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NHS Soccer Teams Advance Into SWC Semi-Finals



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NHS Soccer Teams Advance Into SWC Semi-Finals

By Kim J. Harmon

Nothing can ratchet up the tension like the playoffs and there was plenty of tension to be found on Tuesday night.

The Newtown High School girls’ soccer team struggled to a 3-0 quarterfinal win over Bethel at Blue & Gold Stadium and the boys’ soccer team battled its way to a 2-0 quarterfinal win over Brookfield. Neither contest was as easy as a shutout might suggest.

And on a field in Southbury, the field hockey team saw its hopes of fighting for an South-West Conference disappear with a 4-0 loss to Pomperaug.

The tension was mounting as volleyball team battled Masuk in the semi-finals on Wednesday and the soccer teams entered semi-final action on Thursday (all after press time). But, no doubt, there is more to come.


*Newtown 2, Brookfield 0; Newtown 6, Stratford 0

How could a 6-7-2 team be that tough?

That was the question asked of Newtown High School boys’ soccer head coach Brian Neumeyer after the Nighthawks battled and battled and battled their way to a 2-0 win over arch-rival Brookfield in the quarterfinals of the South-West Conference tournament.

“Their coach (Tony Fernandes) gets that group organized and ready to play,” he said, “and the rivalry between the two schools makes it even better.”

Chris Hoagland snapped a 0-0 tie with 14:30 left to play in the second half after sneaking a ball past sprawling Brookfield goaltender Chris Smart. Seconds before, Tony Magliocco sent a short cross in front of the goal but Hoagland failed to get a good touch on it. He managed to shake off a defender, though, and pushed the ball into the net.

Smart had been brilliant throughout the game, but was victimized on an ugly goal.

“We knew what he could do,” said coach Neumeyer, “and we knew it would either take a beautiful cross or an ugly goal to beat him. We just had to be patient.”

With the first goal in the net, the pressure noticeably eased. And with the ugly goal out of the way, the Nighthawks scored a beautiful goal with a superb clear by defensive back Mike Vontobel that turned into an assist as Hoagland beat his defender to the ball and punched in a shot off the fingertips of Smart with 12:18 left to play.

The ‘Hawks had a lot of chances to break the game open. In the first half, Magliocco had a breakaway and punched a low shot that just snuck past the right post. With just seven minutes gone in the second half, Magliocco was back at it, but Smart rejected a rifle shot and then scooped up Magliocco’s rebound shot right near the end line.

About 11 minutes later, Hoagland sent a nifty cross to Magliocco but the one-touch shot was stopped by Smart, who faced 26 shots on the night and made 10 saves.

The ‘Hawks improved to 13-0-1 and continue to hold down the No. 1 ranking in the state, the No. 1 ranking in Region 1 (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) and the No. 8 ranking in the nation.

The ‘Hawks were set to play New Milford on Thursday in the SWC semi-finals. Back on September 30, the two teams fought their way to a 0-0 draw.

Newtown 2, Brookfield 0

SCORING: Newtown – Chris Hoagland 2. ASSISTS: Tony Magliocco, Mike Vontobel. SHOTS: Newtown – 26; Brookfield – 2. SAVES: Brookfield – Chris Smart 10; Newtown – Louis Ritzinger 1. CORNER KICKS: Newtown – 6; Brookfield – 1.


*Newtown 3, Bethel 0

It was a shaky start, alright, but the Newtown High School girls’ soccer team scraped off the rust from an eight-day layoff and managed a 3-0 win over Bethel on Tuesday night in the South-West Conference quarterfinals.

Alex Konneker had a goal and two assists and the Lady Nighthawks advanced to a semi-final matchup on Thursday afternoon with No. 6-seeded Bunnell, which had upset No. 3-seeded Joel Barlow, 1-0.

“We came out a little flat considering we had been sitting around for eight days or so,” said head coach Rupert de los Reyes. “It’s hard for the kids to get up for this team. They are tough and laden with talent.”

That talent kept the ‘Hawks – who had started to really sharpen their game in the final week of the regular season – off balance and frustrated through the first 15 minutes of the first half. But with 25:45 left, Konneker finally broke the ice off a soft cross from Kasey Schulz and presented the ‘Hawks with a 1-0 lead.

And with seven minutes gone in the second half, junior Kristi Nowak – off a rebounding corner kick – gave the ‘Hawks the insurance goal they sorely needed. The best goal of the night, though, came only two minutes later when Casey Frobey fought two defenders off for possession of a ball, passed to Konneker, who then passed to Tania Domingos, who fought off her own defender to gain possession and rifle a shot past Bethel goaltender Chelsea Schumacker.

Freshman goaltender Emily Kluga played the majority of the game and made five saves before giving way to junior Jess Halloran.

 “We did enough to win,” said coach de los Reyes. “Overall, we’re pleased with the result and looking forward to Bunnell. They are going to be all business and I expect a tough, defensive battle.”

With the win, the No. 2-seeded ‘Hawks improved to 13-2-1. Currently, they are ranked fifth in Class LL behind Masuk, Trumbull, Amity and Cheshire.

Newtown 3, Bethel 0

GOALS: Newtown – Alex Konneker, Tania Domingos, Kristi Nowak. ASSISTS: Newtown – Alex Konneker 2, Kasey Schulz.. SHOTS: Bethel – 5; Newtown – 13. SAVES: Bethel – Chelsea Schumacker 10; Newtown – Emily Kluga 5, Jess Halloran 0. CORNER KICKS: Bethel – 1; Newtown – 3.


Newtown 31, Darien 6

It was one of those nights … one of those nights Newtown High School head football coach Ken Roberts had been waiting for.

Junior quarterback Tucker Kass was 10-of-19 for 127 yards and two touchdowns and junior wideout Joe DeVellis grabbed a pair of touchdown passes to lead the Nighthawks to a 31-6 non-conference win over Darien.

“We knew we were out of any postseason play,” said coach Roberts, “but the seniors decided we still have four games to play and each game will be our championship. Some kids were down, but the seniors really took control.”

The ‘Hawks improved to 4-3 and will finish up with Immaculate on Friday, New Milford on November 11 in the annual Boot Trophy game, and Masuk on November 23 in the traditional Thanksgiving Week matchup.

The offense (288 total yards) provided the ‘Hawks with a lot of momentum heading into that stretch run.

Oh yeah, things were clicking early as Kass struck DeVellis with a 29-yard touchdown pass with 7:40 left in the first period. Although Darien got six points back with a 72-yard fumble return, it was a mere glitch as the ‘Hawks scored a pair of touchdowns and a field goal in the second period to take a 25-6 lead heading into the half.

One of the key plays came on fourth-and-five, late in the first period, when Billy Beatty grabbed the direct snap out of a punt formation and rambled seven yards for a first down. That kept a drive alive, ultimately resulting in a 10-yard touchdown pass from Kass to Joe Bowen.

Chris Potter scored on a 32-yard run about two minutes later and John Nelson added a 32-yard field goal with 4:30 left in the half.

The final clue that everything – everything – was working almost to perfection came midway through the third period when freshman Jake DeVellis came off the bench for the first time and tossed a 22-yard touchdown pass on the halfback option to his brother, Joe, for the final score of the night.

“It was the first game where the offense, defense and special teams all worked,” said coach Roberts. “Beating a team like Darien earned up some respect.”

Scott Regnery (first period sack), Matt Berquist (second period sack) and Beatty (third period interception) keyed a defense just 154 yards of total offense. Tim Hamernick was the biggest producer on the ground for the Blue Wave, gaining 36 yards on 12 carries.

The ‘Hawks will host Immaculate on Friday and while the Mustangs are suffering through a 2-5 season, coach Roberts is not about to take them lightly.

“It’s a big game for them and they have a good quarterback,” he said. “It will be a good game.”

First Quarter

N – DeVellis 29 pass from Kass (DeVellis run)

D – Schwartz 72 fumble return (conversion failed)

Second quarter

N – Bowen 10 pass from Kass (Nelson kick)

N – Potter 32 run (Nelson kick)

N – Nelson 32 field goal

Third quarter

N – DeVellis 22 pass from Jake DeVellis (kick failed)


Rushing: Darien – Hamernick 12-36, Shane 7-29, Ozzano 5-9, Reding 4-14, McDonald 2-18 (TOTALS: 30-106); Newtown – Chris Potter 17-68, Billy Beatty 7-40, Tucker Kass 5-8, Marc Ingerman 1-8, Joe DeVellis 1-6, Scott Perry 1-4 (TOTALS: 32-134). Passing: Darien – Shane 0-5-2 for 0 yards, Reding 4-13-0 for 48 yards; Newtown – Tucker Kass 10-19-0 for 127 yards and 2 TD; Jake DeVellis 1-1-0 for 27 yards and a TD. Receiving: Darien – Jack MacDonald 1-1, Wes Preston 3-47; Newtown – Joe DeVellis 6-93, Joe Bowen 3-34, Gary Andrews 2-25.


Newtown – 4th in Class LL

Ryan Morrissey was the fifth and final runner to score for the Newtown High School boys cross country team at the CIAC Class LL championships last weekend at Wickham Park in Manchester, but his 42nd-place finish may a world of difference.

The Nighthawks were ranked seventh in Class LL entering the meet but not only slipped past Glastonbury, Xavier and Danbury but also inched to within nine points of New Milford (which finished second to Amity).

Alister Ratcliff was his usual stalwart self, finishing sixth at 16:27 (just 19 seconds off the pace set by Donald Cabral of Glastonbury), Eric MacKnight (11th – 16:35) posted another solid outing and came within five seconds of finishing in the top 10, Zach Schwartz (18th – 16:47) pulled off a stellar run and Scott Nichols (27th – 16:57) had a strong finish while coming in two seconds or less ahead of five other runners.

“Up and down the line they ran very, very well,” said head coach Dave Foss. “The top seven teams in the state were in the race and we were ranked seventh, so to finish fourth is just fantastic.”

Ranked seventh, the ‘Hawks may have finished seventh if not for the stretch run of Morrissey, who came in 42nd at 17:18.

“Ryan passed seven to 10 kids in the last 200 yards,” said head coach Dave Foss. “He probably gave us fourth place with his kick alone.”

Newtown finished just six points ahead of Glastonbury and Xavier. Kevin Ford of Glastonbury, in fact, crossed the finish line directly behind Morrissey.

Matt Cole (50th – 17:27) and Jake Sullivan (60th – 17:50) rounded out the Newtown seven, but did not factor into the scoring.

The ‘Hawks will be heading back to Wickham Park in Manchester on Friday for the CIAC State Opens. The top six teams (and top 25 individuals) there will qualify for the New England championships.

TEAM RESULTS: Amity 71, New Milford 95, Norwich Free Academy 102, Newtown 104, Glastonbury 110, Xavier 110, Danbury 131, Manchester 308, Newington 318, Shelton 325, Southington 335, Cheshire 343, Trumbull 371, Fairfield Prep 377, Hamden 403, Naugatuck 439, Greenwich 479, Norwalk 544, West Haven 594, Westhill 600, Stamford 632, East Hartford 641.

INDIVIDUALS (Top 60): 1. Donald Cabral (Glastonbury) 16:08; 2. Robert Dugger (Glastonbury) 16:16; 3. Adam Vess (Xavier) 16:18; 4. Kyle Friedman (Norwich Free Academy) 16:18; 5. Andy Watson (New Milford) 16:25; 6. Alister Ratcliff (Newtown) 16:27; 7. Willie Ahern (Danbury) 16:28; 8. Dan DeCrescenzo (New Milford) 16:30; 9 .Michael McSherry (Amity) 16:30; 10. Joshua Robertson (Norwich Free Academy) 16:30; 11. Eric MacKnight (Newtown) 16:35; 12. Wesley Halstead (Amity) 16:35; 13. Anthony Vento (New Milford) 16:37; 14. William Sudhoff (Amity) 16:38; 15. Matt Terry (Danbury) 16:41; 16. Alex McSherry (Amity) 16:44; 17. Brendan Rickert (Danbury) 16:46; 18. Zach Schwartz (Newtown) 16:47; 19. Thomas Hope (Shelton) 16:49; 20. Christopher Walsh (Amity) 16:51; 21. Matthew Fahey (Xavier) 16:51; 22. Matthew Miclette (Norwich Free Academy) 16:54; 23. Aaron Cubells (Hamden) 16:55; 24. Colby Welch (Manchester) 16:56; 25. Christopher Zablock (Xavier) 16:56; 26. Chris Klobedanz (Glastonbury) 16:57; 27. Scott Nichols (Newtown) 16:57; 28. Justin Zawilinski (Xavier) 16:57; 29. Paul Kichar (Amity) 16:58; 30. Josh Debner (Southington) 16:58; 31. Jason Wagner (Norwich Free Academy) 16:58; 32. Michael DeCrescenzo (New Milford) 16:59; 33. Forrest Misenti (Xavier) 17:00; 34. Daniel Pilz (Newington) 17:01; 35. Kevin Martin (Norwich Free Academy) 17:02; 36. Matthew Cardin (Norwich Free Academy) 17:03; 37. Dan Watson (New Milford) 17:06; 38. Cody Otto (Glastonbury) 17:07; 39. Cory Fagan (Xavier) 17:08; 40. Brian Krusell (Newington) 17:08; 41. Brady Becker (Danbury) 17:14; 42. Ryan Morrissey (Newtown) 17:18; 43. Kevin Ford (Glastonbury) 17:18; 44. Keith Sansone (Shelton) 17:18; 45. Alexander Montclair (Cheshire) 17:19; 46. Justin Rau (Greenwich) 17:20; 47. Aaron Simmonds (New Milford) 17:21; 48. Anthony Socotch (New Milford) 17:22; 49. Craig Babcock (Norwich Free Academy) 17:25; 50. Matt Cole (Newtown) 17:27; 51. Parker Bourdreau (Danbury) 17:30; 52. William Trumbo (Cheshire) 17:31; 53. John Longo (Southington) 17:40; 54. Colin Shukie (Fairfield Prep) 17:41; 55. Giancarlo deStanton (Amity) 17:42; 56. Jonathan McMahon (Glastonbury) 17:46; 57. Josh Perry (Naugatuck) 17:47; 58. David Krinjak (Manchester) 17:47; 59. Corey Alvarez (Danbury) 17:48; 60. Jake Sullivan (Newtown) 17:50.


Newtown – 3rd in Class LL

The Newtown High School girls cross country team certainly isn’t going to quibble about a point here or a point there … not after finishing third at the CIAC Class LL state championships at Wickham Park in Manchester.

“It was another one of those things,” said head coach Doug Russell. “If we had a couple kids pass one or two kids, we could have finished second. But third is just tremendous.”

And it’s what the Lady Nighthawks had their sights set on ever since they first laced up their running shoes back in August.

“Like I said before,” said coach Russell, “I wanted to finish in the top five and thought we could go as high as three. But we didn’t want to be too over-confident about it.”

Glastonbury – with Kristin Mitchell and Jamie Olsen finishing first and second – easily captured first overall with 71 points. Ridgefield, down a couple of key runners, took second with 97 points. And Newtown, with senior Sadie Ball earning an eighth-place finish at 16:35, came in third with 106 points.

Cheshire (131), Norwich Free Academy (155) and Amity (157) were within shouting distance.

Elise DeRoo (21st – 17:11) and Michelle Brennan (22nd – 17:13) were the next two Newtown runners to cross the finish line and did so just ahead of runners from Glastonbury, Shelton and Southington. Moira Collier (28th – 17:30) was the fourth Newtown runner to cross and then came Sara Pollock (35th – 17:42).

Jenn Brill (36th – 17:43) and Carolyn Gingras (73rd – 18:37) rounded out the Newtown seven, but did not factor into the scoring.

The ‘Hawks will head back to Wickham Park on Friday for the CIAC State Open championships and, like their male counterparts, will look for that top sixth finish and a trip to the New England championships.

“We’ve got to make up some time, but it’s possible to do that,” said coach Russell. “Like Michelle Brennan said, we haven’t peaked yet.”

TEAM SCORES: Glastonbury 71, Ridgefield 97, Newtown 106, Cheshire 131, Norwich Free Academy 155, Amity 157, Manchester 187, William Hall 192, Greenwich 233, New Milford 283, Fairfield Warde 290, Hamden 314, Danbury 353, Southington 357, Shelton 363, Trumbull 384, Naugatuck 435, West Haven 496, Westhill 574.

INDIVIDUALS (Top 73): 1. Kristin Mitchell (Glastonbury) 15:32; 2. Jamie Olson (Glastonbury) 15:41; 3. Heather Stevens (Ridgefield) 15:57; 4. Courtney Dinnan (Hamden) 16:08; 5. Leah Rosenfeld (Ridgefield) 16:10; 6. Irene Kalbian (Cheshire) 16:12; 7. Meegan Joly (Norwich Free Academy) 16:30; 8. Sadie Ball (Newtown) 16:35; 9. Kelsey Lebuffe (Hall) 16:36; 10. Joy Osahon (East Hartford) 16:37; 11. Stephanie Bohannon (Hall) 16:40; 12. Stephanie Shea (Amity) 16:41; 13. Mary Bugbee (Manchester) 16:48; 14. Elizabeth Navarro (Ridgefield) 16:50; 15. Jenna London (Hall) 16:51; 16. Catherine Murdoch (Ridgefield) 16:53; 17. Alissa Watson (Manchester) 16:56; 18. Karina Johnson (East Hartford) 17:01; 19. Joanna Cambria (Amity) 17:02; 20. Emily Harris (Glastonbury) 17:06; 21. Elise DeRoo (Newtown) 17:11; 22. Michelle Brennan (Newtown) 17:13; 23. Amanda Lusa (Glastonbury) 17:14; 24. Ashley Sarris (Shelton) 17:15; 25. Lauren Glowa (Southington) 17:17; 26. Kelly Flood (Cheshire) 17:24; 27. Laura Hermann (New Milford) 17:29; 28. Moira Collier (Newtown) 17:30; 29. Allison Black (Norwich Free Academy) 17:31; 30. Katherine Ringwood (Cheshire) 17:37; 31. Liza Navarro (Glastonbury) 17:37; 32. Jessica Dussault (Norwich Free Academy) 17:39; 33. Nicolle Siddall (Cheshire) 17:40; 34. Jordan Smith (Manchester) 17:41; 35. Sara Pollock (Newtown) 17:42; 36. Jennifer Brill (Newtown) 17:43; 37. Melissa Taylor (Trumbull) 17:43; 38. Amanda Trofa (Amity) 17:44; 39. Mariam Alam (Greenwich) 17:45; 40. Dianna MacFarland (Fairfield Warde) 17:46; 41. Avery O’Grady (Greenwich) 17:47; 42. Jamie Marrone (Amity) 17:51; 43. Jaclyn Sullivan (Norwich Free Academy) 17:55; 44. Victoria Alvarez (Cheshire) 17:56; 45. Lindsey Culbert (New Milford) 17:57; 46. Jocelyn Manahan (Fairfield Warde) 17:58; 47. Jessie Trapp (Fairfield Warde) 17:58; 48. Laura Scott (Greenwich) 17:59; 49. Sandy Teng (Danbury) 18:01; 50. Kylie Justo (Southington) 18:05; 51. Kristie Parry (Greenwich) 18:06; 52. Kyley Chornoby (Norwich Free Academy) 18:07; 53. Julie Maas (Manchester) 18:07; 54. Cara Tramontozzi (Norwich Free Academy) 18:09; 55. Kara Doolan (Amity) 18:09; 56. Siobhan Wilcox (Glastonbury) 18:10; 57. Lauren Flament (Shelton) 18:12; 58. Marie Ozanne (West Haven) 18:15; 59. Tara DaSilva (Naugatuck) 18:19; 60. Sterling Dumas (Norwich Free Academy) 18:19; 61. Alexandra Keddy (Cheshire) 18:20; 62. Katherine Calle (Danbury) 18:21; 63. Kristin Anda (Ridgefield) 18:24; 64. Monica Yasunaga (Greenwich) 18:24; 65. Emily DeMasi (Danbury) 18:27; 66. Isabel Lynch (Fairfield Warde) 18:28; 67. Lauren Fox (Ridgefield) 18:29; 68. Jessica Moore (Greenwich) 18:31; 69. Erin Bourgault (Hall) 18:32; 70. Morgan Fisher (New Milford) 18:35; 71. Laenna Jabbomsky (New Milford) 18:36; 72. Erin Fox (Hamden) 18:36; 73. Carolyn Gingras (Newtown) 18:37.


*Pomperaug 4, Newtown 0; *Newtown 1, Bethel 0; Newtown 1, Joel Barlow 0; Brookfield 2, Newtown 0

Let there be light … and let there be a win in the opening round of the South-West Conference tournament.

After enduring a 45-minute delay due to malfunctioning lights at New Fairfield High School’s new turf field, the Newtown High School field hockey team went out and took care of business, securing a 1-0 win over Bethel.

The victory earned the No. 4-seeded Lady Nighthawks a visit with No. 1-seeded Pomperaug in the semi-finals.

There, the hope of an SWC title ended with a 4-0 loss.

Nevertheless, it was a rousing finish to a conference season which saw the ‘Hawks post a 9-4-2-1 record … the best season thus far, percentage-wise*, the program has posted since 1970, when the then Newtown Indians went 6-0-2 and claimed a Western Connecticut Conference championship.

Lauren Babbage, who scored her first goal of the season in a 1-0 win over Joel Barlow in the regular season finale, came back and scored the lone goal in the win over Bethel. It was quite a four-day run for the senior.

“It was a really slow start to the season,” said Babbage, “but, hopefully, this will continue. Knowing that the rest of the team was working really hard (to get to the playoffs), it lifted my spirits and helped me work harder.”

Her goal against Bethel came, off a penalty corner, with 5:35 left in the first half. Co-captain Erin Clark had the initial blast from the top of the circle that Babbage was able to control down near the cage and push past Bethel goaltender Ally Walsh.

And the goal stood up.

“I was hoping for a couple more goals (for the team),” Babbage admitted, “but I knew we had a really strong defense.”

That defense – led by players like Alana Wenick, Kim Solheim and Katie Datin – had to endure a lot of pressure from Bethel. The Lady Wildcats were on the attack right away and challenged Newtown goaltender Alissa Gross to make two kick saves early in the first half.

“That made me feel a lot better, actually,” said Gross, who made four saves on the night. “It made me feel as if I was ready for this. We played them before and they came back on us, so I was expecting something good from them.”

Bethel was unable to break through the defense and although a couple of sharp hits sailed through the midfield, Solheim was able to pick up the ball down near the circle and clear it to the sides. Gross even came up with another strong kick save with 22:33 left to play in the second half.

The ‘Hawks hung tough and – even with only two shots on the cage – nailed down the win.

But all that earned them was a visit with Pomperaug. Although the ‘Hawks went to overtime before succumbing to the Lady Panthers, 1-0, back on September 20 a rematch one month later saw the ‘Hawks on the short end of a 3-0 score.

The Lady Panthers were equally impressive on Tuesday night as Haley McBride and Jamie Orrico scored two goals apiece in a 25-shot barrage on Gross, who made 19 saves under that onslaught. The Lady Panthers also had 15 penalty corners.

With the CIAC Class L tournament approaching, the ‘Hawks are currently ranked ninth with a qualifying record of 8-3-2-1.

* – The formula is total points (two for wins, one for ties, one for overtime losses) divided by total games times two.

Brookfield 2, Newtown 0

GOALS: Brookfield – Lauren Olivier 2. ASSISTS: Brookfield – Marcy Calovich. SHOTS: Brookfield – 10; Newtown – 6. SAVES: Brookfield – Ashley Castelano 6; Newtown – Alissa Gross 6. PENALTY CORNERS: Brookfield – 6; Newtown – 6.

Newtown 1, Joel Barlow 0

GOALS: Newtown – Lauren Babbage. ASSISTS: Newtown – Kimberly Solheim, Corey Stokes. SHOTS: Barlow – 1; Newtown – 9. SAVES: Joel Barlow – Megan Canny 2; Newtown – Alissa Gross 1. PENALTY CORNERS: Barlow – 1; Newtown – 19.

Newtown 1, Bethel 0

GOALS: Newtown – Lauren Babbage. ASSISTS: Newtown – Erin Clark. SHOTS: Bethel – 4; Newtown – 2. SAVES: Bethel – Ally Walsh 1; Newtown – Alissa Gross 4. PENALTY CORNERS: Bethel – 1; Newtown – 3.

Pomperaug 4, Newtown 0

GOALS: Pomperaug – Haley McBride 2, Jamie Orrico 2. SHOTS: Newtown – 4; Pomperaug – 25. SAVES: Newtown – Alissa Gross 19; Pomperaug – Sara Shahan 2. PENALTY CORNERS: Newtown – 2; Pomperaug – 15.


*Newtown 3, New Milford 0; Newtown 3, New Milford 0

The opponent was the same and the result was the same. The only thing different was the importance of the match.

The Newtown High School volleyball team swept New Milford, 3-0, to close out the regular season last Wednesday and, two days later, reprised the match – and earned the same result – in the first round of the South-West Conference tournament.

Last Wednesday, it was a 25-21, 26-24, 25-21 decision that pushed the Lady Nighthawks to 14-3 overall, 11-2 in the SWC, and earned them the No. 2 seed in the tournament. Last Friday, it was a somewhat crisper 26-24, 25-17, 25-17 win that earned the ‘Hawks a trip to the SWC semi-finals (against No. 3 seeded Masuk) on Wednesday at Pomperaug.

“This is a new season and we feel very confident,” said Jenna Van Waalwijk, who had seven kills and seven digs in the playoff win over New Milford. “But we’re looking to play better. (Tonight) we worked hard to stop those runs; slowly, we’re getting better at that.”

It was a run in the first game that nearly changed the complexion of the entire match. The ‘Hawks were at game-point, holding a 24-18 lead, when the Green Wave went on a six-point tear to tie the match at 24-24 and force the deuce situation.

The ‘Hawks buckled down, however, and sealed the win with a nice block by Diana Grimaldi, who finished the night with five blocks, five digs, five kills and four service aces.

The ‘Hawks took control of the season game right away as Christie Iwanicki (kill), Grimaldi (two service aces) and Van Waalwijk (two kills) ravaged the Wave and put the ‘Hawks on top, 7-2. Taking advantage of some sloppy play by New Milford, Newtown soon expanded that lead to 13-4.

Becky Huot had a nice smash, Van Waalwijk recorded a nifty dink and Emily Loose came up with a solid block as the ‘Hawks kept their lead around eight points. The Wave went on a short-lived run, racking up five consecutive points, but once Iwanicki made a brilliant save to keep one point alive and Loose followed with a soft kill inside the side line the ‘Hawks were back in control.

Iwanicki finished off the game two win with a wicked, screwball serve that handcuffed the New Milford defender.

The ‘Hawks were seemingly in complete control, but game three – despite three solid kills and another ace by Grimaldi – slipped away from them for a little while. The Wave built up a 13-9 lead midway through the game and managed to briefly maintain the four-point lead.

But Van Waalwijk registered a pair of kills and Grimaldi recorded a hard block and soon enough the ‘Hawks had tied the match, 15-15. A moment later the match was tied again, 16-16, but Grimaldi stepped behind the service line and leading the ‘Hawks to seven consecutive points the match was essentially over.

Grimaldi had a pair of aces and a block in that run while Van Waalwijk registered a kill. Jenn Blauvelt then closed out the game and the match with a hard serve that New Milford was unable to handle.

The ‘Hawks ended the regular season ranked eighth in Class LL.

* – denotes SWC playoff game

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