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Fitch doesn't sweat the start, comes back to beat Lyman Memorial in volleyball

Groton — Fitch High School volleyball coach Elena Lockett doesn't normally see her players get flustered and if they do, she said, they don't show it.

Senior captain Rita Sefransky called it more of a "concern."

"I feel like at first we were a little bit concerned," Sefransky said Thursday. "But we knew if we got riled up, that wouldn't be good. By just staying calm, we should come out on top."

Fitch defeated 2019 Class S state champion Lyman Memorial 3-1 despite dropping the first game 25-21 and barely edging Lyman 25-21 in the second game. Fitch then gained momentum with a 25-7 victory in the third game and finished the match out with a 25-18 win, as the Falcons raised their record to 9-1.

The victory came despite a loss to Waterford, Fitch's only defeat of the season, on Monday, and also in spite of a powerful Lyman front line of Callie Nanos (18 kills), whose over-the-top windup can be somewhat intimidating, and Fallon Bailey (13 kills).

Sefransky had 32 assists for Fitch, Annalyn Cahill had 15 kills, Hannah Langer four blocks and Kristine Lee was at the service line for 17 Fitch points, delivering six aces, as the Falcons remained steady and scrappy — senior Fiona Taber even tried a kick save at one point — throughout.

"The last three games we really picked it up as a team," Sefransky said. "Our passing, hitting, serving were all consistent. ... I was actually thinking, 'This is fun. This is why we play, for these matches when we're all together. We lost Monday, but the loss didn't really affect how we played."

"Waterford helped to fire them up a little bit," Lockett said. "It was a quieter than normal bus ride home. We talked about what we did wrong and I think we fixed it."

Lyman (3-2) was coming off a five-game victory over Ellington on Wednesday night in which junior libero Arianna Garcia had 48 digs and five aces, combined with 25 kills for Bailey and 14 for Nanos. Lyman topped Ellington 25-10, 21-25, 25-16, 18-25, 15-9 in what was the Bulldogs' first match since Sept. 17 due to a COVID-19 outbreak among players and coaches.

Lyman coach Emily Sciglimpaglia-Vigue said the team practiced Monday and Tuesday before Wednesday's marathon — "we busted our butts as much as we could," she said — and the Bulldogs started out strong again against Fitch with Garcia placing an ace down the left sideline for the decisive point in game one.

The second game was a repeat of the back-and-forth of the first, with Fitch tying things at one game each.

Fitch gained ground in the third game by way of its service game, with Cahill and Lee each leading long service runs as the Falcons jumped out to a 17-3 lead. Fitch, again, led 7-0 in game four, unfaltering from behind the service line as Lyman appeared to tire.

"I give a whole lot of credit to Fitch. They're probably the strongest serving team we've faced this season," said Sciglimpaglia-Vigue, who added that the two-week COVID break was "not fun" and she's proud of the way her players have bounced back from it. "... We may have lost, but I mainly see positives. There's still a lot of positives."

Lockett said Fitch struggled a bit with serving at the start of the season, misfiring 17 or 18 times in its season-opening victory over Griswold.

"Horrendous," she said.

She said Thursday's win came down to the Falcons' resilience.

"We work on the midset of the game, too," Lockett said. "They don't get riled up. They don't panic."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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