STAMFORD—Playoff time in the Fairchester Athletic Association means it is time for the King School girls volleyball program to write another chapter of history.
St. Luke’s gave No. 1 seed King all it could handle Wednesday. But the Vikings moved an important step closer to becoming four-time defending FAA champions by sweeping St. Luke’s, 26-24, 25-20, 25-23 in the FAA semifinals before a partisan crowd in their home gym.
“St. Luke’s is playing so well. It’s the best I’ve seen them play in a long, long time,” said King’s veteran coach Tung Tran. “They were so sharp.”
King had to reach down for a lot of character and postseason experience to advance to Friday’s FAA volleyball championship. King will host Sacred Heart Greenwich at 4:30 p.m. for the title. Sacred Heart Greenwich ousted Holy Child, 3-1 in Wednesday’s other semifinal.
King outfought Sacred Heart Greenwich, 3-2, in the FAA regular season back on September 26.
A STERN TEST FOR KING
King (15-1 overall) was tested in all three games by St. Luke’s (10-5 overall).
In Game 1, St. Luke’s led 6-2, 9-4, 13-6, 21-15 and 24-21.
But King responded to the challenge. Senior tri-captain Kelly Conheeney had a kill then served out four straight points for an improbable 26-24 Viking victory.
“Losing that first game would have taken something out of us,” said King senior tri-captain Alison Wheeler. “We weren’t surprised at how tough is was because St. Luke’s is a very good defensive group. They get everything back.”
“Our group is resilient,” said St. Luke’s coach Abby Abbott. “I knew the match wasn’t over. And the girls showed me in our huddle that they didn’t think the match was over.”
In Game 2, King led 8-2, 13-8, 18-11 and 23-16 before closing out a 25-20 win and a 2-0 edge.
Game 3 was a battle. King led 11-5 before St. Luke’s rallied for leads of 17-14, 21-19 and 23-22.
However, King responded with an Ava Robinowitz block and two Conheeney kills for the 25-23 final.
BRIGHT FUTURE FOR ST. LUKE’S
The Storm, which has seven seniors on its roster, may get a third shot at King in the upcoming NEPSAC Class C Tournament.
“We played hard. I saw our best rallies of the season. I couldn’t be more pleased with our effort,” St. Luke’s coach Abbott said. “We showed that we can play with King. They are so excellent at what they do. But I’m looking forward to our program’s future.”
“The difference I see in St. Luke’s is they have four or five girls who play volleyball year-round,” said King coach Tran.
SO MANY WEAPONS FOR KING
King has two players — Ali Wheeler 20 assists, Robinowitz 13 assists — who can be setters.
More importantly, King has multiple tall hitters to defend.
Christine Nelli (15 kills), Wheeler (6 kills), Robinowitz (10 kills) and Conheeney (three critical kills) all must be honored by the opposing defense.
Senior tri-captains Steph Costabile (30 digs) and Conheeney (27 digs) shone on the back row for the Vikings.
KING 3, ST. LUKE’S 0
ST. LUKE’S 24 20 23—0
KING 26 25 25—3
Records: St. Luke’s 10-5; King 15-1.
Highlights: K—Christine Nelli 15 kills, 8 digs, 7 service points. Ali Wheeler 20 assists, 6 kills, 6 digs, 1 block. Ava Robinowitz 10 kills, 13 assists, 8 blocks, 9 service points. Stephanie Costabile 30 digs; Kelly Conheeney 15 service points, 27 digs, 3 kills. Note: No. 1 seed King will host Greenwich Sacred Heart Friday at 4:30 p.m. in the FAA volleyball final.