NORTH HAVEN — Giselle Zumerchik and the North Haven volleyball team did not exactly get off to the start they hoped to in the CIAC Class L state tournament. It was the finish which mattered most.
Rallying after losing the opening game, No. 11 North Haven raced to a 23-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-15 victory over No. 22 Hand Monday evening at North Haven High.
“I think we became more united,” Zumerchik said after finishing with 14 kills and nine digs. “We started to play as one. We knew we could do this.”
Trailing in the second game after a kill by Hand’s Olivia Coppola, the Indians (16-5) got going. A kill by Aubrey Reyes gave North Haven an 8-4 advantage and the Indians never looked back in the second game.
The second game, which also saw a block by Samantha Burke for a 12-10 lead, and two straight kills by Peyton Davis had the Indians on top 16-12. After Hand got within a point, Davis was at it again as three straight aces gave North Haven a 20-15 lead.
“I think we became more focused,” North Haven coach Brianna Kleckner said. “We started working together and supporting each other. For us, that is all the difference.”
The Tigers got off to a quick start in the third game as well, jumping out to a 7-2 lead on a pair of kills from Coppola, but the Indians chipped away to even the game at eight on an ace by Carly Brown. An ace by Zumerchik put the Indians on top 13-11, and six straight service points by Olivia Petersen, which saw kills from Davis and Melissa Seidemann, extended the North Haven lead to 22-16.
“We wanted to hit the ball as fast as we could and find the open space out there,” Zumerchik said. “We were able to do that.”
North Haven put the match away with a dominant fourth game in which the Indians broke open a 6-6 tie after a kill by Hand’s Coppola. From that point on, the Indians closed the game by scoring 19 of the final 28 points.
Davis and Seidemann had kills to extend the lead to 16-8, before a kill by Zumerchik had the Indians on top 22-11. When Hand started to inch closer, Zumerchik made sure the match went no further as her kill gave the Indians a 24-15 advantage.
“We had high hopes coming in (state tournament),” Zumerchik said. “We do not underestimate any team.”
The Tigers (10-12) opened the match with plenty of fire, looking to knock off their Southern Connecticut Conference foe.
Leading 13-12, Hand scored the next three points to take a 16-12 advantage on a kill by Emily Thornbury. Kills by Coppola and Allie Nelson had the Tigers in front 19-13, and another kill by Coppola increased the margin to 22-17.
The Indians did not go away quietly in the opening game, and used kills by Davis, Samantha Burke, and Zumerchik, and an ace by Davis to get within 24-23. But, as soon as the Indians were ready to steal the opener, Hand’s Brooke Meeker sealed the win with a kill.
“We came out ready to go in that first game,” Hand coach Ally Johnson said. “We played together every single point. We were aggressive and we wanted it. I think the energy level dropped a little bit after that.”
Seidemann had seven kills and seven blocks for the Indians, Petersen ran the offense with 27 assists, and Davis had 10 aces, nine kills, and nine digs in the win.
Player of the Game
Giselle Zumerchik — The North Haven senior made her presence felt on the court with 14 kills and nine digs, most coming in big spots throughout the match.
“Offensively, we just told them to swing fast and look for the open space on the court. We wanted to take advantage of that and that is what they did.”
— North Haven coach Brianna Kleckner on her team’s success against Hand.