Colonels spoil Von Achen's return

Waterford coach Rob Von Achen, who returned to the bench for the first time since being hospitalized prior to the start of the season, talks to his players during Wednesday night's 67-33 loss to Ledyard.
Waterford coach Rob Von Achen, who returned to the bench for the first time since being hospitalized prior to the start of the season, talks to his players during Wednesday night's 67-33 loss to Ledyard. Tim Martin/ The Day Buy Photo

Waterford - As the regular season was set to begin with Waterford High School girls' basketball coach Rob Von Achen in an intensive care unit on a ventilator, assistant coach Ed Kolnaski said he was almost expecting Von Achen to walk in at any moment ... and tell Kolnaski to shut up and get out of the way.

This was Von Achen's moment.

"The first thing I said was I thanked him," said Von Achen, who coached his first game of the season Wednesday night after a harrowing December, during which he suffered a grand mal seizure and was hospitalized though Christmas.

"He jumped in (as head coach) on the spot."

As relieving as it was for all parties to see Von Achen back on the Waterford bench, however, the night belonged mainly to Ledyard.

Waterford, the defending Eastern Connecticut Conference Medium Division champion, beat Ledyard three times last season, a fact Ledyard was unlikely to forget.

The Colonels, thus, topped a freshman-laden Waterford team 67-33, leaving Ledyard 7-2 overall and 4-0 in the Medium Division.

Ledyard's frontcourt rebounded as if the players were on stilts and the backcourt combined for seven 3-pointers, three by Olivia DelGrosso (13 points) and three by Bianca Matira (9).

It was cause for Von Achen's first coach-speak of the season.

"Three o'clock practice tomorrow," Von Achen said. "And they're in trouble."

Michelle Klinikowski finished with 17 points and eight rebounds for Ledyard, while Hannah Hutchins and Kylie Fustini added seven rebounds each and Hannah Lawrence had six.

"We're hitting the 3s," Ledyard coach Adam Baber said. "So at times when they're packing it in against us, we can take advantage of that. Last year our outside shooting was inconsistent.

"(Waterford) has definitely constantly been in our way (in the Medium Division). This is the first time since I've been at Ledyard I think that we've beaten them. But we played really well tonight. Our goal is to win each and every game we play in the (Medium) Division."

Waterford (2-6, 2-2), which graduated the all-star backcourt of Adily Martucci and Alyssa Hancock as well as center Christine Hadfield, also lost senior Megan Spellman for the season to multiple knee injuries. Junior Kelley Dugan is injured, but expected back.

Meanwhile, the Lancers started freshmen Kazi Walker and Vanessa Kobyluck against Ledyard and used a rotation which included ninth-graders Shea Spellman and Claire Hurley, all of whom played for last year's unbeaten team at Clark Lane Middle School, according to Von Achen.

Sophomore Sarah Pacheco led Waterford with 12 points.

"I'm thrilled to be back," Von Achen said. "I'm not happy with tonight. The effort was there, at least in the first half. But in fairness, (Ledyard was) bigger, faster and more talented. ... Ledyard is the best. Ledyard is going to be hard to beat. They're not just big; they're talented."

Several members of Ledyard's basketball team played for the volleyball team that won the first state championship in program history this fall.

Then, to start basketball season, DelGrosso scored 33 points in the Colonels' opener against Bunnell to tie a program record.

"It makes everything easy that we all work together," DelGrosso said of the Colonels' hot start. "We all contribute to the scoring. No one plays a box-and-one against us or anything. ... It feels good to beat Waterford."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

Ledyard's Michelle Klinikowski, left, defends against Waterford's Julia Zawacki during Wednesday night's ECC Medium Division game. The Lancers celebrated the return of head coach Rob Von Achen from illness, but the talented Colonels rolled to a 67-33 win to remain perfect in the division. Klinikowski scored 17 points and had eight rebounds for Ledyard.
Ledyard's Michelle Klinikowski, left, defends against Waterford's Julia Zawacki during Wednesday night's ECC Medium Division game. The Lancers celebrated the return of head coach Rob Von Achen from illness, but the talented Colonels rolled to a 67-33 win to remain perfect in the division. Klinikowski scored 17 points and had eight rebounds for Ledyard. Tim Martin/ The Day Buy Photo
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