STAMFORD — When the 2019 FCIAC Girls Volleyball playoffs get underway next week, all eight qualifying teams should have between 10 and 15 league victories.
That’s depth of talent and an inkling of just how hard the road through the regular season has been.
Defending FCIAC finalist and 2018 Class LL semifinalist Westhill has navigated its way through a host of obstacles while answering numerous challenges this year.
However, the Vikings’ rotation of six seniors and two juniors saw their 10-match winning streak snap Thursday as New Canaan fought to a 3-1 (25-14, 17-25, 25-19, 21-25, 15-7) road triumph at the J. Walter Kennedy Athletic Center.
“Today shows you can’t take any match lightly. Beating a team once before in a season means nothing,” Westhill coach Marianna Linnehan said. “New Canaan was fantastic today. Its defense and serving were superb. And New Canaan limited its errors. Our side just made too many mistakes today.”
Thursday’s battle was a non-league affair with Westhill having defeated New Canaan, 3-1 at the Rams’ gym back on October 23.
Westhill can’t be faulted much for perhaps looking ahead to Friday’s regular season finale at home against Norwalk (8-11, 5-10 FCIAC).
If Westhill wins Friday, the Vikings would capture the FCIAC West Division regular season title over Greenwich. Both teams could finish 15-1 but Westhill takes the tiebreaker thanks to its 3-0 win over the Cardinals in their league matchup back on October 14. Greenwich topped Westhill, 3-1 in a non-league match to open the regular season on Sept. 12.
A triumph over Norwalk also gives Westhill the No. 1 seed for next week’s FCIAC playoffs.
“If we get to be the No. 1 seed, it is a fine accomplishment,” Linnehan said. “But we need to start playing like a No. 1 seed. We can’t turn our talent and motivation on and off.”
Westhill played some streaky volleyball Thursday against New Canaan.
In Game 1, New Canaan had runs of 7-0 and 9-1 to build an 18-9 cushion before winning 25-14.
In Game 2, Westhill had a 10-1 surge for 11-3. When New Canaan closed to 19-16, the Vikings reeled off five straight points with Sophia Thagouras serving and won 25-17.
Game 3 had nine ties to 18-18. New Canaan had a 7-1 closing run for 25-19 and a 2-1 match edge.
Westhill responded in Game 4. The Vikings had a 10-2 run for 11-7. Then tied at 21-21 scored four straight points.
New Canaan took no chances in Game 5. The Rams led 5-1, 9-4 and 10-6 before Andrea Gravereaux served out for 15-7 and the hard-earned win.
“Content is a good word for how I feel right now. We have been up and down this season,” New Canaan coach Kevin Marino said. “The message now is for the girls to believe they can win. To compete like this against Westhill is so big for our team.”
New Canaan (13-5, 11-4 FCIAC) hosts Central Friday to end the regular season. The Rams are currently the No. 5 FCIAC playoff seed. If NC beats Central and defending FCIAC champ Trumbull loses at McMahon, then New Canaan moves up to No. 4 seed and a quarterfinal round home game.
If New Canaan loses to Central and Darien beats Trinity Catholic Friday, then the Rams fall to the No. 6 seed.
PLAYER OF GAME
New Canaan junior setter Elle Sneddon distributed the ball well to Ram hitters Allison Leopold, Lillie Gray, Alyssa Lee and Emily Johnson.
“This victory was so important mentally for us. It really made us fight,” said New Canaan senior tri-captain Alyssa Lee. “It’s about what we want for the postseason. We have to push to win. I’m so proud of our effort today.”