STAMFORD—It was a milestone victory that was a long time coming.
The Westhill High School girls volleyball team improved their state tournament seeding, took a giant step forward toward securing an FCIAC playoff berth and most importantly captured the 2017 city volleyball championship as they outfought rival Stamford High 25-20, 26-24, 19-25, 9-25, 16-14 Friday at the J. Walter Kennedy Athletic Center.
“Winning the city volleyball title means the world to us. We haven’t beat Stamford High in oh so many years,” said Westhill junior Nikki Newcomer. “It feels so good to win. Losing to Stamford last year hurt so bad.”
The triumph did not come easy for Westhill. Stamford fought back from two games down to force a fifth game. The Black Knights also trailed 14-10 in Game 5, forged a 14-14 deadlock before Westhill got the two elusive match-winning points.
“It was a roller-coaster ride,” Westhill coach Marianna Capomolla said. “Stamford didn’t make it easy. But my girls just kept fighting.”
FANTASTIC TURNAROUND FOR WESTHILL
Westhill was 6-14 overall and 4-12 in the FCIAC in 2016. But the Vikings returned the vast majority of their roster.
The experience gained has turned into valuable rewards this season as Westhill improved to 12-5 overall and 8-5 in the FCIAC. If the regular season ended Friday, the Vikings would be one of the eight FCIAC playoff squads. With three matches left, Westhill has a little margin for error the rest of the way.
“At the end of the 2016 season, we felt the vibe of all the players was so good,” Westhill’s Newcomer said. “We knew in our hearts that success would come in 2017.”
Westhill is a junior and sophomore-dominated team with just two seniors (Samantha Johns-Folkes and Gabby Veseli) who see extensive action.
“The girls trust each other. Because of that, they communicate and flow so well,” Capomolla said. “That’s why our defense is so tough. The youth on our roster means everybody is invested equally in our success.”
OBSTACLES IN STAMFORD’S PATH
The 2016 campaign was a magic carpet ride for Stamford as the Black Knights rolled to capture both the FCIAC and the Class LL state championship.
But with five of its six starters graduating, the 2017 season was going to be an opportunity for revenge for opponents.
With Friday’s loss, Stamford fell to 9-8 overall but 6-7 in the FCIAC. The Black Knights are currently out of the FCIAC playoff picture.
“It’s clear. We have to win and we need to get help if we expect to get into the FCIAC playoffs,” Stamford’s veteran coach Mike Smeriglio said. “We feel we can get into the states and try to defend our Class LL title. Give Westhill all the credit for their effort. It’s very tough to win three straight sets after losing the first two. Marianna Capomolla played for me at Stamford High. She has done a fabulous job with their program.”
O’CONNOR WORTH THE PRICE OF ADMISSION
Senior hitter Andrea O’Connor is the lone returning starter for Stamford High.
She was a force Friday as she amassed 27 kills, six blocks, eight service points and four aces.
First-time senior setter Brooke Kelly finished with 29 assists, 10 service points and four aces. Kim Magliari was another Black Knights’ contributor as she added 20 service points.
WESTHILL 3, STAMFORD 2
STAMFORD 20 24 25 25 14—2
WESTHILL 25 26 19 9 16—3
Records: Stamford 9-8, 6-7 FCIAC; Westhill 12-5, 8-5 FCIAC.
Highlights: S—Gloria Mattioli 12 digs, 5 service points; Brooke Kelly 29 assists, 10 service points, 4 aces; Andrea O’Connor 27 kills, 6 blocks, 8 service points, 4 aces; Kim Magliari 20 service points; Ariano Manco 7 service points. W—Vana Servos 23 assists; Sophia Thagouras 18 assists, 6 digs, 5 kills; Nikki Newcomer 17 digs, 9 kills; Nina Bakuradze 40 digs, 14 service points; Betsy Sachs 5 digs, 11 kills, 4 blocks.