Iannantuono's return sparks East Lyme past rival Fitch

Groton — East Lyme junior Sydney Iannantuono needed surgery on her right ankle last April after tearing ligaments and damaging cartilage.

Iannantuono wishes there was a better story behind it.

“Last (volleyball) season, playing Fitch, some girl was under the net and I stepped on her foot and sprained (my ankle),” Iannantuono said after the Vikings beat rival Fitch 23-25, 25-15, 25-19, 25-6 in an Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I volleyball match.

“Two months later, I was in gym class, and I stepped on someone’s foot and fractured it.”

No falling out of a tree. No getting hit by a car.

“Seriously,” Iannantuono laughed. “People ask me how I got hurt, and then their like, ‘that’s your story?’

“I wish it was a lot cooler.”

Iannantuono tweaked her bad ankle during Game 1 and had to sub out to have it checked. East Lyme, which was playing inconsistently before that, continued to struggle.

“I think we were just timid, scared. Even me,” East Lyme senior Madison Bell said. “You didn’t want to do badly for the team.”

Iannantuono returned, and suddenly everything got better for the Vikings (5-1, 3-0). They received serve better. They passed better. And they certainly hit better with Iannantuono racking up a match-high 17 kills.

“Sydney is just an amazing hitter,” Bell said. “When Sydney gets a kill, it obviously pumps us up.”

East Lyme head coach Jack Biggs said, “She has a positive influence on everyone on the court. She’s one of the loudest ones. She’s the one that brings some real positive leadership when she’s on the court, and that kind of makes everyone go in the right direction.

“Everyone has their own comfort zone. You have a certain lineup, and they feel comfortable with certain players next to them and around them. All of the sudden, (Iannantuono) comes back on the court, and that comfort zone comes back. It’s a domino effect in a positive way.”

Junior Isabel Sicilaino had 35 assists for the Vikings and classmate Kamryn Ebersole had eight kills and five aces.

As East Lyme played better, the Falcons (4-3, 3-1) got the yips. All the things they did consistently right in Game 1 became problematic.

“It’s mental, really,” Fitch head coach Steve Banks said. “If you let down mentally, then it’s going to show up (in your play). And a good team like (East Lyme) is going to take advantage of that. They saw that we were struggling, so they went after the players who were struggling, which is the smart thing to do.”

The swing in momentum was most evident in the last game. Ebersole served first and dropped three aces as the Vikings raced out to a 9-0 lead.

“It’s kind of funny,” Banks said. “It’s like in baseball when somebody makes and error, and then guys are looking around like they’re going to make an error, too. It’s contagious. It’s momentum. It’s all about momentum in this sport, and once they took momentum away from us, it was hard for us to get it back tonight.”

n.griffen@theyday.com

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