Volleyball Team’s Stellar Season Came To Tough End
A back-and-forth Class LL State Tournament second round battle between the host Newtown High School and Darien girls’ volleyball teams went to a fifth and deciding game before the visitors prevailed on November 8.
No. 12 Darien, which was beaten not once but twice by the No. 5 Nighthawks during the regular campaign, overcame a two-games-to-one deficit and facing match point at 24-19 in the fourth game, to win 3-2 (25-21, 25-27, 21-25, 29-27, 15-11).
With the victory, the Wave advanced to the quarterfinals, where it defeated No. 13 Glastonbury, earning a spot in the state semis.
The Nighthawks were at match point, holding a seemingly comfortable five-point lead following Hannah Groonell’s ace. Darien somehow kept the next play, and its season, alive with a couple of quick defensive plays to narrowly prevent the ball from hitting the floor.
Darien scored five straight points to even the game at 24 apiece and overcame a pair of one-point deficits to extend the match.
Newtown fell behind 27-26 but evened the score following a Genevieve Murray block. Darien, however, got the next two points to force a decisive fifth game.
After falling behind 1-0 in game five, the Wave got three straight points. Newtown tied things 3-3, but the Wave reclaimed the lead for good.
Down four, the Hawks pulled to within a point at 9-8, but got no closer. The comeback effort was highlighted by a tremendous quick-reaction play by two Nighthawks in which Veronica Kroha quickly put her foot out to save the ball just before it went to the floor and Kim Buttery deflected the ball over the net off the carom. After the ball was returned by Darien, Kroha finished the sequence with a hard-hit spike; that made it 9-7.
Both teams had strong defensive efforts resulting in long rallies and hard-earned points. Service errors by the Nighthawks and a strong blocking game by Darien were big difference makers.
There were 29 ties, including 13 in the second game, and 14 lead exchanges during the match.
The Nighthawks, to help prepare themselves for tough postseason competition, scheduled a pair of regular-season matches with the Wave, and it turned out to possibly prove costly in the state playoffs.
“It’s super-hard to beat a team three times in a season,” Newtown Coach Tom Czaplinski acknowledged.
The Nighthawks were done in by a combination of Darien’s strong defensive play at the net as well as their struggles serving (17 service errors), Newtown’s coach said.
“Darien had the best blocking we’ve seen this year,” Czaplinski said.
Kroha had 11 kills and three aces, Murray had 13 kills and two blocks, Buttery registered 42 assists and 12 digs, and Mollie Goudy had 15 digs for the Nighthawks.
Groonell had seven kills and nine digs, Natalie Horn had four kills and 12 digs, Sarah Nowacki had four kills and five digs, Jackie Moccio had seven digs, and Erin Mitchell added a trio of kills for the Nighthawks.
This was a strong overall season for the Nighthawks. They won 15 regular-season matches, including handing Joel Barlow of Redding its only loss, and advanced to the South-West Conference championship match.
All of this with a mostly new-look lineup that put forth a great effort. The team will lose seniors Buttery, Goudy, Moccio, and Mitchell.
“It was a fantastic team to coach — a great group of girls. I really wanted to see them pull through. That’s probably why this one hurts more than other ones,” Czaplinski said.
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