St. Joseph sweeps past Had­dam-Killing­worth

H-K coach: ‘In­con­sis­tent right from the start’

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael Forn­abaio

MIL­FORD — They can bring a CIAC girls volleyball cham­pi­onship back to their school for the first time in their life­times on Satur­day, but the mo­ti­va­tion for St. Joseph is way sim­pler.

“Ev­ery­one’s just ready,” se­nior set­ter Grace Vo­calina said af­ter Tues­day night’s 3-0 Class M semi­fi­nal win over Had­dam-Killing­worth. “We’re so pas­sion­ate. We want to do it for each other.”

The top-seeded Cadets with­stood a late surge from H-K at the end of the first set but rolled to a 25-19, 25-13, 25-10 win to reach the pro­gram’s eighth Class M final. It has won five of those seven cham­pi­onship matches, but none since 1997.

The Cadets reached the final in 2014, when this year’s se­niors were fresh­men.

“They were in the stands as JV play­ers back then,” coach Jeff Babineau said. “It’s good that they saw it. They know what it’s about. I think they’re ready.”

St. Joseph (24-2) plays Satur­day at sev­enth-seeded East Haven (which hosts all four fi­nals), time to be an-

nounced. The Yel­low­jack­ets (21-5) knocked off third seed and de­fend­ing cham­pion Sey­mour 3-2.

The fourth-seeded Cougars (21-4) were seek­ing their first berth in a Class M final. They reached the quar­ter­fi­nals the past two years af­ter win­ning Class S in 2014.

Cougars coach Robin Cal­len­der said they knew they’d have to be on their game Tues­day.

“We were very in­con­sis­tent right from the start,” Cal­len­der said. “St. Joe’s is a great, in­cred­i­ble team. They were very con­sis­tent. They got the job done and had a cou­ple of great hit­ters.”

Vo­calina cred­ited her hit­ters for keep­ing Had­dam-Killing­worth out of sync, as well as St. Joseph’s serv­ing: On 73 serves, the Cadets made just three er­rors, one in each set.

“We were able just con­sis­tently to keep serves in,” Vo­calina said.

The Cadets’ serve-re­ceive helped Vo­calina to 24 as­sists. The of­fense was spread around, with nine kills for Elena Ball, seven for Brid­get Fatse and six for Christina Crocco.

The first set was 5-5 be­fore St. Joseph took con­trol, lead­ing 10-5, 16-9, 24-13. The Cougars went on a run on libero Lizzie Doxsee’s serve, but a Fatse kill fin­ished it off.

“I kept telling them, now we’re in the semi­fi­nals, and you can’t give up an eight-, 10-point lead and not have a chance to come back,” Cal­len­der said.

Runs of 9-0 and 7-0 gave the Cadets a 16-3 lead in the sec­ond set. They steadily built their lead in the third.

“We’ve worked like this all year,” Babineau said. “We’ve worked hard at get­ting the chem­istry, at not let­ting the ball touch the floor.”

PLAYER OF THE MATCH

Tough pick in an im­pres­sive al­laround St. Joseph night. In the mid­dle of it all was se­nior set­ter Grace Vo­calina, who had 24 as­sists.

TAK­ING POS­I­TIVES

The Cougars were Shore­line Con­fer­ence cham­pi­ons and car­ried a 16match win­ning streak into Tues­day.

“We def­i­nitely had some ups and downs,” Cal­len­der said. “At one point we had three starters hurt. It took a while. We’re just go­ing to fo­cus on pos­i­tive things. Hope­fully we’ll learn for next year. We’ve got eight ju­niors, and hope­fully this will help them.”

WORTH AT LEAST THREE POINTS

This prob­a­bly would have been way fur­ther up in this story had H-K won, but as the Cougars warmed up be­fore the match, se­nior Sam Mo­hammed heaved a volleyball into a cart near her bench from the other side of the court.

QUOTABLE

“We kept the pres­sure on. We kept them out of their sys­tems all night. We cap­i­tal­ized on ev­ery­thing they did wrong.” —St. Joseph coach Jeff Babineau

Erik Traut­mann / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Had­dam-Killingsworth’s Kather­ine Porter sets the ball against St. Joseph in their Class M semi­fi­nal game on Tues­day in Mil­ford. Tues­day.

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