NAUGATUCK — The second set of a volleyball match is often a very decisive one. No. 9 Naugatuck learned that the hard way in a Class L second round match Nov. 10 against No. 8 Bristol Eastern.
In that second set, the ‘Hounds had a lead early but lost it late and dropped the set 25-23. Bristol Eastern (14-6) easily took the third set to win the match 3-0 (25-16, 25-23, 25-10), handing Naugy (16-8) its third straight loss in the second round of the state tournament.
Naugatuck head coach Kevin Wesche said the second set was the difference-maker and mentally affected the Greyhounds for the rest of the match.
“Not completing the task and finishing strong with a lead in the second set certainly had an impact on the players mentally,” Wesche said. “It seemed to carry over to the third set where little went our way.”
Wesche’s squad will lose five players to graduation: captains Kelly Murphy, Olivia Rotatori and Emma Healy, along with Taylor Hyde and Michelle Cordova. These seniors have been key players for the team all year and they led the way again against Bristol Eastern.
Murphy posted seven points to go with 11 assists. Hyde chipped in with three kills while Rotatori had two kills of her own, along with two aces and a block.
Wesche said the seniors were not only great leaders but they also always felt there was room for development.
“The five seniors led the team in many ways, most often by demonstrating a positive attitude, coming to practice with an open mind and a willingness to improve their performance,” Wesche said. “They leave the bar set higher than when they started for others to be measured and challenged.”
Wesche will now look to next season. The team will return key contributors in juniors Molly Kennedy and Cailee Bergin, who posted nine kills and six points, respectively, in the loss to Bristol Eastern.
Wesche said that there will be some key roles to fill next year but he believes the team is up to the task.
“Next year’s squad may come in a little shorter in height with huge sneakers to fill but I believe they will be up to the challenge to continue on the road to success on and off the court,” Wesche said.
While he has already started to look ahead, Wesche took a moment to reflect on how his team played this season.
“As a whole, I was happy we came to battle prepared to take on most opponents,” Wesche said. “The girls, for the most part, were upbeat and worked hard to be a success. A few more executions, passes, and plays could have made a huge difference in standings, but all things considered we had a successful season winning a game in each of the postseason tournaments.”