Volleyball: Trojans’ run ends in finals

The desire was there for the Weston High volleyball team in the South-West Conference championship.

The third-seeded Trojans, who were making their first-ever appearance in the title match, had thoughts of pulling off another upset when they took on undefeated Joel Barlow on Tuesday. They had managed one a day earlier when they dispatched two-time defending champ Newtown.

However, the Trojans did not find their most recent opponent as vulnerable. The top-seeded Falcons, who have not lost a single game this season, continued their run with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-17) sweep, their 21st straight.

“They are such a solid team,” said Weston head coach Jamie Charles, citing Barlow’s performance this season. “They cover the floor so well.”

The loss was Weston’s first since Sept. 21 when it fell to the same opponent. It then embarked upon a 13-match winning streak that carried into the post-season, which began with the SWC quarterfinals against sixth-seeded Pomperaug on Sunday.

Since school was closed for several days due to the hurricane the Trojans’ practice schedule had been disrupted. They took some time to work out some inconsistencies before winning 3-1 (25-23, 21-25, 26-24, 25-21).

“We were really able to bounce back despite making a lot of mistakes,” said Charles. “We just started playing a few days ago because we have been out of school. After this much time off I knew that it would take a while for us to get back on track tonight. We were able to pull of the win.”

Weston started  the first game with a 6-0 run and led 7-2 before a block by the Panthers won them back the serve. The momentum shifted back and forth but the Trojans never lost the lead.

With the score tied at 10-10 in the second game Pomperaug took advantage of Weston miscues to take the lead and stretched it to 20-13. The hosts drew as close as 24-21 but and errant pass on their part and the match was tied at 1-1 in games.

Pomperaug started the third game on a 5-0 run but gave up the lead. Weston chipped away and tied it up at 22-22 and again at 24-24 and won it when a Panther hit went out of bounds

Weston was down 6-2 at the start of the fourth game and then tied it at 6-6. The set went back and forth for a little while as both teams faulted on their serve or hit balls into the net. Down 18-15, the Trojans used a 6-0 run and then outscored the Panthers 4-3 to close out the win and advance to the semifinals.

“We came out okay, but then with missing serves, and Pomperaug is great a blocking, and that took us out of our game,” said Charles. “We couldn’t get tips down. They really played great defense and made us adjust our game strategy to get the ball down.”

Savannah Carpenter led Weston at the net with 22 kills and on the floor with 31 digs. She also had eight service points.

Fran Holmes helped on the floor with 24 digs and led in serving with 14 points. Justine Belport had eight kills and 15 digs.

Taylor Swanson had 37 assists and 11 digs. Sydney Weiss served up 10 points and had four kills and 12 digs. Anna Hengelbrok had seven kills and nine digs.

The ability to maintain its focus is has helped the Trojans in some difficult matches, including the quarterfinals.  Down 2-1 in games to second-seeded Newtown, they kept their composure, answering the threat each time. The most important instance was in the fifth and deciding game that went down to the wire before Weston ultimately won 3-2 (25-20, 19-25, 22-25, 25-20, 18-16) on the latter’s home court.

“I have a talented group of girls,” said Charles, whose team lost in the semifinals to the same opponent in each of the past two seasons. “I was so proud. They came through at the end.”

Weston caught its opponent by surprise in the first game, never trailing from the start, despite five ties along the way, the last coming at 15-15. It was then that Weiss reeled off six straight service points, helped by the strong play at the net by Carpenter and Hengelbrok before going on to win it.

“We all played solid volleyball,” said Carpenter. “We knew what we had to do.”

The Nighthawks, however, responded by taking a 7-0 lead in the second game on the serve of Meghan Logan. Although Weston closed the gap to four points on a number of occasions, the last time coming at 23-19, Logan’s kill brought her team to game point and she won it on her serve.

A 5-0 run by the Nighthawks started the third game and the lead grew to as much as 11-3, prompting Weston to call time-out. Mistakes on Newtown’s part helped the Trojans tie it at 18-18, which was as close as they came.

The Trojans also overcame an early deficit in the fourth game, which featured 12 ties and seven lead changes. Three straight service points by Carpenter put her team up 21-18 and an ace by Hengelbrok made it 23-19 as Weston eventually tied the match.

The deciding game was another close one. Weston was at match point seven times before winning.

Up 14-10, it faulted on its serve, bringing back memories of two years ago when Newtown came back to win it. The Trojans did not falter this time.

An errant hit by the Nighthawks put the Trojans back on top at 17-16 and Hengelbrok’s kill clinched it.

“We worked well together,” said Swanson, who finished with 30 assists, 10 points and four digs. “I’m so proud of my team right now.”

Hengelbrok had 11 service points with four blocks and six digs. Carpenter had 12 kills, 10 digs and four blocks while Belport finished with 13 points, 10 kills and six digs.

Holmes had seven digs, four kills and five points. Weiss finished with 12 service points and five digs.

Although Weston lost to Barlow earlier in the season it was without Swanson, who was recovering from knee surgery. With her back in the lineup it was looking forward to another opportunity against the same opponent.

“We were excited to play them again,” said Charles. “I told them to come out  and give it their best shot.”

Weston posed its biggest threat early, battling its opponent for much of the first game. Even when Barlow had the lead the Trojans trailed by no more than three points for most of the way.

Carpenter’s kills broke a 16-16 tie and the Trojans then went up 18-16 before the Falcons answered with five straight points of their own with the help of back-to-back kills by Victoria Shea. After calling time-out, Weston tied it at 21-21 but a few errors on its part put the Falcons in front again and they closed out the win.

Barlow wasted no time going up early in the next contest, taking a 10-2 lead  yet the Trojans again battled back, cutting the lead to just a points (19-18, 20-19). Sarah McAniff’s kill won back the serve and another by Shea a short while later ended the game.

Shea started the third game with a six point run for Barlow and it remained out of reach for the rest of the match.

Carpenter led Weston with 17 kills and 18 digs. Swanson had 23 assists to go with seven digs and six service points. Both were named to the all-tournament team.

Belport had five kills and 11 digs and Hengelbrok finished with six blocks and eight digs.

Holmes had nine digs and four points. Weiss added five kills and five points.

“They’re obviously disappointed that they lost but it’s good motivation,” said Charles, looking ahead to the state Class M tournament. “It’s good motivation. We’ll see what it does.”

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