Rallies fall short for Hawks

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Woodland’s Emily Wirsing (4) sets up the ball as Sam Edwon (22) looks for the kill in the Class M quarterfinals Monday versus Sheehan. The Hawks fell in straight sets. LARAINE WESCHLER
BEACON FALLS — The Woodland volleyball team tore through the regular season undefeated in part due to its ability to come back from deficits. The Hawks’ inability to do it again ended their season in Monday’s Class M quarterfinals.

Woodland made late charges in each of the three sets, the but the top-seeded Hawks were swept by No. 9 Sheehan, 3-0 (26-24, 25-19, 25-17).

Sheehan (15-7) put together runs early in each set to take leads that it never relinquished.

In the first, the Titans jumped out to a 6-0 advantage and opened up the lead to eight points several times throughout the set. But a 9-1 run on Adriana Ambari’s serve pulled Woodland (19-2) even at 24-24, fighting off four set points, and it looked as though Sheehan was ready to collapse.

The Titans pulled it out, though, reclaiming the lead on a Woodland error and winning the set on a block by Rachel Collette.

“They played calm down the stretch even when we were coming back,” Woodland coach Jim Amato said. “We always believe we’re going to be able to close it. Sometimes we wait too long to try to close it because we’ve done it so much.”

Sheehan’s 6-0 run early in the second set gave the Titans a 6-2 lead that they took all the way to the end despite Woodland runs midway and late in the set.

In the third, Sheehan dominated most of the play with a 14-2 run early in the set to take a 14-3 lead. But even as the Titans led by 15, the Hawks put together one last run on Ambari’s service that fell short.

Sheehan outside hitter Ali Sperrazza slammed a cross-court kill for the final point of the match.

“When I’m in the game, I feel the momentum,” said Sperrazza, a 5-foot-4 junior who isn’t afraid to take on the net and opposing blockers. “I just swing away.”

Amato said losing in the quarterfinals as the top seed is disappointing, but rankings have to be taken with a grain of salt.

Woodland’s Tayler Boncal soars to return a volley Monday against Sheehan in the Class M quarterfinals. LARAINE WESCHLER

“Those (rankings) are arbitrary numbers when you’re playing different leagues,” Amato said. “Regardless of our ranking, it’s one point, one set, one match at a time.”

In last Saturday’s second round, Woodland beat No. 17 East Catholic, 3-1 (25-22, 19-25, 25-12, 25-20).

The Hawks cruised through the third and fourth sets after the teams were deadlocked through the first two.
Woodland jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the third and led almost the entire way through the fourth, despite numerous East Catholic comeback attempts.

Ambari combined to make 25 kills, nine aces, and five blocks in the two matches. Emily Wirsing had 46 assists and 26 digs while Nicole Fowler had 27 digs.

Amato was pleased with the way his team rebounded from its loss in the Naugatuck Valley League quarterfinals to compete in the state tournament.

“That was humbling,” Amato said of the team’s upset loss to Torrington. “This one isn’t necessarily humbling. It’s disappointing because we thought we could get further. We’re like Sisyphus. We just can’t push the rock over the hill.”