Fal­cons make it 7 straight

Ro­bichaud earns MVP honors with 31 kills

The News-Times (Sunday) - - Sports - By Steve Geoghe­gan

WESTON — For the past six years, Joel Bar­low proved it was the best girls vol­ley­ball pro­gram in the South-West Con­fer­ence and the Fal­cons con­tin­ued their dom­i­nance this sea­son.

Thanks to an MVP per­for­mance from se­nior out­side hit­ter Kiara Ro­bichaud, Bar­low cap­tured its sev­enth con­sec­u­tive SWC crown and put a cap on an­other stel­lar league cam­paign fol­low­ing a 3-1 vic­tory over New­town on Satur­day night at Weston High.

Top-seeded Bar­low (21-1) went to five sets on two oc­ca­sions against the sec­ond-seeded Nighthawks in gain­ing a split dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, but the Fal­cons took a 2-0 lead in the match and never looked back.

“They played great and they ex­e­cuted the game plan al­most per­fectly,” Bar­low’s sixth-year head coach Carol Conti-As­plund said of her play­ers. “For that I com­mend them. We com­pletely changed ev­ery­thing the last two weeks. They be­lieved in it and they be­lieve in their coaches and they came out and showed it.”

The ad­just­ments, in­clud­ing be­ing pa­tient and wait­ing for kills, worked and the de­fense sti­fled No. 2 New­town (17-5) to the tune of 78 to­tal digs while the Fal­cons served at 95 per­cent.

“It’s a de­fense that we have in our back pocket and we prac­tice it ev­ery day,” Conti-As­plund said. “We don’t use it very of­ten, we’re usu­ally a perime­ter team de­fense but we de­cided to use it against Ma­suk and New­town (in the play­offs) and it worked.”

Bar­low was click­ing on all cylin­ders, and even though the

Nighthawks kept things close in the first and sec­ond sets, the Fal­cons had enough to pull away usu­ally be­hind the strength of Ro­bichaud, who fin­ished with 31 kills, and Ju­lia Mullin (13 kills).

The com­bi­na­tion of Ro­bichaud and stand­out ju­nior set­ter Kayleigh Emanuel­son (37 as­sists) was on point the en­tire evening.

“It all was my team’s pass­ing,” said Ro­bichaud, who would like to play vol­ley­ball in col­lege. “My set­ter’s set­ting that en­abled me to get the kills. With­out my team­mates, I wouldn’t have done as well as I did.”

Even though the Fal­cons had the mo­men­tum with a 2-0 lead, the Nighthawks bounced back in the third set with a 25-21 win.

Un­for­tu­nately for the Nighthawks, Bar­low came out strong in the fourth. The Fal­cons took a 20-9 edge, on the strength of the serv­ing of Ro­bichaud, Emanuel­son and Ri­ley Par­adise.

“It’s al­ways fun to play Bar­low but un­for­tu­nately it didn’t work out in our fa­vor,” New­town head coach Tom Czaplin­ski said. “They have a strong team with a great group of play­ers. We couldn’t find an an­swer for them I know that.”

Conti-As­plund cred­ited the play­ers for the streak of suc­cess in the SWC for her pro­gram.

“It’s a lot of hard work on the girls,” she said. “It’s a cul­ture and it was built be­fore I was head coach with Steve An­tal.”

PLAYER OF THE MATCH

Kiara Ro­bichaud, Joel Bar­low

The se­nior out­side hit­ter was named the SWC Tour­na­ment MVP and had 31 kills, 18 digs and a block.

UN­SUNG HERO

Kayleigh Emanuel­son, Joel Bar­low

The ju­nior set­ter racked up 37 as­sists, eight digs and three aces.

ALL-TOUR­NA­MENT TEAM

The Fal­cons had three play­ers make the SWC All-Tour­na­ment team in­clud­ing Ro­bichaud, Emanuel­son and Ju­lia Mullin. The Nighthawks were rep­re­sented by Kim But­tery and Genevieve Mur­ray and round­ing out the team were Ma­suk’s Ana Cas­tro-Ro­driguez and Brook­field’s Josie Luizzi.

QUOTABLE

“Los­ing that third set gave us the mo­ti­va­tion we needed to take it home in that fourth and fi­nal set,” Ro­bichaud said.

“She (Ro­bichaud) is a spe­cial kid and she never lets the pres­sure get to her,” Conti-As­plund said of her stand­out se­nior out­side hit­ter.

“(New­town) played amaz­ing and they’re an amaz­ing team,” Emanuel­son said. “We came to play tonight and we knew what we had to do. We just had to ex­e­cute.”

“I love this team and I re­ally wanted them to pull out a vic­tory be­cause of how great of a team I think they are but it just wasn’t there for us tonight,” Czaplin­ski said.

Scott Mullin / For Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Joel Bar­low’s Kiara Ro­bichaud goes for the kill dur­ing the Fal­cons’ 3-1 vic­tory over New­town in the SWC girls vol­ley­ball cham­pi­onship on Satur­day in Weston.

Scott Mullin / For Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

New­town’s Natalie Horn slams a shot dur­ing the Nighthawks’ 3-1 loss to Joel Bar­low in the SWC cham­pi­onship Satur­day.

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