GREENWICH — Holding a seven-point lead in the first game, the Greenwich Academy volleyball team was close to beginning Wednesday’s match against Choate Rosemary Hall with a significant momentum boost.
Yet, especially in volleyball, the tone of a match can change quickly and Choate finished the first game with a flurry, putting Greenwich Academy in catch-up mode.
Coming back to win the opening proved to be pivotal for Choate Rosemary Hall, which registered an important 3-1 win over Greenwich Academy.
Choate, which like GA is battling for a berth in the NEPSAC Tournament, won the match by set scores of 25-21, 20-25, 25-16, 25-23.
Greenwich Academy, which will compete in the FAA Tournament next week, entered Wednesday’s matchup ranked No. 8 in the NEPSAC — the top eight teams qualify for the New England Tournament. The Gators overall record stands at 9-5, while Choate improved to 7-8. Choate still also has a chance to reach the postseason.
“We’ve had our ups and downs this year, after having a long, long, stretch of success, “Choate coach David Loeb said. “This is a building year for us and I know Greenwich Academy has probably been circling us on their calendar. We’ve lost a couple of five-setters, so it was nice to get it done in four.”
Unfortunately for Greenwich Academy, sophomore middle hitter Whitney Wise rolled her ankle early in the first game, forcing her to be sidelined thereafter. Wise, who has consistently helped pace the Gators’ is one of the team’s leaders in kills and the squad, of course, hopes to have her back in action soon.
“When Whitney got hurt, we had to rotate into that position,” GA coach Christy Girard said. “We tried to manage what we could with a lineup that’s never been practiced.”
Trailing 19-12, Choate worked its way back into the first game behind several kills from junior Maddy Estenson and a key kill from sophomore Ella Sklar.
A kill by Estenson gave Choate the lead for good in the opening set at 20-19. Sklar posted a kill for the visitors, knotting the game at 19-19. Senior Kim Kiki closed out the set for Choate with a kill.
In the second set, GA had the upperhand, with sophomore Evie Kay Girard, sophomore Alexandra Trofort and junior Valeska Lasky helping to pace the offense. Consecutive aces from Girard gave the Gators a 20-17 second-game edge and kills by senior Megan Belcastro and Trofort made it 23-19 later in the game. Girard served out the set.
“We have struggled with our serve receive and that’s the thing that got us,” Trofort said. “We have to keep working on our serves and focus on being consistent with our serve receive. That is something we are still improving, even though we have been doing pretty well with it during the season.”
Added Belcastro: “This was a tough loss for us, but we didn’t play our best. We are going to keep focusing on getting those reps in at practice when it comes to serve receive and focus on our communication.”
The third game saw Choate jump out to leads of 8-2 and 15-8, behind the solid play of sophomore Morgan Skoda and senior Ally Chadha. The home team closed to within 16-13, on a block by Trofort and an ace from Belcastro, but Choate finished the third set strong.
“Greenwich Academy is a very strong team, they beat Taft and we lost to Taft, so we were expecting a tough match and that’s what we got,” Chadha said. “We were down by seven, or eight points in the first game, but what really helped us was focusing in on what we needed to do. We kept things simple and locked in on every touch on the ball.”
“It was a really good game, they were playing well and it took us a minute to adjust,” Evie Kay Girard said. “Everyone stepped up pretty nicely.”
Said Lasky: “We really competed with them, we just had to keep our serves more consistent.”
HONORING THEIR SENIOR
Alexandra Handrinos, the team’s lone senior, was honored on Senior Day. She helped lead the team from the libero position.
“This is the first year I made the team, I really improved a lot and I felt so welcomed by everyone,” Handrinos. “Valeska, Megan and Catherine (Burns) may be younger than me, but they helped me so much — they know the game so well.”
Greenwich Academy plays Kent next, then begins play in the FAA Tournament. If Hopkins defeats King on Friday, GA will get the No. 2 seed and earn a first-round bye in the tournament. Should King win, GA will play a first-round game on Monday.