After dropping two matches earlier in the week, the Branford volleyball squad was looking for a remedy in the form of a win against rival and defending SCC Oronoque champion East Haven. Eva Esposito’s squad got just what the doctor ordered by upending the Yellowjackets 3-1 at the MacVeigh Complex on Sept. 20 to improve to 2-3 overall and 1-0 in the division.
The Hornets won the first set 25-15 and then dropped the second 17-25, but bounced back to take the third 25-12 and fourth 25-20 en route to victory.
“We’re happy with the win. Whenever you beat a division opponent and a rival, it feels good and the girls feel good about getting back on track,” said Coach Esposito, whose team won the Oronoque two years ago. “We came out fine and set the tempo in set one as we were serving well and getting good passes to our setter Lauren Kuhn. We had a slow start and East Haven came out hot in the second set, but then came back in the third by serving well, getting our hitters the ball, and keeping the ball off the floor. Then we carried that momentum into the fourth set and cruised to the win.”
Hannah Zampano had four kills with six digs and two aces against the Yellowjackets with fellow senior captain outside hitter Anna Atkinson notching six kills, seven digs, and three aces. Sophomore middle hitter Abby Atkinson served 14-for-14 and added four digs, two blocks, and four kills.
“We were 1-3 going in and so this was a big win for us in the division since one of our goals is to win the division,” said Zampano. “We all wanted it and our communication was huge. Sometimes there were problems, but we talked through them and did a great job of not letting the ball hit the floor.”
Fellow senior captain Lauren Kuhn was equally elated with the victory.
“We had been struggling and so it was a great comeback on our part to play with team chemistry and pull out this win,” she said. “Even though we lost the second set, we didn’t lay down. We didn’t want it to go to five sets and so we just pulled together, played well, and did our thing. And when we do our thing, we can be unstoppable.”
Earlier in the week, the Hornets dropped a pair of home decisions, losing to Guilford 3-2 on Sept. 16 and to Amity 3-1 two days later.
Against Guilford, Branford lost the first set 25-23 and won the second by the same score, after which it lost the third set 25-17. The Hornets rallied back to take the fourth 25-18, yet ultimately lost the decisive fifth frame 15-12.
Zampano had 14 kills with two aces and eight digs, Kuhn posted 18 assists and went 16-for-17 serving with an ace, and senior captain middle hitter Tara Dering had seven kills and served 14-for-14 with one aces.
“Lauren did a good job with her passes and junior defensive specialist Michaela Spinello did a good job of passing and serving,” said Esposito, who’s in her fourth year as head coach with assistance from her sister Nikki Giangreco. “We were just a little tentative and out of synch and made a few critical errors in the fifth set.”
In the Amity duel, the Hornets won the first set 25-23, but then dropped the next three by scores of 25-16, 25-15, and 25-19. Zampano recorded 10 kills with nine digs and served 14-for-14 with five aces, Anna Atkinson had eight digs, Dering went 9-for-9 from the service stripe to go with eight digs and four kills, and freshman outside hitter Adrienne DiGioia put down five digs.
“Adrienne had never played volleyball before this year and made plays for us against a good team,” Esposito said.
Esposito added that even though her team is under the .500 mark right now, she’s confident her Hornets will jell at the right time in their push to return to the SCC and state tournaments.
“The kids know they have the ability to make both tournaments again. We just need to be more consistent. We need to be a scrappy team that does whatever it takes to keep the ball in play,” she said. “We will get there and it will happen if we just keep working to improve as a team.”
Other athletes on Branford’s varsity roster include junior defensive specialist Victoria Illingworth, plus sophomores Gillian Basilicato (defensive specialist), and Ellie Bloomquist (outside hitter).