WATERBURY – Minutes after Woodland’s 3-1 loss to Seymour in the Naugatuck Valley League girls’ volleyball championship game last Thursday, Hawks coach Jim Amato sat on the bleachers at Wilby High and his team’s season into perspective. It was a simple summary.
“After you rebuild and basically come back with one returning player and you get to the [NVL] championship game, that’s saying something,” Amato explained. “Losing in the championship game is disappointing. Our season has not been disappointing.”
Woodland seniors Lindsay Boland and Jess Patrizi were named to the all-tournament team after the match, which saw the Hawks win the first set, but drop the last three. Patrizi said the Hawks lost an important ingredient to their success between the first and second sets: Momentum.
“[During the first game] our energy was up and weren’t afraid to hit the ball,” said Patrizi, who finished with 26 assists, 19 digs, three kills and two aces in the title game. “As we went farther and farther into the game we were afraid to hit, we were pushing more, our passes weren’t as good. We were getting a little nervous. We were playing not to lose instead of playing to win. I think that made a big difference.”
During the first point of the match, Boland set the tone for the opening set with a thunderous kill set up by Patrizi. The Hawks won the first game, 25-19.
With five kills in the first set and a team-best 11 in the match, Boland earned high praise from her coach.
“Boland just came on and decided she was going to swing as hard as she could to put the ball down and put the team on her shoulders,” Amato said. “She’s doing it at the right time of the season with the states approaching.”
The second set was a different story for Woodland. Chrstina Cretella, the tournament MVP, smashed a kill to cap an 8-1 run and give the Wildcats a commanding, 11-3 lead.
Cretella had six kills in the second set and carried the Wildcats to a 25-14 win.
“In game two our passes were much better and we were able to start hitting, and once that happened, everything turned around,” Seymour coach Cathy Federowicz said.
It was more of the same in the third set, as Cretella capped a 9-0 run to begin the frame. The Hawks showed life late in the set as Boland capped a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to 23-17; however, Seymour held on for the win.
“Christina is a game-changer and she’s great at a lot of different things,” Amato said of Cretella. “That makes her a threat no matter where she is on the court.”
The third set also showed the fight of the Hawks. Down 15-8, Patrizi dove for ball and hit her head on the court.
After being down for several minutes, Patrizi got up and returned to the bench. Four points later, she was back in the game.
“What else can you say about Jess Patrizi,” Amato said. “She almost got knocked out of the game, came back and played like the all-tournament player that she was awarded.”
Senior Heather Framski posted back-to-back kills to give the Hawks a 4-2 lead to begin the fourth set. Later in the set, Boland’s service ace gave the Hawks their final lead of the set, 8-7, before the Wildcats went on a match-ending run.
Cretella responded immediately with a kill to tie the set and the Wildcats scored the next six points to go up 14-8. Woodland never recovered.
Emily Wirsing finished a team-high 18 digs for the Hawks, who were scheduled to begin play in the state tournament this week. No matter the result, Amato was proud of his team’s effort in the title game.
“We didn’t fade, we had to be put away, and that’s how I like to see my teams play – fighting and scratching,” Amato said.