Woodland sweeps Waterford in Class M volleyball semifinals
Haddam — It was real easy to notice prior to Tuesday night’s CIAC Class M volleyball semifinal which team had the stronger hitters.
Waterford smashed one ball after another over the net. Woodland, not so much.
Then the match began and Woodland proved that power isn’t the be-all, end-all.
The second-seeded Hawks flustered Waterford with their defense, serving and savvy hitting as they swept their way to a 25-23, 25-23, 25-22 win in a matchup of league tournament champions at Haddam-Killingworth High School.
“I saw that as well,” Lancers head coach Amanda Tourjee said about the difference in power between the two teams. “I literally said to myself in the beginning, ‘they’re watching our warm-ups with their mouths literally dropping watching our offense.’ It was going to be a question of, alright, can we do that in the game? Can we make their jaws drop in the game? And then we struggled a bit to keep (the offense) in system.”
No. 11 Waterford, the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I champion, finished 21-6.
Woodland (24-2), the Naugatuck Valley League tournament champ, advanced to Saturday’s final to play No. 4 RHAM, which dropped down one class after winning L last season. The Raptors routed Seymour, the Hawks top NVL rival, 25-18 25-12, 25-8.
Senior Lillian Steinhaus had 27 assists for the Lancers and junior Emerson Lane had 11 kills. Senior Marina Colonis added eight kills and sophomore Brielle Kenney had seven.
Waterford had been on a roll with the likes of Lane thumping kills from the middle and Colonis doing her damage from the outside.
The Lancers were never able to sustain their defense long enough to get good sets for its hitters because Woodland wouldn’t allow it. It flustered Waterford enough at the service line to win games.
“It’s been a while since we had trouble with serve-receive,” Tourjee said, “We’ve been working really hard on it and they’ve been doing great but Woodland had great servers.
“How can you come back when (they) have good servers?”
Hawks coach Jim Amato certainly knew that Waterford had the more powerful attack, but his team is built to handle it.
“We play a defense-first kind of game,” Amato said. “We’ve come a long way (with serve) and they’re not afraid to get hit at.”
Senior outside hitter Kalie Legassey (14 kills) shined for Woodland as she was consistent and had a knack for placing her kills in the right spots.
“As soon as you see Woodland put two hands up (on the attack), you know their pushing (the ball over the net) for an open spot,” Tourjee said. “It’s just hard to decide what spot are they going to pick. It was smart on their part.”
Senior Emma Fabrizi added 31 assists for the Hawks and sophomore Ava Bianchini had eight kills.
Waterford managed to rally in each game and twice came close to tying it at 24 but couldn’t.
Bianchini had the match-winning kill for Woodland.
“It was a really great season,” Tourjee said. “The girls gave it their all. I mean, how can you be mad with the scores tonight? They put everything that they had into this whole season. They’ve accomplished many things. They won the ECC Division I (tournament). They’ve done amazing things.
“I’m not mad at them. They’re not mad at themselves, I hope. I hope they’re just proud of their accomplishments.”