Final-ly: Colonels reach volleyball title game

Berlin - The Ledyard High School girls' volleyball team was too amped up for its own good Wednesday.

"We were building up so much energy that we were just kind of psyching ourselves out," sophomore Michelle Klinikowski said.

Once the Colonels settled down and harnessed their energy, they unleashed it on Weston. And now they're going where no other Ledyard volleyball team has gone before: a state final.

Ledyard beat the Trojans 25-21, 24-26, 26-24, 25-15 in its CIAC Class M semifinal at Berlin High School.

The third-seeded Colonels will play top-ranked Woodland of Beacon Falls in Saturday's final at East Haven High (1 p.m.)

The Hawks (20-3) beat No. 5 Tolland 25-16, 25-16, 25-23 in their semifinal. They'll also be making their first state final appearance.

Senior middle hitter Kylie Fustini paced Ledyard (17-5) in so many ways. She had a match-high 25 kills and five blocks along with five assists.

Klinikowski, a middle hitter, had 16 kills. Junior Brianna Riley had 22 assists and sophomore Jennifer Nohara added 15 assists.

Weston finished 18-4.

The Colonels spent too much time playing timid or inconsistently during the first three games.

"I don't know why we do that," Fustini said. "Maybe we like to make the game more exciting. I think we start off a little slow, and then it kind of hits us, and we just play really hard."

Ledyard led Game 3 19-11 only to fall back into bad habits.

Weston stormed back and took a 25-24 lead with the serve.

"Weston had some shining moments," Ledyard coach Shirley Karkow said. "They had some strong attacks, and it felt like we were chasing the ball (on defense).

"During timeouts, we talked about how we wanted to be on offense. We needed to be aggressive. When we were aggressive, we ended up getting a lot of free balls (hit back to us) a lot of times. (Weston) was really good at digging some balls. They weren't always kills that we got (by being aggressive), but we kept them from going on another attack."

Fustini saved that third game for her team as she took the initiative and set a shanked pass to her younger sister, Arianna.

Arianna Fustini fired a kill to tie the match at 25 and give her team the serve.

The Trojans followed with an unforced error to give Ledyard the game.

The Colonels were able to use their height advantage and power to pull away quickly in Game 4. They led by as much as 19-5.

"I think we did a good job coming together and staying strong," Klinikowski said. "We really started talking more, going for the ball, and doing the fundamentals."

Sophomore Madison Canestrari ended the match as she punched the ball, and it landed just inside the court in front of the net.

"Once you get up two games, once we got that third game ended, we didn't want to go to that fifth game," Kylie Fustini said. "We just wanted to put them away. That just gives us the energy and momentum to go out there and put them away very quickly."

n.griffen@theday.com

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