STAMFORD—This is perhaps the best reward for a very successful season.
Home games in the state tournament.
The Westhill girls volleyball team continued to live life spectacularly at the Vikings’ J. Walter Kennedy Athletic complex as they swept No. 19 seed Newtown, 25-15, 25-20, 25-16 Thursday night in Class LL Tournament second round action.
The triumph improved Westhill’s record to 13-1 at home this season.
“The girls are comfortable here,” said Westhill coach Marianna Linnehan. “And the fans have made this court such a positive atmosphere. The (Westhill student) Purple Pack are such a great cheering section.”
The No. 3 seeded Vikings (21-4 overall) will spend one more match in these friendly confines as they will host No. 6 seed Shelton (20-4 overall) in Saturday’s 6 p.m. LL quarterfinals. Shelton edged No. 11 seed New Canaan, 3-2 (18-16 in the fifth set) at home Thursday night.
Westhill, now 15-2 since October 4, was happy to finally play a non-FCIAC opponent. Which is what the state tournament used to be about.
“It was great to play against players we didn’t really know about,” said Westhill’s Gloria Twum, one of eight seniors on the Vikings’ roster. “It was interesting to adjust on the fly to what they were doing on the court.”
Newtown proved to be scrappy but ultimately saw its 2019 season end at 12-9 overall.
“The girls gave strong effort all season long,” said Newtown coach Tom Czaplinski. “This was a great atmosphere to play in. Westhill was just fantastic.”
In Game 1, Westhill used a 9-0 surge with Tamar Bellete (22 service points) serving to build a 16-10 cushion that became a 25-15 win.
In Game 2, Westhill fashioned a 12-2 burst for a 12-5 edge. Newtown got as close as 23-18 before falling 25-20.
In Game 3, Westhill led 10-6, 16-9 and 19-13 before completing the sweep at 25-16.
“It will be sad for the seniors when we can’t play here at home anymore,” Westhill’s Twum said. “The Purple Pack make our spirits soar. They give us such a boost and allow us to have fun on the court.”
There is also the question of legacy hanging over these Westhill seniors. They were FCIAC playoff runnersup the last two seasons as Westhill still hungers for its first FCIAC Tournament Championship since 1986.
The Vikings reached last year’s Class LL semifinals before losing to eventual LL champ Amity. Westhill last captured a state volleyball title (Class L) in 1980.
“We are a family that loves each other. And we want to take this season as far as we can,” Twum said. “Our ultimate goal is the Class LL final. But we have to focus on each step along the way.”