STAMFORD—The New Canaan High School girls volleyball team had defeated Westhill High on the final day of the regular season to knock the Vikings out of the FCIAC playoff picture.
No. 14 seed Westhill was very pleased to get a chance at redemption at the No. 19 seeded Rams in the opening round of the Class LL tournament Monday.
The battle across five sets was fierce but New Canaan rallied to take the last two games and emerge with a 25-22, 20-25, 15-25, 25-17, 15-6 triumph at a raucous Westhill gymnasium.
The victory means New Canaan (13-9 overall) will travel to No. 3 seed Ridgefield in Class LL second round action Wednesday at 6 p.m. Ridgefield (16-3 overall) had a first round bye.
“We relished the opportunity to face New Canaan again,” said Westhill senior Samantha Johns-Folkes. “We tried our best. New Canaan is so tough mentally.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Seniors are the most valuable commodity in the postseason because they never want their high school careers to end.
New Canaan’s Carson Allsteadt was that type of senior Monday.
After Westhill won Game 2 and Game 3 for a 2-1 edge, Allsteadt showed New Canaan (and its eight seniors) the path to victory.
In Game 4, Allsteadt amassed 10 of her 37 kills as New Canaan broke away from a 12-12 tie to post a 25-17 win to forge a 2-2 deadlock.
In Game 5, Allsteadt was New Canaan’s first server and ripped off three aces. Those along with her two kills gave New Canaan a 5-1 lead.
The Rams never trailed thereafter, closing the match with a 6-0 surge and a 15-6 triumph. Allsteadt had six kills in Game 5.
“Our team wasn’t ready to have our season end. Our heart and passion on the court showed all the hard work we put in all season to get here,” Allsteadt said. “Westhill is a tough, tough opponent that we knew would be motivated to face us. It was a great match in a great atmosphere. The crowd gave both sides so much energy.”
FOUNDATION LAID BY NEW CANAAN
Although New Canaan is graduating eight seniors and much of its starting lineup, first-year coach Kevin Marino feels the Rams have set an important standard for the program.
“It’s a big win for the program. And a bigger win for the girls. I’m so proud of them,” Marino said. “This group has pushed New Canaan girls volleyball back to relevancy. Carson (Allsteadt) is one of the best players I’ve ever coached. Westhill gave us everything they had. It was a great test in a great atmosphere.”
FUTURE BRIGHT FOR WESTHILL
It was a roller-coaster season for Westhill, which concludes at 13-8 overall.
The Vikings started out 9-1 then had a four-match losing streak followed by a four-match win streak. Then Westhill lost to Ridgefield, New Canaan and New Canaan to end the fall.
The good news is Westhill graduates just three seniors — Samantha Johns-Folkes, Gabby Veseli and Patricia Kober— from the roster. Six players who saw significant time will return.
“No one expected us to have a season like this. Everyone was invested and all the hard work paid off,” Westhill’s Johns-Folkes said. “It was a great season for all of us.”
Westhill coach Marianna Capomolla can’t wait for 2018.
“I’m so proud of the team’s huge turnaround from last year. The seniors were great. Samantha Johns-Folkes stood so tall today,” Capomolla said. “We fought and fought and fought in a great match. I’m excited to see what the future brings to the program.”
CLASS LL TOURNAMENT, 1ST ROUND
NEW CANAAN 3, WESTHILL 2
NEW CANAAN 25 20 15 25 15—3
WESTHILL 22 25 25 17 6—2
Records: New Canaan 13-9; Westhill 13-8.
Highlights: NC—Carson Allsteadt 8 aces, 37 kills, 16 digs. Emma Wheeler 47 assists, 2 aces, 7 digs. Jessica Parrino 6 aces, 10 kills, 24 digs. Casey Callahan 27 digs. Julia Salvatore 3 aces. W— Vana Servos 19 assists, 9 service points, 6 digs. Sophia Thagouras 9 kills, 13 assists, 21 service points. Betsy Sachs 7 kills, 7 digs, 5 service points. Nikki Newcomer 17 digs, 6 kills. Samantha Johns-Folkes 10 kills, 5 blocks.