MILFORD — After losing the first game against Ellington, Dani Kemp and the Foran Lions knew exactly what they needed to do. A few simple adjustments later and the Foran volleyball team was on its way to another state quarterfinal match.
Led by the defense of Kemp and the passing of Bryzy Gonski, No. 6 Foran rallied to defeat No. 11 Ellington 19-25, 25-15, 25-19 and 25-18 in a CIAC Class M second-round contest at Foran High Wednesday night.
With the win, Foran advances to the state quarterfinals, where the Lions will travel to play Granby Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. Ellington closes its season at 12-9.
“Coach Julie (Johnson) always tells us to be on our toes and to expect everything,” Kemp said after finishing with 18 digs. “They were doing a lot of off speed stuff and tips. Once we adjusted to expect the tips and everything else, we were fine.
“Getting back to the quarterfinals is great for us. It is great for our program.”
Foran (14-7) led early in the opening game but the Knights closed out the first game with a 20-8 run. Foran made numerous errors to help the Knights in the run and Kristine Gouin and Amber Agnew each had a pair of aces.
Agnew was at the line for seven straight points, before Janae Owen’s kill got Foran within 22-16. Paige Raucci brought the Lions within 24-19 but a kill by Ellington’s Samantha Salwa gave the Knights the opening victory.
“Over the course of the season, not a lot of teams vary their offense,” Foran coach Julie Johnson said. “Amity last week and Ellington tip a lot. I would definitely say that is one of the things we need to work on. They did a great job making us work for our digs.”
Coming off a first-round bye and having not played since the league tournament, the Lions finally got going in the second game. Kills by Owen, Gonski and Kelly Hunt gave Foran a 5-0 lead.
Fallon Bevino and Lucy Weissauer had kills for a 12-4 advantage and another kill by Hunt extended the lead to 19-11. The Knights got as close as 24-15, but Bevino ripped another kill to close out the second game.
“We did not know too much about them,” Bevino said after finishing with 9 kills. “We figured out what we had to do. We picked it up the last three games.”
The Lions rode the momentum of winning the second game into the third game. Trailing 6-5, kills by Bevino and Abby Amann gave Foran a 7-6 lead and the Lions cruised from there.
Amann was particularly effective at the service line, serving three straight aces to give the Lions an 18-8 lead. Two kills by Bevino increased the leads to 23-13 and 24-16 before Ellington’s Jenna Ferguson saw her serve sail wide to give the Lions the win in the third game.
“We made some very good adjustments with our defense,” Bevino said. “Our defense was key today.”
The fourth game looked like it would be simple for the Lions as a pair of kills by Owen, another by Hunt and a block by Owen gave Foran a 7-2 lead. Ellington came back to take leads of 13-12 and 16-15 before Bevino, Amann and company took over.
With Kemp providing plenty of help on defense, Bevino took advantage with a booming kill to even the game at 16. An ace by Amann increased the lead to 17-16 and a kill by Hunt increased the margin to 19-17.
With Gonski on the line, the Lions increased the margin to 24-17 before Owen’s kill closed the match.
“It’s great getting to the quarterfinals,” Johnson said. “I spent enough time my first couple of years not making the tournament at all. The last five years we have been to the quarterfinals or semifinals.
“We are really peaking right now. The team has played really well at times. I feel we have so much more to do.”
Gonski played well for the Lions, finishing with 40 assists, six aces and two kills. Owen finished the game with 11 kills, Amann had seven kills and six aces and Hunt finished with eight kills.