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    Monday, October 03, 2022

    Griswold volleyball team, after beating Lyman, has that look of a champion

    Griswold’s Kuranda Ruggerio (3) and Makayla Neilson (18) celebrate a point during Wednesday’s 3-1 volleyball victory over Lyman Memorial. (Sarah Gordon / The Day)
    Griswold’s Kuranda Ruggerio (3) sets up a pair of teammates during Wednesday’s volleyball match against Lyman Memorial. (Sarah Gordon / The Day)
    Lyman Memorial’s Kassidy LaTour (10) rises to get the ball past Griswold’s Kuranda Ruggiero (3) and Kierra Neilson (25) during Wednesday’s volleyball game. (Sarah Gordon / The Day)

    Griswold — Anyone who saw the Griswold High School volleyball team reach the Class S state tournament semifinals a year ago, anyone who saw setter Kuranda Ruggiero receive all-state honors, then sign a letter of intent to play Division I volleyball at Army, probably already knew about this team’s capabilities.

    Now, the Wolverines have the region’s attention as they set out to prove their strength.

    “I think we have a lot of experience because every single person who’s out there on the floor, we all lost in the state semifinal and that was a huge loss, a huge loss for us last year,” Ruggerio said. “I think everyone’s coming back with that experience. We don’t want to have that feeling again so we have that motivation.”

    Griswold defeated defending Class S champ Lyman Memorial on Wednesday night 25-20, 24-26, 25-15 and 25-21, extending the Wolverines’ record to 4-0.

    Griswold didn’t drop a set in its first three matches, blanking Wheeler, Fitch and defending ECC Division I tournament champion East Lyme before taking on Lyman Memorial. There’s still work to do, of course; a trip to play at Waterford comes on Friday.

    But Griswold has motivation and confidence right now. It has a student section which elevates things in terms of fun; after the Wolverines’ fans were told to simmer down a bit by the chair umpire Wednesday, they spent the rest of the evening making as much noise as possible with the word, “Shhhhhhhh!”

    And the Wolverines have Ruggiero.

    “I mean, their setter,” Lyman coach Emily Sciglimpaglia-Vigue said of what pulls Griswold together so well. “She helps set the tempo all over the court. They just stay together.”

    “Kuranda is the backbone of the team,” Griswold coach Jamie Bruno said.

    Ruggiero finished with 27 assists, 8 kills, 3 blocks, 13 digs and 3 aces for Griswold, which competes in Division II of the ECC. Fellow senior Emily Aviles had 32 digs and 4 assists. Kierra Neilson had 7 kills and Makayla Neilson and Abby Matheson 6 kills each, while Matheson added 16 digs and 4 aces.

    Kierra Neilson and Matheson are sophomores who got called up to the varsity level as the season wore on last year and played in the state semifinals. Coventry beat Griswold in the semis 25-18, 25-18, 25-21, with the Wolverines finishing 15-9. Lyman then won the title, beating Coventry.

    “Last year was tough,” Bruno said. “None of those girls had any playoff experience at all. We got to the semis and we had a lot of nerves. We didn’t play as well as we should have in that semifinal match. It’s in the back of their heads.”

    Bruno said what makes this team special is its depth.

    “Everyone contributes,” the coach said. “It’s not just one hitter or two hitters. We have four hitters. We’re well-balanced. It’s probably the most well-balanced team we’ve had all the way around. We’re not relying on one or two people. ... We have all the right pieces.”

    “I think we’re surprising people,” Ruggiero said. “Even though we were on a run last year, this year we’re pretty strong. I think it’s something for us to be proud of. Tonight was good. It tested us. It forced us to come back from a deficit. It’s good to experience that early on.”

    Carlee DeRoehn had 18 kills and 21 digs for Lyman (5-2). Kassidy LaTour had 13 kills, 18 assists and 15 digs and Arianna Garcia 25 digs.

    Lyman trailed 5-0 in Game 4, down two games to one, and came back to take the lead at 8-7 before Griswold reclaimed it at 10-9.

    “We knew Griswold, coming into this, was 3-0 and we did some little research on them just to see because we weren’t sure what we were walking into,” Sciglimpaglia-Vigue said.

    “We just got beat on some mishits, on some short balls, but I’m super proud of the girls for coming out, That was like state championship vibes. I hope both of us make it back to the finals.”

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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