MILFORD — Having already played Guilford twice in the regular season, the Foran volleyball was well aware of what to expect. The Lions made sure there were no fifth-game decisions as was the case the last time the two teams met.
Behind the ball movement of Bryzy Gonski, the hitting of Fallon Bevino and the defense of Dani Kemp, the sixth-seeded Lions defeated No. 11 Guilford 25-20, 25-14 and 26-24 in the opening round of the Southern Connecticut Conference tournament at Foran High Saturday afternoon.
With the win, Foran advances to the quarterfinals, where the Lions will play at No. 3 Amity Monday at 5:30 p.m.
“I thought we played well,” Foran coach Julie Johnson said. “We moved the ball around well. Bryzy Gonski did such a good job moving the ball around so everyone got the opportunity to get their swings in.”
Bevino came up big in key spots of the match, finishing with 13 kills, many of which helped keep the Lions in front.
“We are able to run our quick sets and they (opposition) can’t get their blocks up,” Bevino said. “We are fortunate where we don’t always have to go to the outside hitter or the back row. We are so lucky we have talented players like we do. No one expects the ball to go to the right side and we have hitters like Lucy (Weissauer) and Paige (Raucci).”
The Lions set the tone of the match early and the key was the serving.
Foran was on the money all game with its serving as the Lions missed only a handful of serves throughout the match. The Indians, on the other hand, missed 14 in the game, and that was the difference in the match.
“Our serving hurt us,” Guilford coach Rachel Martinich said. “We missed 13 or 14 serves in the game. We lost the first game by five points and we made five service point errors. You can’t do that against a good team. You can’t give a good team like Foran points like that.”
The Indians held the lead three times in the first game by one point, but could never pull ahead by more. Ahead 11-10 with a chance to extend the lead, a bad serve evened the game at 11 and the Lions used kills by Paige Raucci and Lucy Weissauer and a block by Bevino to take a 14-13 lead.
When Janae Owen blasted another kill, Foran led 16-13 and never relinquished the lead in the opening game as Raucci and Bevino used kills for the final two points of the game.
“We want to establish our middle, so we don’t have to go to Fallon all the time,” Johnson said. “That is really important as it doesn’t allow the other teams to set up for Fallon all the time and it gets our other hitters their opportunities.”
Guilford opened the second game with a net serve and Foran never trailed.
The Indians used a kill by Sam Grinold to even the game at 7, but with a chance to take the lead, Annie Casley’s serve sailed out.
Foran’s Abi Amann increased the lead to 9-7 with a kill and an ace by Jenna Zacarelli increased the lead to three points. Kills by Bevino and Raucci extended the margin to 15-9 before the Indians got as close as they would get in the second game as a kill by Presley Altieri brought Guilford within four points.
With Gonski on the line, three aces, a kill by Weissauer and a block by Owen increased the lead to 21-11. A kill by Bevino and an ace by Kemp ended any chance of a Guilford comeback in the game.
Guilford showed plenty of character in the third game. With the Lions on top 20-13 after two aces by Bevino, the Indians used a pair of kills by Grinold and a kill by Altieri to get within 22-18.
Three Foran errors allowed Guilford to get within 23-21 before Kayla Ellis’ kill had Guilford’s run in the tournament on the brink. A kill by Altieri and an ace by Lynn Guibbory led to a 24-24 tie before Foran scored the final two points to seal the match.
“I have eight seniors and I think they realized that that could be their last game in the SCC tournament,” Martinich said. “We got a few points, but it was a tough end to a nice comeback.”
Grinold led the Indians with 11 kills and seven digs. Kristen Urban had 19 assists and five digs, while Altieri added eight digs and six kills.