WINSTED — No. 23 Lewis Mills stunned Berkshire League Tournament Champion Northwestern 3-2 (25-21; 14-25; 15-25; 25-20; 15-11) in Round One of the CIAC Class M girls volleyball state tournament Monday evening at Northwestern High School.
No. 10 Northwestern (16-5), swept the Spartans 3-0 in the BL regular season a month ago after a 3-2 loss early in the season, then beat them again last Friday in the first round of the four-team league tournament.
“We came out flat after Friday’s high of beating them and (regular-season league champion) Nonnewaug,” said Highlander coach Jon Hurlock.
If every adrenaline surge is followed by a letdown, Northwestern had its surge Friday. Lewis Mills’ (10-10) surge came in game one Monday night.
“We were focused and came out strong,” said Spartan star Anna Szymanski (14 kills, 1 block, 17 digs, 4 aces).
Szymanski, a senior set to play at Division III Framingham State University next year, was a monster in game one, rifling a kill seemingly every time she got a set from junior Lara Bowers (28 assists, 10 digs, 1 ace).
The Spartans roared out to a 13-3 lead with the help of a couple of blocks by sophomore Makenzie Jones. When the Highlanders closed to 18-15 on a run highlighted by a kill and a final ace by senior captain Julia Ujvari (13 kills, 1 assist, 13 digs, 2 aces) and Macie Wheeler, Mills senior Lisa Johnson was there to keep the Spartan adrenaline flowing.
“She’s definitely our sparkplug,” laughed Szymanski.
“I just think energy is the most important part of the game,” said Johnson.
Johnson followed a serving ace by Szymanski with a resounding kill and a mini-celebration worthy of an NFL touchdown.
The Spartans held on for a 25-21 win.
Then they looked over their collective shoulders.
“We started remembering our losses to Northwestern,” Szymanski said, particularly Friday’s loss after beating the Highlanders in game one of the league tournament.
“In the second and third games, our passes weren’t as accurate,” said Mills coach Monica Reed.
As a result, Szymanski seemed to disappear while Northwestern went on a roll, leading from start to finish of the next two games, 25-14 and 25-15, shaking off its nerves behind Ujvarti, Skylar Dimartini, Ashlynn Zematis and Caroline Crone.
“Volleyball is such a game of momentum,” said Hurlock. “When we had it, we never let up. When they had it, we came back, but not enough.”
Down 2-1, “I reminded them how close we came last time and asked them just to play their hardest,” said Reed. “they did just that.”
With nothing to lose, Szymanski was back full tilt for the rest of the match, leading the Spartans to a 25-20 win in game four, then slowly pulling away in the final 15-point game, from 6-4 to 10-5, to 12-6, capping the final 15-11 point on Szymanski’s last kill.
The Spartans travel to No. 7 Granby for Round Two on Wednesday, 6 p.m. at Granby High School.
No. 23 Lewis Mills 3, No. 10 Northwestern 2
25-21; 14-25; 15-25; 25-20; 15-11
At Northwestern High School
Highlights: LM — Anna Szymanski 14 kills, 1 block, 17 digs, 4 aces; Katie Butwill 8 kills, 9 digs, 2 aces; Lara Bowers 28 assists, 10 digs, 1 ace. NW — Ashlyn Zematis 5 kills, 1 block, 3 digs, 3 aces; Caroline Crone 2 kills, 27 assists, 2 digs, 1 ace; Julia Ujvari 13 kills, 1 assist, 13 digs, 2 aces; Skylar Dimartino 6 kills, 1 assist, 4 digs, 3 aces.
Records: Lewis Mills 10-10; Northwestern 16-5.