GREENWICH — Generation Next of the King girls volleyball program is starting to write its own history.
The young 2019 Vikings rallied to defeat Greenwich Academy in five thrilling sets, 10-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-20, 15-12 in the FAA Tournament semifinals Wednesday night at the Gators’ gym.
“I’ve been telling these girls all season long that they have the tools to go all the way and win titles,” King coach Tung Tran said. “Every match is different. But it’s all about chemistry.”
King’s late chemistry allowed the No. 3 seed to advance to Friday’s FAA Tournament final at No. 1 Hopkins. The Hilltoppers earned their berth in the final by sweeping No. 4 seed Sacred Heart Greenwich, 3-0 at home Wednesday night.
King takes 5th set in a FAA semi-final battle against @gwichacademy! Here is match point celebration! Vikings now move on to FAA final @HopScores in Friday at 4:30! #VikingPride #GoVikes! @NEPSAC @GameTimeCT #ctvb pic.twitter.com/oaSe71TLjW
— King School Vikings (@kingschoolct) November 7, 2019
The FAA final will be a rematch for King and Hopkins. Hopkins captured the FAA regular season championship and No. 1 playoff seed by sweeping King, 3-0 last Friday on the road.
“We’re excited to play Hopkins again,” said King’s top hitter Nicole Salantay. “Having seen them once, we know what we have to do this Friday. The FAA final will be a good fight.”
Early on Wednesday, King (14-2) didn’t put up much of a fight as No. 2 Greenwich Academy rolled to victory in Game 1. The Gators jumped out to 9-2 and 15-6 leads before closing it out 25-10.
GA seemed in good shape in Game 2 with leads of 11-7 and 16-12.
— King School Vikings (@kingschoolct) November 6, 2019
However, with Norah Shattan serving early and Marina Malin serving late, King began to attack rather than react.
GA still led 22-20 and 23-22 before King won three straight points to even the match.
In Game 3, King led 10-5 only to see GA use a 10-2 surge for a 15-12 cushion. The Gators led the rest of the way, winning 25-21 for a 2-1 edge.
But King, which has won a plethora of FAA Tournament titles while GA can only claim runnerup status in 2013 and 2014, decided its postseason life was precious.
The Vikings led 13-3, 16-7 and 21-13 in Game 4. GA closed to 21-19 before King sophomore Salantay had some timely kills for 25-20 and a 2-2 tie.
“With our group, the key is always our mental state,” Salantay said. “When we play each point like it’s 24-24, we keep pushing and we all work together.”
In Game 5, after a 6-6 tie, King led 9-6, 12-9 and 14-10. A Salantay dink ended it at 15-12 and King moves on.
“Our rotations changed in mid-season,” Salantay said. “We’re putting it all together now. We’re on a hard playoff road but we have to keep going.”
As for Greenwich Academy, the Gators will await a possible NEPSAC Class A Tournament invitation. The good news is every player in their deep rotation will be returning next season.
“I’m proud of the character of my girls on the court,” said GA coach Christy Girard. “They have complete support and love for each other. There is no negativity. They make me so proud the way they represent GA.”