TORRINGTON >> No. 25 Woodstock Academy (9-11) made its long ride from the Northeast Corner worthwhile in a 3-0 (27-25; 25-13; 25-16) win at No. 8 Torrington (19-5) Monday evening in the first round of the Class L Girls Volleyball Tournament.
“This game does not represent 23 of our other matches,” said Torrington coach Christine Gamari. “This was not us.”
The outcome looked like the classic story of a team squeaking into the tournament after facing killer competition all season, then turning “Cinderella” in the tournament.
Sometimes, it’s because a low ranking blindsides their higher-ranked opponent.
Not this time.
“We didn’t take them for granted,” said Gamari. “They’re not a No. 25 team. We knew that. Today, it was a lack of execution by us.”
The Red Raiders are the NVL’s Copper Division Champions and NVL Tournament runners-up.
The Centaurs lost their first four games of the season, nine of their first 12 before getting on track for a 6-2 record through their last eight matches.
“We played Ledyard, one of the best teams in the state – Bristol Eastern, Southington, Coventry…,” said Centaur coach Adam Cottone.
“We had a really tough schedule; I think it was one of the hardest in the state,” said Centaur senior Sarah Swenson. “We were playing top 10 teams every week.”
Ledyard was Class M champion last year; Bristol Eastern ruled Class L; Coventry, Class S.
Woodstock Academy, from the Eastern Connecticut Conference, lost 3-0 to Ledyard the first time they played, then won 3-2 late in the season.
They were ready.
Game One Monday seemed to preview a match for the ages.
Torrington’s Samantha Zordan (7 kills, 10 digs) played one of her best games of the year. Carly Ruzbasan had an early kill and a block.
Zordan finished off a big volley at 11-9, Torrington, after several great Raider digs.
Swenson (19 kills, 16 digs) came in touted as one of the best players in the state.
The Raiders handled her drives, along with her jump serves.
“Kudos to them for getting Sarah’s kills back,” said Coach Cottone.
“We trained for her; we knew she was coming,” said Gamari. “We practiced against the jump serve.”
The Raiders returned Swenson’s slams. But, while Torrington guarded against her, others on Woodstock Academy found open spots on the floor.
Corrine Jones (12 kills) found an empty spot at 9-9. Kendall Wilcox did it as the Centaurs started back from a 14-10 deficit.
Torrington setter Kiley Rosengrant started a serving stint with an ace for a 16-11 lead, then gave Ruzbasan a quick set for 17-11.
Then Swenson grew into her reputation, coming off like a power pitcher.
Anybody can throw a fastball; it’s pitchers with a devastating changeup who more often reach the hall of fame.
“I usually swing a lot more,” said Swenson. “I went to the middle (with taps) a lot more than I usually do. I wasn’t as effective just hitting, so I might as well do what gets the point.”
Torrington’s front line played at the net for the block, the back row was way back for the dig. The middle was open.
Swenson mixed her hits well – a power kill through the net or a block on one, a tap on another.
The tactice brought Woodstock back to 21-21 on a tap by Jones. A Ruzbasan kill tied it at 23. A ref’s call tied it 25-25.
Woodstock’s winning point finally came on an ace by Wilcox.
“It was a lack of execution,” said Gamari. “Balls that we picked up all year, we weren’t getting tonight.”
The win deflated the Raiders and buoyed the Centaurs.
“It gave Woodstock more confidence in the second game,” said Gamari.
Confidence? Centaur coach Bottone urged his players to try harder in Game Two.
“We’re not going anywhere near the semifinals if you play like that,” he said.
Woodstock made the quarterfinals last year, the semis two years ago.
In Game Two and Three, they looked like they could go far again.
Woodstock built such a lead (20-9) in Game Two, Gamari rested her hitters for the final part of the game.
The rest seemed to work early. The Raiders caught up to 9-9.
Then Woodstock took off again. Jacquelyn Orlowski and Lexie Soja (14 service points) joined the march with kills.
By the end, it was down to Rosengrant reviewing a great career with the Raiders.
“Each year got better and better,” she said. “We kept getting stronger and closer as a team. I never played on this close a team before.”
Woodstock Academy gets a shorter drive for Round Two Thursday, to No. 9 E.O. Smith-Storrs.
Contact Peter Wallace in the office at (860) 489-3121 Ext. 330.
No. 25 Woodstock Academy 3, No. 8 Torrington 0
(27-25; 25-13; 25-16)
Highlights: W-Sarah Swenson 19 kills, 16 digs; Lexie Soja 14 service points, 31 assists; Corrine Jones 12 kills. T-Kiley Rosengrant 20 assists; Samantha Zordan 7 kills, 10 digs; Shelby Consolini 16 digs; Carly Ruzbasan 5kills.
Records: Woodstock Academy 9-11; Torrington 19-5.