WESTON — Newtown High School’s girls’ volleyball team might have needed a perfect performance to have a legitimate shot at overcoming unbeaten Joel Barlow of Redding in the South-West Conference championship game at Weston High School on November 2. The Nighthawks put up a fight, but couldn’t upset the Falcons — the only SWC team to defeat the Hawks this fall. Barlow, after rolling to victories in the first two games of the pinnacle match, overcame a late four-point deficit to close out the victory in the third game for a 3-0 (25-12, 25-16, 25-22) triumph.
Barlow, the tourney’s top seed, won the title for the second year in a row and No. 2 Newtown made its second finals appearance in three years after beating Barlow for the crown in 2011.
The Falcons had little trouble in claiming the first two games before battling back in the third game despite a gritty Newtown effort. Newtown’s Cassie Ekstrom had a tough dig to keep a ball alive which led to a point and a 20-16 game-three lead for the underdogs. The Falcons responded with the next six points and didn’t relinquish the lead thereafter. An Alexa Reilly kill got Newtown to within 22-21 and, after the Falcons reclaimed their two-point edge, a long hit by Barlow gave NHS a point to bring the score to 23-22 Falcons, but the Hawks couldn’t get over the hump.
“Barlow’s a great team. We definitely stepped it up a little bit in the third game,” Newtown Coach Tom Czaplinski said. “In order to beat a team like that we have to play mistake-free and we made a lot of mistakes.”
The coach noted that his Hawks had errors in a variety of facets of the game — from passing to hitting — but that he was proud of his team for make a strong run coming off a season in which six players had to be replaced.
Ekstrom had 15 digs in the championship match defeat; Kyle Dandrea also compiled 15 digs to go along with seven kills; setter Meghan Logan racked up 21 assists and had eight digs; Kayla O’Grady had five kills; and Mylis Post had seven kills and a trio of service aces.
The Nighthawks got back to match action after a short rest with the start of the Class LL state tournament two days later. Newtown earned the tenth seed and a first-round home match against No. 23 Brien McMahon of Norwalk on November 4, and got back on the winning track with a 3-0 (25-9, 25-18, 25-10) victory. Post had seven aces and three kills; Dandrea had ten kills, four aces, and five digs; and O’Grady added six aces and five kills.
Newtown advanced to face No. 7 Simsbury on the road on November 7. The Nighthawks are 18-5 overall, including tournament play; Simsbury posted a 15-3 regular-season record before falling in the Central Connecticut Conference Tournament opener, then had a first-round state tourney bye. The winner moves on to the quarterfinals to take on one of two FCIAC teams — No. 2 Staples of Westport or No. 10 Danbury — on Saturday, November 9, at 7 pm.