Volleyball Team Continues Momentum With Thriller Over Masuk
Newtown High School’s boys’ volleyball team hasn’t had many challenges during its unbeaten start to the spring; the Nighthawks generally make quick work of their opponent, and won nine of their first 11 matches by 3-0 scores.
They got pushed to a fifth game but continued their win-loss dominance, making it a perfect dozen to begin the season with a nail-biting 3-2 (21-25, 25-15, 25-22, 23-25, 15-12) win over the visiting Masuk Panthers on April 29.
Eric Moore had eight service points, two blocks, and six digs to go along with 22 assists. Ardi Kodzodziku compiled 14 kills and ten digs. James Belden registered two aces, six service points, and eight digs.
“As a team, we are not going to play great all the time, and as a coach, you just hope your kids can hang on during the tough times and rise to the occasion. That is what happened to us (against Masuk). Everything kind of fell apart on us. ...Our passing was not great, so our setters were having a tough time getting the ball to our hitters where they like it; therefore, we had a tremendous amount of hitting errors. Our serving was off, therefore giving Masuk some free, unearned points at the wrong times in the sets, and before you know it, you are going to game five with your opponent,” Newtown Coach Sandy Doski said.
Newtown defeated Masuk 3-1 earlier this season in a match that counted only in the state standings. The rematch impacts the South-West Conference results. Newtown is 5-0 in the conference, and the Panthers fell to 1-5.
“Masuk stepped up their game and did a really great job on blocking us, and they were diving all over the court to keep the ball in play. They were a much scrappier team the second time around playing them. After the first set loss, I totally changed up the lineup to give some people a break, and the team stepped up, winning the second set 25-15. We got our confidence back and took the third set 25-22. We are working on our mental game with each opponent, and that came through (against Masuk), pulling off the win in five. This was a big win for us, as this was an SWC matchup, and I am sure we will see Masuk again. They are a much-improved volleyball team,” Doski added, alluding to the potential to face the Panthers in the SWC tournament later this month.
Newtown defeated visiting Hand of Madison and host Lewis Mills of Burlington each by 3-0 scores April 24 and 25, respectively. In the win over Hand, NHS won 25-18, 25-13, 25-15.
Against Hand, Kodzodziku had 17 kills, seven digs, and an ace. Max Wrage logged 22 assists, three aces, and seven digs. Robbie Morrill had 15 kills and an ace to go along with nine digs. Moore had 13 assists, four kills, an ace, and trio of digs.
Some of Newtown’s success can be attributed to emergence of returnees who have stepped into more significant roles as well as the arrival of Robert DiSibio, a basketball standout who was convinced to bring his height to the middle hitter/ blocker position by setter Eric Moore.
“I’m enjoying it. It’s nice for me to be doing something different,” DiSibio said. “A lot of these guys play year-round, and they have a lot of experience and help me out.”
DiSibio might be enjoying a new sport regardless of success level, but Newtown’s outstanding record makes it all the more enjoyable.
“It’s fun. It definitely adds to the experience,” DiSibio said.
Morrill recognizes that the program has come a long way. It began only five years ago with mostly-new-to-volleyball players learning basic skills. Newtown won a conference title last spring, and the Nighthawks continue to get better.
“It’s good to be able to run different offenses. The fundamentals are down, so we can run the fun stuff,” Morrill said.
Doski is not surprised by the team’s continued winning ways; the Hawks went unbeaten in the entire regular season last spring and haven’t missed a beat despite some lineup changes resulting from graduation.
“This is what I was hoping for out of the team. It’s a fun group to coach. They joke around in practice, which is fine. When it comes time to put the pedal to the metal, they do,” Doski said.
Newtown has a tough nonconference match with visiting Cheshire on Wednesday, May 1, at 6 pm. The Hawks will visit Amity of Woodbridge on Friday, May 3, starting at 5:15 pm, and will host Shelton Monday, May 6, at 6 pm.