Green­wich falls in 5-set thriller

Greenwich Time - - SPORTS - By David Fierro VOL­LEY­BALL

GREEN­WICH — En­ter­ing Fri­day’s match against FCIAC vol­ley­ball foe Green­wich, 10 of Westhill’s 12 wins came by the 3-0 va­ri­ety. Yet the Vik­ings found them­selves em­broiled in a fiveset thriller against the Car­di­nals, in what proved to be one of their tough­est tests of the sea­son.

And like most of the tests they’ve faced, the Vik­ings aced it.

Fin­ish­ing the fifth and de­cid­ing set strong, Westhill edged host Green­wich, 3-2, to run its record to a sparkling 14-1.

Ju­nior Betsy Sachs reg­is­tered a match-high 27 kills, to go along with six digs and five blocks, while ju­nior Sophia Thagouras notched 21 as­sists, seven kills and four ser­vice points for the Vik­ings, who are 10-1 in FCIAC play.

Westhill won the match by set scores of 25-23, 22-25, 25-11, 14-25, 15-11.

“We have been prac­tic­ing all year on clos­ing it out and not break­ing in the fifth set,” Westhill coach Mar­i­anna Lin­nehan said. “They fo­cused on ev­ery sin­gle point in the fifth game. You can’t let a good team like Green­wich come back.”

Sopho­more Vana Ser­vos tal­lied 16 ser­vice points and 30 as­sists, se­nior Nina Baku­radze had 20 digs and six ser­vice points and se­nior Nikki New­comer added 27 digs, seven kills and seven ser­vice points in the win­ning ef­fort.

“They were ranked very high, so we knew we had to beat them if we wanted to climb up in the rank­ings,” Thagouras said. “We knew we had to be ag­gres­sive, com­mu­ni­cate and come to­gether if we wanted to win. It helped put us in the lead and we pulled through.”

Green­wich (8-5) lost its sec­ond straight match that was de­cided in five games.

The Car­di­nals were beaten by Trum­bull, 3-2, on Wed­nes­day.

Sopho­more Lilly Saleeby to­taled 19 kills, while sopho­more Erin O’Keefe posted 12 kills for the Car­di­nals. Gia Al­fano, a se­nior, had four kills and se­nior Carolina Lew notched seven digs and six ser­vice points. Fresh­man Adele Sot­giu paced GHS in the serv­ing de­part­ment with 25 points.

“Westhill has great chem­istry, we knew it was go­ing to be a good match,” O’Keefe said. “They played re­ally well, there’s a rea­son why they are 13-1. Our chem­istry was good as well. We had a pos­i­tive out­look and a lot of con­fi­dence through­out.”

VIK­INGS’ STRONG FIN­ISH

An ace by Jackie Fee­han gave Green­wich a 3-1 lead in the fifth set, but three straight ser­vice points by Caro­line Boyd gave the Vik­ings a 4-3 ad­van­tage. A kill by New­comer later in the set gave Westhill a 7-5 lead.

The vis­i­tors went ahead for good at 11-10 on a kill by Ser­vos.

“It was re­ally in­tense, we knew what we had to do — we just had to per­form and be ag­gres­sive in the fifth set,” Sachs said.

TY­ING IT UP

Green­wich forced a fifth set by dis­play­ing solid de­fen­sive play in the fourth set. The Cards were able to dig up some hard Vik­ings hits and also showed ef­fec­tive hit­ting of their own.

O’Keefe and Saleeby pro­duced sev­eral mo­men­tum-chang­ing kills dur­ing the game.

“Our team bond is so close, we have be­come a re­ally close team,” Sachs said. “That’s what helps us in those type of close sets.”

“I’m re­ally proud of our team,” Saleeby said. “Westhill is a re­ally tough team, so it was good for us to make it this far with them. Hope­fully, we’ll see them again in the play­offs. Our serve re­ceive was a lit­tle shaky to­day and we also need to work on hit­ting our spots. But over­all, we played re­ally well.”

Se­nior Amelia Bartlett recorded 34 as­sists and 18 digs, while Saleeby had 14 digs and Lew added seven digs for Green­wich.

“That was great vol­ley­ball,” GHS coach Steve Lapham said. “It was the high­est level of vol­ley­ball we played so far this sea­son. We can play with ev­ery team in this league. To­day, we just didn’t pick up their tips too well.”

QUOTABLE

“Our team bond is so close, which is what helps us in close sets like that,” Sachs said. “We know what we need to do to win close sets.”

Matthew Brown / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Green­wich cel­e­brates a point against Westhill dur­ing Fri­day’s con­test. Westhill won 3-2.

Matthew Brown / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Westhill’s San­jana Nayak (8) and Betsy Sachs de­fend the tap over from Green­wich’s Erin O’Keefe dur­ing Fri­day’s con­test.

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