Rocky Hill volleyball shook off a loss at Newington last Monday and returned home to beat the Indians in straight sets (25-23, 25-21, 25-13) during Friday night’s conference match.
Senior setter Samantha Brady dished up 22 assists and Grace Fisher slammed down 13 kills, earning the up-and-coming Terriers their third straight victory.
“We were so much more focused than we were Monday. We were ready to play, we knew exactly what we wanted to do and we came out strong,” said Rocky Hill head coach Jackie Valliere, “We’re a different team from the beginning of the week. It’s almost a little crazy, I can’t wrap my head around it.”
It was a total turnaround from Monday’s match, which Newington won in four sets (27-25, 14-25, 25-10, 25-10). Meghan Roberts had 9 kills and 5 blocks and Blayne Wanner-Hyde had 20 digs for the Indians in the early-week win.
“We made a couple of unforced errors and as soon as it happened back to back times we sunk a little bit emotionally out on the floor, so that hurt us. Also we had some missed serves at critical times,” said Newington head coach Chris Wanner, “They came ready to play and they were fired up and excited. Once we started falling apart a little bit they started building up. It was a huge momentum issue.”
Early on Newington controlled the match and led 22-17 late in the first set, but Rocky Hill rallied by scoring eight of the next nine points to steal the opening frame. Senior captain Erin Kelly, who is the team’s libero, ignited the rally with back-to-back aces.
The evenly matched teams went back and forth into the second set, which featured a dozen ties and another dozen lead changes. The home Terriers finally seized the lead for good following a kill by sophomore Julia O’Conner and another by Grace Fisher. Junior Katherine Stockman polished off the set by blocking a Newington kill attempt.
“Julia is a very coachable player. She’s taking feedback more and she’s taking every correction that I give her. I’m lucky to be coaching her,” added Valliere, “Grace’s intensity is insane. She’s always ready to play and she keeps improving every single day. She’s a great player.”
Ashley Bezdelovs served up a paid of aces to start the third frame and O’Conner and Fisher continued to excel in the deciding set, attacking the net at will and helping the Terriers take a commanding 17-4 lead. Madison Santo closed out the match with an ace and the celebration began.
It was a statement victory for Rocky Hill, who rebounded from Monday’s loss to Newington by beating Windsor in straight sets on Wednesday and Berlin in four set on Thursday.
“We definitely had a lot more energy today and our passing was a lot better today as well. We played so well as a team,” said Fisher, who also had 10 kills in Monday’s loss at Newington.
The junior captain, who was an All-CCC selection as a sophomore, has enjoyed playing alongside O’Conner and the two are forming a dynamic duo up front, “I’m so proud of her. She’s getting better and better and her hits are amazing,” Fisher said of O’Conner.
It’s been a good start for the Terriers, who look ready to take the next step after missing the postseason in 2014 and 2015. The goal this season is to be playing at a high level once the Class M tournament starts in November and they will lean on Fisher, who is not only a tremendous talent but also plays with a cool confidence on the court.
“I try to stay calm and not get myself too worked up,” said Fisher, “Our goal is to make the tournament and we have to keep working hard, play as a team and communicate on the court.”
Fisher is one of nine juniors on a roster that features only four seniors. Valliere is in her first season coaching at the varsity level, but she knows all of her players very well after spending the past couple of season grooming them as the head coach of the JV team.
“It’s easier that I know them personally. I know their characteristics, I know their style and I know how to coach them. It’s so fun seeing them as freshman and now they are juniors and seniors. All of a sudden they’re these little volleyball players, I don’t know what happened,” Valliere joked.
The team is hitting a groove at the midpoint of the season and return home on Tuesday, Oct 11 for a bout with Rockville, starting at 5:15 p.m.
The coach is happy with her team’s progress, but wants to see Friday’s team effort become the norm.
“The whole focus of this year is team unity. The better we work as a team the better our play is going to be.”
Newington dropped to 3-7 with the loss and they too have a developing roster with only three seniors. The team made a tournament-run a season ago, but lost six starters to graduation.
“We have three seniors and all three are first-year varsity players. They’re young and lacking game experience,” said Wanner, who is in her second year with the Indians, “We’re a very young team and that makes a difference. We’ve been coming back from some injuries and illnesses, but no excuses we have to step up.”
Despite the lack of experience, there have been several bright spots for the Indians this season, including great individual efforts on Friday.
Co-captain Roberts and Wanner-Hyde had their usual strong performances. Senior Stephanie Akosa, who is a first year player, had nine kills and setter Yasmin Rincon had 17 assists. Freshman Carelys Benitez provides the team a lot of energy and chipped in with seven kills and 16 digs in the loss.
“We’re rebuilding during the season and we’ve got time on our side, which is a great thing,” added Wanner, “One of the things that we’ve been working hard on at practice is talking. We’re talking in practice, but in a game it’s not there yet. Ultimately I want to see more on that communication and just more confidence on the floor.”
The Indians are in the middle of a three-game home stand, with East Catholic coming to NHS on Tuesday, Oct 11 for a 4 p.m. match.
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Newington and Wethersfield Split on the Soccer Field
The boys and girls soccer teams at Newington and Wethersfield played home and away games last Thursday and Friday.
The boys played Thursday with the Eagles winning a closely contested 2-1 game at Wethersfield High School.
Junior Brendan Barry scored twice for Wethersfield, including the game-deciding goal after Newington senior Kevin Bilbrault tied the game with 15 minutes remaining in regulation.
The win improved Wethersfield to 5-1-1. The Eagles have a road game against Maloney on Saturday (1 p.m.) at Falcons Field and return home Tuesday, Oct 11 for a bout with Middletown at 3:45 p.m.
Newington fell to 2-2-3 with the loss and welcome Berlin to town this Friday for a 6 p.m. start.
It was the girls turn last Friday and the Indians returned the favor, defeating the Eagles 3-2 in Newington.
Maggie Callahan, Abby Malloy, and Sabrina Soler scored goals for the Indians, helping improve the team to 5-2. They next travel to Sage Park to face Berlin this Friday at 6 p.m.
Wethersfield got a pair of goals from Megan Darrell, but it wasn’t enough as the team dropped to 2-4-1. The Eagles are in the middle of a five-game road trip, which includes a game at Middletown on Tuesday, Oct 11 at 3:45 p.m.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin