Boys’ Volleyball Team Beats Ludlowe And Shows Fight Against Juggernaut Darien
Sometimes success in sports is not measured only by wins and losses. Newtown High School’s boys’ volleyball team brought credence to that sentiment as the underdog Nighthawks gave perennial powerhouse Darien a run for its money in a 3-0 (25-15, 25-20, 25-22) setback on the road in the Class L State Tournament quarterfinals, on June 3.
“Going into the Darien match we knew it was going to be a tough match. For the last three, four years we have always come up against Darien either in the quarters or semis of states and have yet to beat them. However, the boys came into the game ready to play and we were not going down without a fight,” Newtown Coach Sandy Doski said. “We were a little slow in the first set, not used to the explosive hits Darien comes up with, but once we settled down we were able to stay right with them as seen by the scores of the second and third sets. A few bad breaks in those two sets, and it could have gone our way.”
Darien was last year’s state champion and was runner-up two seasons ago; the 2020 campaign was wiped out by the impact of the coronavirus. Newtown, the No. 8 seed, was a not so traditional veteran squad with eight seniors who brought limited varsity experience to the court.
“This year’s team was an amazing group of guys to coach. Many of them have only been playing for a total of two years. They did not come out their freshman year, came out as sophomores for the first time — played on the JV team. COVID hit and we lost a year, and now it’s their senior year. They are playing varsity and learning the game really fast,” Doski said.
“They came to practice every day wanting to learn and get better. We had our ups and downs this season, but we rallied around each other, picking each other up when they were feeling frustrated. Our captains this year — who have been playing for three years plus winter club teams — did a fabulous job keeping the morale up. Some of the freshmen were able to see some varsity playing time during the season. They made their mistakes, but always wanted to get better and try harder to make the plays. By the end of the season, they became starters for us which shows the level of commitment and dedication they had to getting better and helping out the team.”
The Nighthawks were led by captains Matt Mattera and Thad Teraszkiewicz. Other seniors are Will Connors, Liam O’Sullivan, Carlo Marano, Lewis Tomaj, Jon Ingersoll, and Collin Granville. Along with a mix of freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, the final-year players helped make this an impressive season on the whole. Newtown won 14 matches in the regular slate, and defeated Masuk of Monroe twice in the regular slate before falling to Masuk in the South-West Conference Tournament semifinals.
One of the highlights was a first-round state playoff victory over visiting Fairfield Ludlowe on June 1. Ludlowe was the No. 9 seed and, arguably, a deceptive one given the Falcons come out of the FCIAC, which boasts some of the top teams in the state, including four teams to reach at least the semifinals: Darien, Ridgefield, and Trumbull in Class L, along with New Canaan in Class M.
Against Darien, Mattera logged two aces, four kills, six digs, one block, and 16 assists; Teraszkiewicz had an ace, nine kills, and four digs; Tomaj recorded two kills and one block; freshman Warner Bacon — who was among those to provide height in the front row — had an ace, two digs, and one block; and Elijah Sullivan, a freshman playing in his first varsity match, recorded two digs.
Newtown defeated Ludlowe 3-0 (25-15, 25-22, 25-21). Mattera had three blocks, four digs, two aces, and 25 assists; Nico Diaz logged eight kills, 11 digs, and an ace; Teraszkiewicz compiled 24 kills, eight digs, and four aces; Bacon had one kill and two digs; and Granville recorded four digs and an ace.
Newtown, after winning the first game against Ludlowe, seized control of the match in a nail-biting second game that featured nine ties.
Diaz gave NHS a 21-20 lead and Teraszkiewicz followed with a kill for a rare multiple-point edge in this closely-contested one. A long Ludlowe hit pushed Newtown’s lead to 23-20. Teraszkiewicz answered a pair of late-game Ludlowe points with a booming kill and a game-clinching tap over the front row.
“I think it was critical,” Assistant Coach Kelly Teraszkiewicz said of the Hawks finding a way to win that second set. “If we lost that second one the momentum would have shifted.”
In game three, things remained tight but the Nighthawks closed out on a 9-5 run highlighted by several Teraszkiewicz hits.
“I think they played great tonight,” said Newtown’s assistant coach, adding that a key to the win was Mattera’s implementation of a setter dump, a play that deceives the defense.
“It kept their blockers honest. It opened up the net for all of our hitters,” she said.
A season of practices improvement opened the door to some success on the court, some of which can be measured by wins.
“Having a 14-5 overall record for the season was a great accomplishment with this group because of the lack of playing for a majority of them. They proved to themselves that hard work, a lot of sweat, and never saying we’re done, gave the eight seniors on the team an amazing senior year of playing sports at Newtown High School,” Doski said.
Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at email@example.com.