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Spikers Again Strive To Take Down Perennial Champ Joel Barlow



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The Falcons and Nighthawks have both soared high in South-West Conference girls’ volleyball throughout the years.

Newtown High School’s Nighthawks once again will attempt to dethrone those other birds, from Joel Barlow of Redding.

Sure, it remains to be seen which squads will be the final two standing when the conference playoffs unfold, but Barlow is the seven-time champion, and Newtown has been runner-up each of the last three years, four times during Barlow’s run. These teams are considered strong threats, if not the favorites, year after year, so don’t bet against 2019 being any different.

“Our goal is always to do better than last year. We’re looking to bring home a banner and take a step forward in the state tournament,” said Newtown Coach Tom Czaplinski, whose team saw last season end in a hard-fought 3-2 loss to eventual finalist Darien in the Class LL state tournament’s second round.

Newtown went 15-4 in the regular season, twice beating Darien and splitting in a pair of matches with eventual Class L champ Barlow. Czaplinski’s squad lost to nonconference teams East Lyme, St Joseph of Trumbull, and Woodstock Academy, winning handily in almost all of its conference clashes.

“I’m always excited. I love volleyball; I love being around the girls. There’s definitely a lot of talent coming back,” said Czaplinski, whose team lost four players to graduation last year.

The Nighthawks are led by captains Natalie Horn, Genevieve Murray, and Veronica Kroha. Horn is an outside hitter and libero, Murray a middle and right side hitter, and Kroha a middle hitter.

Returning varsity players include Kate Petersen (right side hitter), Sarah Nowacki (outside hitter), and Maggie McInerney and Catie Gregory (both setters).

Serving, setting, spiking ... all elements of the game will have to be in good working order for any team to succeed, but as preseason unfolded this past week, ball control was something Czaplinski anticipated being crucial for the team’s success.

“We just have to get better at where we’re hitting, serving, and passing the ball,” the coach said.

The season begins with a pair of likely challenging matches against FCIAC foes St Joseph and Darien. NHS visits St Joe’s on Thursday, September 12 at 3:30 pm, then hosts Darien the next evening for a 6 pm battle.

Newtown visits Barlow on October 2 and hosts the Falcons in a rematch on October 30 (both set to start at 5:30 pm).

The Hawks will host another group of Falcons this fall. The Fairfield Ludlowe Falcons, another FCIAC squad, will visit NHS on October 12 at 10:30 am. Another potentially challenging match is an October 24 visit to Weston at 5:30 pm. Woodstock Academy and East Lyme are back on the slate; NHS will visit both late in the campaign.

Note: Scheduled times are subject to change due to the end times of junior varsity matches that often precede varsity games.

Genevieve Murray goes up for a block during practice drills. (Bee Photo, Hutchison)
Amanda Arujo goes up for a hit at the net. (Bee Photo, Hutchison)
Amanda Arujo hits the ball over the net during tryouts and soccer team members participate in a dribbling drill.
Volleyball captains are Natalie Horn, Genevieve Murray, and Veronica Kroha. (Bee Photo, Hutchison)
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