Volleyball A clean sweep
GREENWICH — Last season centered around learning and gaining experience for the Greenwich Academy volleyball team, which was faced with some challenging moments along the way.
This season is about big-time resurgence for the Gators.
Only a year removed from a two-win season, Greenwich Academy is undefeated in its 2018 campaign so far, upending each foe in impressive fashion.
Posting its sixth 3-0 victory of the season Thursday, Greenwich Academy upped its record to a perfect 8-0, defeating FAA rival Sacred Heart Greenwich.
Visiting GA won the match by set scores of 25-11, 25-21, 25-18.
“We only got one new girl to our squad this year, but everyone is so much more experienced and knowledgeable,” Greenwich Academy senior tri-captain Grace Ryan said. “We have the skill, teamwork and everyone has so much fun each game.”
Watching her squad compete during the preseason, GA coach Christy Girard predicted the team would be especially strong this fall and her assessment was indeed correct. Greenwich Academy’s roster includes four seniors, three sophomores and three freshmen.
“This team’s volleyball IQ is so high,” said Girard, who is in her 18th season at the helm. “The younger girls have a lot of experience for freshman, because they have been playing for a while and the sophomores and older girls have been great leaders.”
Sacred Heart (2-11), which advanced to the FAA finals the previous three seasons, has faced numerous challenges this season. But like Thursday, the Tigers have been in most of their matches.
“We hung in and continued to fight,” Tigers coach Beth Wilson-Jordan said. “We’ve been coming back from deficits like we did today and have tried to get back into it. Right now, we’re trying to put the pieces together and get a healthy roster. We still have people playing different positions.”
Senior tri-captain Madlin Decker registered 12 kills, while freshman Evie Kay Girard had seven kills to pace the Gators. Ryan and freshman Alexandra Trofort each added five kills, while Girard posted 10 digs and sophomore Megan Belcastro had four digs.
Junior Kellie Ulmer recorded 11 digs and three kills, while senior co-captain Natalia Pazos had 12 digs, six kills and three aces for Sacred Heart.
GATORS GAIN MOMENTUM
A tip by sophomore Valeska Lasky, followed by a Lasky kill gave GA a 9-5 lead in the first set. Kills by Girard (the coach’s daughter) Decker and Trofort, later in the set, put the visitors comfortably ahead, 15-6.
“Our serving is a key point to help us get that lead,” Decker said. “It helps us get the momentum and keep killing the ball.”
Senior tri-captain Kate Miele served out the opening set for GA.
CLOSE SECOND SET
Some of Sacred Heart’s best moments came during the second set. Displaying effective defensive play and solid serving, the Tigers held leads of 3-0 and 11-4 in the second game, before GA staged its comeback.
Salome Alfaro’s ace made it 11-4 for Sacred Heart, which received stellar play in the middle from Olivia Lockwood and defensively from Eva Canellakis.
“GA has such a reputation this year for being good this year, but once we realized we were capable of winning and winning points, it was too late,” Ulmer said. “We have to continue to work on talking and knowing where we are on the court.”
Said Pazos: “I think we played well, but we have played better in the past when we were a little more scrappy. We have to learn from our mistakes and make adjustments to where people are hitting.”
With Ryan serving, Decker finished the second game with a perfectly-placed kill.
“We just came out and started playing our game,” Ryan said. “The second game, we didn’t start out as strong, but we ultimately pulled through and the third game, we got going and never stopped.”
In the third game, an ace by Morgan Wilkens brought Sacred Heart to within 20-18, but Trofort’s kill gave GA a three-point edge and Lasky’s strong serving helped the Gators concluded the match.
“I think as a team we are really connected,” Decker said. “It definitely feels great to use all of our strengths and put the ball down. It’s been a great season for us so far.”
“It’s so much fun being out there, we’re always cheering for each other and we have each other’s backs,” Miele said. “Even when we are down, we have a really strong freshmen and seniors, who bring the team together.”
GREENWICH ACADEMY 3, SACRED HEART 0
SACRED HEART 11 21, 18
GREENWICH ACADEMY — 25, 25, 25