NEW HAVEN — With the mid-point of the season passing by, there were some similarities between both the East Haven and Career girls volleyball teams. Each has sustained a losing streak of two games or more, and each had a pair of two-game winning streaks.
The inconsistency for both teams thus far is something each team would like to fix.
Behind the play of Bella Ragaini, East Haven completed its regular-season sweep of the Panthers with a 3-1 Southern Connecticut Conference Quinnipiac Division victory Wednesday evening at Career High. The 24-26, 25-18, 26-24, 25-16 victory allowed East Haven to remain on top of the division and also helped the Yellowjackets improve their record to 7-5 overall on the year.
“We are one game closer to the states and one game closer to the SCC tournament,” East Haven coach Craig Brown said. “”We have a tough schedule. Our losses have been to Seymour, Amity, Cheshire, and Guilford. All of our losses have been to top teams in the state.”
For Career coach Korina DeFelice, it was a case of her team making too many mistakes which it could not overcome.
“The character of this team is very unique,” DeFelice said. “They all have passion. I am extremely proud of this team and what they have done so far. These girls are very capable.”
Ragaini was the story for East Haven as she turned the outcome of the contest around in the second game after East Haven squandered a nine point lead to lose by two points in the opening game.
With her team trailing 17-12 and looking at going down two games to none, Ragaini flicked the switch at the service line, serving the next 11 points, including a pair of aces. By the time the run was over on a kill by Taylor Salato, East Haven had a 24-17 lead.
The key for Ragaini and the Yellowjackets in the run was Ragaini finding Career struggling in the middle of the court. Ragaini used various forms of her serve to attack the weakness.
“I am not really known as an aggressive server and getting a lot of aces,” Ragaini said. “I just try to find the weak spot on the court and adjust going far or short. I try to move the serve around.”
Ragaini finished the game with seven aces and a solid performance on the service line, but it was her setting up of the offense which was the key for East Haven. The senior finished with 36 assists as Salato was the beneficiary with 13 kills.
“She is a four-year starter,” Brown said of Ragaini. “She is part of that team that went to the state championship. She is smart out there. She is able to pick her spots to win points. She does it game after game.”
Ragaini and Salato, along with Megan Gaudioso also led the defensive efforts. Gaudioso had nine digs, Salato added seven blocks, and Ragaini had five digs.
“We gave a lot of points away,” Ragaini said. “We were up in that first game and we let them get back. Once we get going and are aggressive, we are good.”
With the match even at one, a pair of kills by Eliza Goldberg gave East Haven a 12-8 lead in the third game. The Yellowjackets were up 15-10, before a kill by Sarah Murray got Career within 15-13.
A kill by Career’s Maye Pedraza led to a 22-18 Career lead, but an ace by East Haven’s Victoria Heaphy started a run that included a soft kill by Goldberg for a 25-24 advantage.
East Haven controlled the fourth and final game after taking a 6-5 lead on an ace by Kayla Goodrich. Two aces by Autumn Clancy, and a kill by Salato had the Yellowjackets cruising at 16-7.
Career battled back to win the first game after trailing 17-8. Eight errors by East Haven contributed to the run, while an ace by Lizandra Gonzalez gave Career a 26-24 victory.
Player of the Game
Bella Ragaini, East Haven: Senior turned the match around at the service line in the second game, serving 11 consecutive points. She finished with 36 assists, seven aces, and five digs.
“We have a lot of older kids and some younger kids playing. Those kids watched our team go to the finals. They want that. They know if you make a mistake, you have to rebound from it. Volleyball is a game of errors. You have to make less errors.”
— East Haven coach Craig Brown