WATERBURY – Woodland’s victory over Kennedy in the Naugatuck Valley League semifinals came down to one simple, fundamental key to victory: Execution.
The Hawks communicated, passed well, finished points and played with a sense of purpose en route to a 3-0 victory over the Eagles at Wilby High School on Tuesday night. With the victory, the Hawks will play for the NVL tournament title against Seymour on Thursday night.
Senior Heather Framski posted eight kills, nine aces and a team-best 21 digs, while teammate Jess Patrizi added 24 assists, four kills and three aces to lead the Hawks. Enxhi Mulla led Kennedy with eight kills.
The match’s first set seemed to indicate the beginning of a five-set thriller. Instead, the Hawks recorded six of the final seven points, overcame a late four-point deficit in a 26-24 victory. Woodland dominated the second set and pulled away in the third.
“We made some mistakes, but we shook them off,” Framski said. “Everyone stayed up, everyone was in a good mood, and we were just playing volleyball.”
With the Hawks trailing, 24-22, in the opening set, Framski delivered three straight aces for Woodland. Kennedy followed with an attack error on the next point to give the Hawks the set.
The second set started tight, but unraveled for Kennedy. Tied at seven, Tayler Boncal and Adriana Ambari slammed back-to-back kills for Woodland.
Mulla responded with a kill for the Eagles before the Hawks broke out. Boncal and Lindsay Boland smashed two kills each during a 7-1 run to give the Hawks a 16-9 advantage.
The Hawks kept the pressure on and completed the set with precise serves, solid back-row defense and a knack for capitalizing on Kennedy mistakes. Patrizi connected on two pinpoint accurate serves and Boland added another kill as the Hawks scored nine of the final 12 points of the set in a 25-12 win.
“We just didn’t execute,” Kennedy coach Mike Stango said. “Our defense didn’t get to the spots it should have been in many times and we didn’t get enough balls to our setter to attack enough. [The Hawks] were more consistent tonight.”
The Eagles bounced back in the third as two straight Mulla kills gave her team a 18-17 lead. It didn’t last long thanks to Framski, who put on a hitting display.
Woodland coach Jim Amato credited Framski for her intelligence on the court.
“Framski ran some stuff that she was finding the hole [in the defense],” Amato said. “She was working smarter, not necessarily harder.”
Framski tied the match with a kill, then Patrizi set up Ambari for her sixth and final kill of the evening to give Woodland a 19-18 edge.
After Kennedy tied the match for one more point, Framski pounded four more kills during 6-0 match-ending run.
It wasn’t just offense that helped the Hawks. Amato praised his defense and noted one player in particular.
“Rachael Conti was amazing,” Amato said. “Nothing got out behind the block.”
The Hawks may be peaking at the right time. A sweep in the league semifinals sent a statement.
“It’s a testament to our team to be able to come back from some very tough losses to some very good teams and get all the way back into a position to win the NVL,” Amato said.