WOODBRIDGE >> With strong defense played by both teams, it was the play at the net for Amity that put the Spartans over the top vs. Hand on Wednesday.
Behind Abby Harbinson’s seven blocks and 15 kills, Amity swept Daniel Hand — 25-15, 26-24, 26-24 — at the Paul D. Mengold Gym to remain a perfect 10-0 and also sweep the season series between two of the top teams in the Southern Connecticut Conference.
Hand falls to 9-3 after its second loss of the week.
No. 4 in the latest statewide coaches poll, Amity started like one of the best teams in the state taking an early 8-3 lead with its middle Harbinson and outside hitter Kathleen Walsh playing big right out of the gate.
A few errors midway through the first set allowed Hand to creep back within two at 13-11. But after scoring 12 of the next 14 points, the Spartans had a one set lead.
Sets two and three were a completely different story and Harbinson’s blocks became increasingly important.
“I think it really helped our defense in the back court a lot,” Harbinson said. “It gave them a helping hand to get a touch on the ball. And if we got a stuff block I think it really helped the team get our moral up and get the momentum going.”
A rash of errors 12 points into the second set swung the differential from a 7-5 Amity lead to a 9-7 Hand advantage. The Tigers expanded that to a 17-11 lead and looked to be in control of the second set until a Walsh kill momentarily slowed the bleeding.
Four points later Harbinson recorded a block, followed by a kill and, before you knew it, Amity had tied the score at 21-21 thanks to two more blocks from the sophomore.
“Blocks are something that always kind of turns the tide a little bit,” Amity coach Seth Davis said. “When you can get a lot of them in one set it always helps out to get that extra energy going.”
Harbinson was able to read the Hand middle hitter early in the match and that helped as the score got tighter later on.
“I noticed the middle was going in the same direction a general portion of the time,” Harbinson said. “I tried to set my hands up with the direction that she tended to hit.”
Sophia Halepas got two kills in a row to give Hand a 23-21 lead, but a couple errors and three more kills from Walsh, who finished with a match-high 17, completed the comeback and gave the Spartans a 2-0 lead.
“[The blocking] maybe effected us in the sense that we weren’t ready to cover necessarily,” Hand coach Ally Johnson said. “Because we haven’t been blocked as much as that. But my hitters kept swinging away and they didn’t stop hitting.”
The third set remained tight throughout, but it looked like Amity would cruise to the finish after attaining a 22-16 lead, but Hand’s Amanda Gentile and Halle Freund got in on the block party rejecting two of three attempts to give the Tigers life.
Gentile led Hand with eight kills and four blocks while Olivia Finke had 16 digs.
“They play a phenomenal defense and never quit,” Davis said.
Then after three straight Amity errors and two consecutive aces from Hand’s Maddy Pease it was 24-23 Tigers lead.
Davis called a timeout and helped his team regroup with the hope of ending the match in just a couple of points.
“We knew our job as a team was to focus on our own game,” Harbinson said. “It was important for us to settle down and focus in on exactly what we had to do in that point to get the goal done.”
Madeline Adzigian tipped in a point for Amity and Jaiden Williams recorded an ace to give the Spartans match point. The final point was decided on a double hit call on Hand to give Amity the third set and the match.