the Hawks, who clearly showed why they are a strong contender to win their third Naugatuck Valley League championship in four years.
For some teams, it might be tough to put the pedal to the metal against a team that is clearly overmatched. That wasn’t a problem for Woodland, as the Black and Gold never allowed the Indians a sniff of momentum in any of the three sets.
“We just try to keep our energy and talk a lot,” said Boland, who registered 10 kills.
“We practice like we play; we play like we practice,” Amato said. “If that’s the intensity at the practice, that should hopefully be the intensity we bring to the court every game.”
Patrizi offered another potential explanation for playing so hard all night.
“We all try to set goals for ourselves,” she said. “I know, for instance, Adriana Ambari said she wanted 15 kills tonight, and when you do that, you kind of have to get it, because you feel bad if you don’t. When you’re in a game like that, you just want to keep the energy up.”
Ambari, in fact, finished with 16 kills. Amato said the combined performances of Ambari, Boland, and Tayler Boncal (nine kills) was even more impressive than usual due to the absence of front-line stalwart Heather Framski, who missed the game due to illness.
“It was pretty interesting to see because Heather was out, so we had to mix the rotation and have girls in different locations,” Amato said. “And Emily Wirsing (12 digs) played a real libero position tonight and did well.”
The win improved Woodland to 14-1; the Hawks are still tied with Seymour and Kennedy for the NVL’s best record. The Hawks are on an eight-game winning streak and have won 24 consecutive sets. In fact, Woodland has dropped just four sets this season—one in a win over Wolcott and three in a five-set loss to Kennedy.
The Hawks have a tough schedule to close, hosting Holy Cross Thursday before traveling to Wolcott Tuesday. Woodland’s senior night will also likely serve as the NVL Brass Division title game as the Wildcats will get their rematch with the defending champ.
“We’re in a great position I think,” Patrizi said. “We still have some good teams to play so there are going to be some big games for us. We just need to keep playing well. We’re definitely up there.”