Spikers set for tourney

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Woodland’s McKenna Cronin above bumps the ball Oct. 21 versus Naugatuck in Beacon Falls. The Hawks are the No. 2 seed in the NVL tournament, which starts Saturday. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Woodland’s McKenna Cronin above bumps the ball Oct. 21 versus Naugatuck in Beacon Falls. The Hawks are the No. 2 seed in the NVL tournament, which starts Saturday. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

The Naugatuck Valley League volleyball tournament is shaping into a three-tier free for all.

Seymour (14-0 NVL), Woodland (14-2 NVL) and Torrington (14-2 NVL) are the top three seeds in the tournament, respectively. They have absorbed their only losses against each other while going perfect against the rest of the league.

Naugatuck (11-5 NVL), Oxford at (9-6 NVL) and Holy Cross (8-7 NVL) hold the four through six spots. They are all searching for victories against the top tier while the rest of the league has given them little trouble at all.

The last two tournament spots belong to Ansonia (7-7 NVL) and Kennedy (7-8 NVL).

The top eight teams in the league begin tournament play with quarterfinals on Saturday. Woodland, which earned the second seed over Torrington in a coin flip, will host Ansonia at 11 a.m. Naugatuck will host Oxford (9-6) at 1 p.m. The semifinals and final are scheduled for Nov. 3 and Nov. 5, respectively.

Woodland suffered its only losses of the season last week against Seymour and Torrington. That hardly is an indication that the Hawks won’t be ready to take flight at tournament time. The Hawks could have a decided edge this year having faced off against Seymour, Naugatuck and Torrington last week ahead of tournament play.

“We are lucky to be ranked up there with the best teams in the league,” Woodland head coach Jim Amato said. “Seymour, Torrington and Naugatuck have very good teams and fans coming to the games will certainly get their money’s worth. Playing all three right before the tournament will have us ready to go. We have the ability to be successful it all comes down to confidence.”

Naugatuck defeated Oxford and Ansonia during the regular season, and are on a roll of late. Naugy swept eight of their last 10 opponents.

Naugatuck lost twice during the season to all three top-tier teams, something the Greyhounds would need to rectify if they are to play for a title.

“It could be an advantage going up against a team for the third time,” Naugatuck head coach Kevin Wesche said. “A few years ago in the NVLs Seymour was unbeaten and we beat them in the tournament. The year Woodland played in their state championship season they had one loss, and we were the ones to do it.”

“I don’t worry too much about what the other team does,” he continued. “I focus on what my team is doing and there are no guarantees at this point in the season. Anything can happen regardless of records.”

Naugatuck and Woodland both wrapped up the regular season with 3-0 wins on Wednesday. Naugatuck topped Wolcott, while Woodland swept Watertown.

Here is a look at what both teams bring to the court.

Naugatuck’s Alexa Blazas sets the ball Oct. 21 versus Woodland in Beacon Falls. The Greyhounds are the No. 4 seed in the NVL tournament, which starts Saturday. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Naugatuck’s Alexa Blazas sets the ball Oct. 21 versus Woodland in Beacon Falls. The Greyhounds are the No. 4 seed in the NVL tournament, which starts Saturday. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

The Hawks have big game experience. They are confident, experienced and have that extra gear that brings out the best in them when the pressure reaches its highest peak.

Woodland has an athletic front row of Emily Brouillette, Sam White and a double threat in Carla Piccolo, who can attack the net and lend a steady hand setting up the offense. The middle row play of Maddie Hupprich adds a second setter to the mix and the defensive instincts of Jenna Boncal and Ally Mayne can keep returns off the floor.

The back row play of Cam Caswell is second to none in the league, and it’s her inspired play that can get the Hawks motivated to reach the championship.

Woodland is a team of many interchangeable parts. The Hawks will use the talents of McKenna Cronin and Stephanie Krebbs to add depth to the front row with Gina Farina and Ruthie Costanzo adding to the middle row depth.

Naugatuck appears to have all the tools in the shed.

The Greyhounds have a solid core of key players that have played integral roles to the team’s success. Nicole Healy is an effective outside hitter with Olivia Rotatori creating a challenge for opponents with her blocking ability. Ally Mezzo completes the front row with her down the stretch focus that can finish games.

Alexa Blazas is a scorer, a setter and whatever the team needs her to be given the game situation. Kathryn Healy is another middle row player who can produce long service runs.

Jenna Massicotte is the back row specialist. The Greyhounds also have a few key pieces off the bench that provide adequate depth, including Emma Healy, Michelle Cordova, Taylor Hyde and Kelly Murphy.

The Republican-American contributed to this article.