GREENWICH — The schedule didn’t exactly allow Greenwich and Westhill to ease into their respective seasons, facing each other Thursday in a rematch of last year’s Class LL Tournament quarterfinals.
The Vikings, who eliminated the Cardinals from the state tournament in 2018, made the first statement Thursday, taking the opening game in impressive fashion, but Greenwich had the final say.
Rebounding from a loss in the first game, Greenwich won the next three and began its season in style, registering a 3-1 victory in an FCIAC match.
Westhill (0-1) went 2-0 against Greenwich last season, including a 3-0 triumph in the Class LL quarterfinals.
“Playing Westhill was extra motivation for us,” Cardinals junior co-captain Lilly Saleeby said. “Last year, we lost to them in our own gym in five sets and in the state quarterfinals we lost to them in three, which was tough. So that inspired us to get this win today — that was extra motivation.”
Saleeby recorded a team-high 18 kills and added 10 digs for Greenwich, which won the match by game scores of 21-25, 25-22, 25-21, 25-11.
“Westhill is really scrappy, they serve hard and they pass well,” GHS coach Steve Lapham said. “That’s what they did to us last year, but last year we didn’t respond well in terms of hitting. Beating a good team like that was a great way for us to start the season.”
The Vikings, who advanced to the semifinal-round of the Class LL tourney, where they lost to Amity in 2018, were paced by eight kills by senior Sophia Thagouras and 39 assists by junior Maddy Bautista.
“I think the girls definitely did come out strong,” Westhill coach Caitlin Santasiero said. “Playing consistently throughout the whole entire match is really important to us. Our defense looked great, but we need to pick up our offense a litle bit.”
After Westhill won the first set, 25-22, Greenwich gained the momentum and took the lead midway through the second. A kill by Cornelia Roach evened the score at 13-13, then the Cards took the lead at 14-13 on Saleeby’s kill at the net.
With the score tied at 19-19, Celeste Walstrom-Vangor served an ace and Roach posted a kill, putting the Cardinals ahead, 21-19. Adele Sotgiu’s kill closed out the second game.
Sotgiu, a sophomore, had 12 kills, Roach tallied eight kills and libero Chelsea Cleary notched 12 digs for the victors.
The Cardinals were impressive in the serve receive department, with Sotgiu leading the way with 17 digs and Saleeby finishing with 10 digs.
“I’m really proud of how we did today,” Saleeby said. “First-game jitters, we were trying to be fancy and we weren’t playing simple volleyball. But after that loss in the first set, we knew we had to slow down the pace and play nice, clean, simple volleyball.”
Thalia Doundalakis had two aces for Greenwich, which was also led by Heather Zitzman in front.
“Our energy was so high in the first set, we were making mistakes,” Lapham said. “The end of the first set gave us a chance to catch our breath, settle in and play our game.”
Thagouras capped the first game for Westhill with a kill.
“We all wanted to come out strong and we started off the first game with high energy,” Thagouras said. “I think it took a turn when our energy level was down a bit after that and we let them keep scoring on us. A lot of our mistakes were contributing to their points, so we need to minimize that next time. We will make some adjustments in our next game.”
Senior Nayak Sanjana had 24 digs and junior Vana Servos added 13 assists for the visitors.
“Greenwich’s defense was great and their hitting was great,” Santasiero said. “From our side, we came out with strong serving and I liked how we played defensively.”
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Saleeby ignited Greenwich throughout.
“Lilly is an all-around player,” Lapham said. “She is a great leader out there. Every time we start to struggle, she pulls the team together.”