NHS Spikers Are Wrecking Crew In State Playoff Opener
Newtown High School’s girls’ volleyball team pulled out a hard-fought five game victory over host Staples of Westport in the first round of the Class LL state tournament on November 11.
The Nighthawks, who were coming off a 3-2 loss at New Milford in the South-West Conference tournament opener, had not won a five-set battle since game two, a match with FCIAC team Darien back in mid-September.
Staples, another FCIAC squad, was the No. 14 seed and the Nighthawks are the No. 19 seed and advance for a road tilt against No. 3 Westhill of Stamford in the second round, on Thursday, November 14, at 6 pm.
Newtown won the Staples match by trading wins with the Wreckers; the match scores were 25-19, 16-25, 25-22, 23-25, 15-9.
“It was a very even match. Both teams came out with semi-decent ball control. It was fun. It was long overdue picking up a five-game win,” Nighthawk Coach Tom Czaplinski said.
Leading 10-9 in set three, the Hawks went on a 7-0 run sparked by three Natalie Horn aces, Amanda Arujo’s cross-court smash, and Sarah Nowacki’s kill.
The Wreckers went on a run and pulled to within 20-17. Genevieve Murray’s block and subsequent kill, followed by Nowacki’s ace pushed the lead to five. Keyera Smith had two late-set kills, and a Staples net violation accounted for the last point.
The Wreckers forced the fifth set by overcoming deficits of 21-17 and 23-20. Maggie McInerney’s upward swing hit over the net went for a well-placed shot and a point for a 22-19 lead. Newtown, after a Staples point, went up 23-20 on a Staples service error, but the Wreckers finished on a 5-0 run.
Game five was tied until Nowacki’s kill made it 6-5 Newtown. Nowacki followed with two aces for a three-point edge, and a nice defensive play by Chole O’Connell led to a point and a 9-5 Newtown lead.
After the teams traded points, Veronica Kroha tapped the ball over the top row and down for a point and an 11-6 NHS advantage. An ace by Lauren Belden doubled up Staples’ set point total at 12-6.
The Wreckers made it 12-8 but momentum was halted when Smith and Belden came up with clutch digs to keep the ball moving, leading to a point. The Hawks followed a Staples point with a Kroha hit and Nowacki blast that got deflected out of bounds for the clinching point.
Kroha logged 11 kills, Nowacki and Murray each had nine kills, and Horn had eight kills. Nowacki compiled ten digs and five of Newtown’s 23 aces. Horn was a serving machine, racking up nine aces. Belden added four aces. Horn and O’Connell each added five digs. Setters Catie Gregory and McInerney registered 21 and 18 assists, respectively.
Newtown’s coach goes into the Westhill match anticipating a stiff challenge.
“We have to step up with better decision making and less nerves under pressure,” he said. “Every game’s going to be tough from here on out. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”