WOODBRIDGE — Amity volleyball coach Paul Thees was very concerned about playing a Southern Connecticut Conference quarterfinal match against Foran. Knowing they are well-coached and present numerous problems, Thees knew he would have to adjust throughout the match.
Moving his dominant outside hitter, Allison Denny, to the middle in the midst of the match proved to be the biggest move of the game. Finishing with 25 kills and 25 digs, Denny dominated from the center of the court as Amity held on to defeat the Lions 25-20, 21-25, 23-25, 25-21 and 15-9 at Amity High Monday night.
With the victory, third-seeded Amity improved to 17-4 and will play at No. 2 Mercy Wednesday night in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m. No. 6 Foran dropped to 13-7 and will now wait for the state tournament to begin.
“I honestly felt tremendously nervous about this game,” Thees said. “They have some really good players and they are very well-coached.
“I tried to go ahead and talk about defense. We played really great defense in the first game, then we sat back on our heels. They can hit. It became who was going to hit more which was going to win the game.”
As the game progressed, Foran was doing a nice job on Denny, blocking her on both sides. Thees changed Denny from the outside to the middle and Denny took over in the fourth game for the Spartans.
“We really are working hard to make it to the SCC finals,” Denny said. “After last year when we were declared co-champs, that has been our goal to get back. We played North Haven there on their Senior Night and we said we have to be back here (SCC finals).”
The move to the middle allowed for Denny to be freed up and the senior took advantage of it.
Trailing 2-1 in games, Amity rallied to even the match in the fourth game. After a pair of kills by Foran’s Janae Owen got the Lions within 13-12, Denny’s kill gave the Spartans a 16-15 advantage.
A kill by Foran’s Fallon Bevino brought the Lions within 20-17, but a kill by Amity’s Amanda Vecchio and a Foran error gave Amity the 4-point win.
After rallying to even the match in the fourth game, Amity took that momentum into the fifth game. Leading 5-3 in the final game, Vecchio went to the line and took advantage of three Foran errors for an 8-3 lead.
“They are a very good team,” Foran coach Julie Johnson said. “I’m happy with how we played. We played hard the whole game. Except for a couple of kids, we are really inexperienced.
“They are very good. We really played well. I am very proud of the way the girls played.”
With the final game only to 15 points, the Lions were in immediate trouble.
Two kills by Bevino got the Lions within 10-7, but Amity responded with a pair of kills by Caroline DelVecchio for a 12-7 lead.
Bevino did her best to keep the tournament alive for Foran as her two kills closed the gap to 13-9 before a service error by the Lions and a kill by Amity’s Claire Foster sealed the win for the Spartans.
“We knew they were going to come in with a lot of hitters,” Denny said. “We just tried to know where they were going for the kill.”
The two teams split the opening two games with Amity winning the first game and Foran rallying to even the match in the second game. Leading 18-16, a kill by Denny gave the Spartans some breathing room before her kill gave Amity a 24-20 lead in the first game.
Bevino and the Lions evened the match in the second game when the senior star’s kills evened the game at 9 and 14. Trailing 18-17, a block by Owen and another by Lucy Weissauer gave Foran a 19-18 lead, before Kaylee Ciolino served until Foran led 24-20 on an ace by Ciolino and a kill by Weissauer.
“They are a great team,” Bevino said. “We knew coming in, they were a good team and we were going to continue to play our style. They are well-coached. They deserved to win.”
Owen ended the second game with a block for the Lions, but Foran could not take advantage of the momentum in the fourth contest. Kills by Denny and Vecchio increased the margin to 11-8 and Denny’s kill a short time later once again put Amity in front 16-15. Two aces by Zoe Moscato increased the lead to 21-16 for Amity.
Bevino led Foran with 15 kills and eight digs, while Owen had 14 kills and Bryzy Gonski ran the offense with 45 assists. Kathryn Pisano led Amity with 44 assists, Vecchio had 11 kills and nine digs, Moscato had nine digs and Nina Luciani added six kills.