By Ned Griffen
Publication: The Day
East Lyme - East Lyme High School was down four points early in Tuesday's match when senior Devin Perez took what was a goofy-looking swing at a ball.
Perez's hit went cross court and down in the back row for a kill. She then turned, looked at teammate Jillian Bartlett, and laughed.
"There are those hits that are like, 'What the heck just happened there?," Perez said after the Vikings fought off Farmington 25-23, 25-18, 28-26 in the CIAC Class L volleyball quarterfinals. "But a kill is a kill, despite how awkward it was."
Fourth-seeded East Lyme (20-3) will play top-seeded Barlow of Redding in a semifinal match on Thursday at Shelton at a time to be determined. Barlow swept No. 8 Bristol Central.
Perez's ability to find humor under pressure shows how much the Vikings' experience has helped. They've been part of, or around, the program's 2010 and 2011 Class L championship teams.
"We have a lot of experience in the high-pressure situations," Perez (11 kills, two blocks) said. "We've been to states twice, and (Farmington is) a young team. They held it together really well, but when it comes down to it, experience does help a lot. It helps you keep your composure."
Classmate Jillian Bartlett said, "We do have different players on the court than last year, but we've played in a lot of big games this year. Each big game, it's getting easier and easier."
East Lyme kept putting itself in difficult spots due to some sloppy play. It contributed to a 17-10 deficit in Game 1.
Being behind didn't faze the Vikings much. They cut the deficit down to 19-15 when Perez forced a side-out with her daffy-looking swing.
Perez followed with an ace as East Lyme went on a run and took a 23-20 lead.
Farmington took leads of 8-4 and 17-14 in the second game, but the Vikings came back each time. Trailing 18-15, senior Emily Ennis had a kill to force side-out.
Junior Jenna Schumacher then served out. She had two aces during the run, and Perez added two kills and a block.
"For some reason, every game we find ourselves not coming out strong," Bartlett said. "We like to come back, apparently. We kind of kept it together and pulled through."
Senior Kayla Fobian had nine kills and 14 digs for East Lyme while Bartlett added 31 assists and six kills. Senior Amanda DeMaio added eight digs.
The Indians played as many as five sophomores at a time and gave the Vikings fits. Sophomore Sophie Borg had 15 assists, nine kills and two blocks.
"My seniors, Heather Haggerty and Alex Duffy, both did a really nice job," Farmington coach Laura Arena said. "The seniors went out playing hard, but I have a lot of promising youth out there."
East Lyme should expect a tough practice today despite the win. It made a lot of uncharacteristically careless mistakes that had coach Jack Biggs shaking his head in bewilderment on many occassions.
"We've got to get back to the basics," Biggs said. "And if we can execute the basics, then we have a good chance at moving on in the tournament."