GREENWICH — Neighborhood volleyball rivals Sacred Heart Greenwich and Greenwich Academy are known for having close matches against each other, so when Thursday’s much-anticipated matchup went to a fifth and deciding set, it was certainly no surprise.
Greenwich Academy made the opening statement of the match, winning the first game, but Sacred Heart Greenwich had the final say in Thursday’s FAA duel.
Coming back to win the fifth set, Sacred Heart continued its outstanding play of late, edging host Greenwich Academy in a hard-fought match, 3-2.
The Tigers, who improved their record to 10-4, won the match, 17-25, 25-22, 25-20, 15-25, 15-12.
Senior outside hitter Kellie Ulmer recorded 14 kills, 10 digs and four aces, while junior Olivia Lockwood posted 10 kills, 15 digs and four aces to pace the Tigers.
“It was definitely an exciting, intense match,” said Ulmer, a co-captain. “The most important thing was talking, communicating with each other. It feels good to win such a long match — it’s relieving.”
Junior libero Eva Cannellakis tallied 25 digs with two service points, while junior setter Morgan Wilkens notched 26 assists and four aces for Sacred Heart. She served a pair of aces and served out the match for the victors.
The Tigers passed the serve well and played effective defense throughout.
“They do have a really good offense, so the key was to talk to each other to hype each other up,” Wilkens said. “We were there for each other and talking. Winning this match is so incredible, we’ve been working so hard this season, it’s really rewarding.”
The Gators, who are 4-3 in FAA play, were led by Evie Kay Girard’s overall play, Whitney Wise’s strong effort at the net and the hitting of Alexandra Trofort. Valeska Lasky also helped the home team run its offense.
Greenwich Academy jumped out to an 8-4 lead in the fifth set on a kill by Trofort and solid serving from Miranda Calver.
“We always talk about owning the ball, so we can get it to Valeska, but a lot of our passes were jumbled today,” said GA senior tri-captain Catherine Burns, who also had a solid match. This shows us what we need to work on and improve on. It will help us bond more.”
A pair of kills by Ulmer enabled to Tigers to take the lead in the final game. After Wise’s block gave the Gators a 12-11 lead, the Tigers tied it at 12-12 on a kill by Ulmer.
An ace by Wilkens gave SHG the lead for good at 13-12 and another ace put the Tigers on the brink of winning at 14-12. Sacred Heart rebounded well, after GA won the opening game. The visitors displayed chemistry, dug up a lot of balls and played solid defense. Clutch serving by Wilkens and junior Fran Iraola helped the Tigers come back from a 20-18 deficit in the second game.
“Sacred Heart has terrific defense, they were doing a great job bringing it back,” Gators coach Christy Girard said. “We struggled a little bit with serve receive and a lack of communication. We just didn’t close it out today.”
GA had the lead the majority of the first set, which was sealed by an Girard kill. Sacred Heart grabbed the momentum in the second and third sets. The Gators then came back nicely in the fourth set.
“We definitely had a lot more energy today, than we usually do,” Sacred Heart senior co-captain Salome Alfaro said. “Everyone was there for each other and encouraged each other to do their best. GA is a big rivalry in all sports, so being able to beat them and play our best was important for us. It will help us carry us through in the rest of our games this season. It also shows that we’ve really grown a lot this season.”
Added Evie Kay Girard: “I think at the beginning we may have been a little nervous. We’ve played some tough teams so far and this one counted a lot as well, since Sacred Heart’s our rival. I think we definitely may see them again, so this was a good motivator.”
PLAYERS OF THE MATCH
After Sacred Heart tied the match by taking the second game, Ulmer helped ignite her squad in the ensuing game with well-placed kills throughout.
“After the first set, our team bounced back,” Sacred Heart coach Beth Wilson-Jordan said. “Our girls showed a lot of confidence in themselves. We are gaining momentum and picking up steam, which is good to see.”
TEAMING UP FOR A GOOD CAUSE
For her community service project at Sacred Heart, senior defensive specialist Stephanie Guza chose Period Project as her service. Both teams contributed to the cause on Thursday at Greenwich Academy.
“What we do is raise money to buy feminine products and we donate them to non-profit organizations that support homeless women, or low income individuals,” Guza said. “Today, we asked the GA team to well us as well. Between the two teams, we have two baskets full of items. We are going to put them into care packages and donate them to the organizations. Since we are rival schools, it’s nice to see us team up together. It was a great day today.”