BURLINGTON >> Lewis Mills High School’s girls volleyball team polished off its second big non-conference opponent in a row with a gutsy 3-2 win over Southington Wednesday night in Burlington.
The Spartans went to the second round of the Class M State Tournament last year after handing three-time defending Berkshire League champion Terryville its only loss during the regular season.
“You’ve got to play against the kind of competition you’ll be up against in the tournament,” thought Mills coach Chuck Drda while making up a big-time non-conference schedule.
His experienced team opened at Class L Avon Tuesday night, beating the Falcons 3-1.
Wednesday, the Spartans took another step up the ladder with last year’s Class LL semifinalist Blue Knights, the division runners-up the year before.
“We lost seven seniors from that team. We’re playing five sophomores,” said Southington coach Rich Heitz.
Nevertheless, a strong program from a huge school is a challenge for anyone.
The Spartans were never close to intimidation on a sweltering night in the Mills gym.
“We got warmed up quick,” grinned senior Tori Kryzwick, leading her team with 15 kills and 10 digs.
“I was drenched before the game even started,” said senior Teagan Dunn, playing right beside Kryzwick with 10 kills, eight digs and five blocks.
“(The team) worked really well together,” they agreed.
Spartan maturity showed up early. The Blue Knights led game one for the first six points. Mills refused to go away.
“The girls stuck with it,” said Drda.
Behind four aces in a row from Kryzwick, the Spartans broke a 6-6 tie, then moved into a 10-6 lead.
Early in the game, big middle hitter Julia Tnyszin (7 kills) gave the Spartans fits at the net, blocking several kill attempts.
Mills’s front line adjusted and tipped as many balls over the Knights’ blockers as they slammed through for kills after that.
At 17-12, Mills, Dunn turned into the shot blocker for one point. She put away a kill at 23-20 in another glimpse of Spartan maturity through a long volley, then starred one more time with a service ace for the final point, 25-20.
Mills rode the wave through a 5-0 lead in game two. Then Southington showed its own grit, coming back to an 8-7 deficit on a kill by Tinyszin.
From there, the Spartans came apart through six unforced errors leading to a 20-15 Southington lead.
“We lost communication a few times,” said Dunn.
Maybe, but the outcome was one more sign of the team’s maturity.
The Knights took advantage of the lapse for a 25-20 win in game two.
The Spartans were back on their game midway through game three for a 25-22 win, lost the next one 25-14, and still stood tall for the 15-point final game.
Spartan senior Hannah Doyle served an ace for a 3-3 tie in game five. Kryzwick slammed a kill for the lead.
Two Southington errors nudged Mills to 6-4. Senior Alise Martel popped an ace for 8-5. Kryzwick hit a spot for a point; Dunn blocked for another, 10-5.
Doyle put away a kill for 13-6.
In the bag? Not quite.
The Spartans hit another skid, in a combination of mistakes and a beautiful return by the Southington libero, 13-11.
Mills refused to crumble. A Southington error upped it to 14-11. Spartan senior Mollie Quinn, came through big for the final point.
Quinn tipped the point home after a long volley, showing off the best of both teams.
“It worked out real well for us,” said Coach Drda.
Lewis Mills 3, Southington 2
(25-20; 20-25; 25-22; 14-25; 15-11)
At Lewis Mills High School
Highlights: S-Allison McCormick 32 digs; Maryssa Romano 12 kills; Kateri Downes 11 digs; Julia Tinyszin 7 kills; Samantha Lohneiss 5 aces. LM-Tori Kryzwick 15 kills; 10 digs; Teagan Dunn 10 kills, 8 digs, 5 blocks; Mollie Quinn 10 digs, 5 kills.
Records: Southington 1-1; Lewis Mills 2-0.