By PHIL BRODSKY
Orange Live Sports Writer
Led by the play of junior hitter Allison Denny, the Amity girls volleyball team opened its season by defeating stubborn Jonathan Law 3-0 (25-18, 25-23, 25-20). Denny, a 3 year veteran, cashed out with a team-high 8 kills and 2 blocks. The Southern Connecticut Conference inter-divisional match was played at the Golden Eagles’ James Richetelli Gymnasium in Milford.
According to winning Coach Paul Thees, “I really didn’t know what to expect today. I knew that Law had lost its veteran setter but made up for that with 4 veteran players who were leapers that could hit the ball. Fortunately, our young kids stepped up and did very well. I’m very happy how we played in our opener.”
He added, “Allison came back this fall with a purpose. She’s become a different woman—so strong and smooth. Looking back, I don’t think we used her enough. She ended up with only 24 swings, 8 kills and 2 blocks. That only 8 swings each game.”
Holding an early 6-4 lead in the first game, Amity capitalized on several Law mistakes along with Rebecca Denny’s kill, a scoring dump over the net by Allison Denny, and a service ace from Sydnee Sousa (22 of 22 from the service line, 3 aces, and 2 blocks) to run off 7 consecutive points and grab a 13-4 lead.
Just as quickly as Amity went on its run, the Lady Spartans went cold and Law answered with a 5 point spree. Keyed by 2 kills from Jenna Bernard and additional blasts to the floor by Caitlin Prete and Tarah Kelly (on a nifty cross court kill), the Golden Eagles quickly cut their deficit to 4 points (13-9). Shortly thereafter, back-to-back kills from Colleen Bogucki and Rachel Hannan along with a hand-full of Amity mistakes further reduced the visitors’ lead to only 2 points (18-16).
Regrouping after being outscored 12-5, Amity scored on a Sousa block, Kristen Post’s kill, an ace from Amanda Vecchio, and a score by junior setter Kathryn Pisano, who was making her varsity debut. Now leading 22-17, the Lady Spartans closed out the first game on Susa ’s dump over the net and a game-ending kill from Allison Denny.
“We haven’t played Amity in 5 years so I had no idea what they had for talent. In addition, after 3 years our setter graduated in June so we ad a new, untested setter on the floor,” Law Coach Stacy Loch said. “We also had several girls getting used to playing new positions. I think we were shell shocked and didn’t know what to expect in the first game. We also lacked the confidence to go after and hit the ball.”
Strong serving by Kelly, who chalked up 6 quick points (including 3 aces), enabled Law to sprint out to a 6-1 lead at the outset of the second game. Answering with pairs of kills from the 2 Denny sisters, the Lady Spartans nibbled away at its deficit. After getting even at 7-7, Amity continued its 13-1 spurt to grab a 14-7 lead. During that come back run, Sousa landed 2 service aces and Allison Denny hammered 2 more balls to the floor.
A string of Law errors along with Post’s scoring dump extended Amity’s advantage to 17-12. Still trailing 19-15, Law caught fire and ran off 7 straight points. That spurt included 2 service aces by Bogucki and a pair of kills from Kelly (who finished with 6 shots to the floor).
Suddenly trailing by 3 points (22-19), Amity quickly regrouped to end the second game with a 6-1 run. Allison Denny took over control to land a kill, a dump over the net, and stuffing a Bogucki hit back over the net.
“That was a nice comeback. Had we not come back, it could have been disastrous as it could have swayed the outcome of the entire match the other way,” added Thees. “It was nice to see the girls work out of that jam.”
With the final game knotted at 5-5, Amity took control with a 10-3 spurt that featured consecutive blocks by Allison Denny and Sousa, 2 service aces from Vecchio as well as a perfectly-placed cross court blast by Allison Denny and a scoring spike by her senior sister.
After Pisano’s ace and kills from Post and Vecchio, Amity held a 22-15 advantage. Letting up on the throttle a little too soon, the winners allowed the Devonites a final 5-1 burst (Bogucki’s kill and a dump from Prete) but still was on top, 23-20.
The curtain came down for the night with Allison Denny’s final kill and a service ace.
Thees said, “For the most part, we played smooth, calm volleyball tonight. We had not gotten in a lot of hitting practice before tonight’s match. We knew we had to pass well and drive them (law) off the net. We got our passes to our setter (Pisano) and kept Law off balance with an assortment of tips and hard hits. Doing that and getting the ball to Allison were the keys to our win tonight. We picked our spots. In addition, we had 4 blocks and only missed 4 serves.
He added, “Two years ago, we were 8-10. Last year we ended up 11-10. We’re making progress. As usual, Cheshire will be our biggest obstacle in the Housy. Shelton lost all 6 of its starters. Guilford has 1 very talented player. Foran and Mercy are reported to be solid and Law will be heard from too.”
Vecchio went 16 of 16 from the service line with an ace. In addition to being 11 of 11 on her serves (with an ace), Pisano also recorded 16 assists.
“Amity found our weaknesses and continually hit the ball there. It was a tough night for us, but we picked up our defense and intensity in the second game. That was our best game,” Loch said.
She felt that Prete (7 kills and 16 digs), Bogucki (11 digs), Kelly (6 kills), Hannan (3 kills, and 12 digs), and Jessica Ruiz (5 kills and 13 digs) all had their moments during the match.