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Nov 102012
 
 By PHIL BRODSKY

Orange Live Sports Writer

Sponsored by Robert Sousa of Sousa & Stone

While the Amity volleyball team defeated visiting Norwich Free Academy 3-0 Friday night and did not trail until the later portion of the third game, the CIAC Class LL preliminary round contest was not nearly one-sided as the final score would indicate. The 22nd-ranked Wildcats came in with only a 7-9 record but they displayed a determined defense and solid hitting  from Brianna Brennan (11 kills), Sydney Phelps (seven kills and two blocks), and Alyssa Velles (five kills) that kept them right on the Lady Spartans’ heels throughout the match.

Scoring spikes from Amanda Vecchio and Sydnee Sousa along with perfectly placed dinks by Allison Denny and Claire Foster as well as the first of Sousa’s three aces staked the Lady Spartans to an early 5-0 lead in the first game. NFA battled back with a four point response but Amity answered that with an eight point run that featured another Sousa ace, a spike and two blocks by Denny and a pair of Rebecca Denny dinks as Amity opened up a commanding 13-4 lead.

Slowly  but surely, the Wildcats clawed their way back and closed within three points (19-16) as lanky sophomore middle hitter Olivia Lane stuffed two Lady Spartan  blasts back over the net, and banged home a kill,  Brennan blasted two balls to the floor, and 23 served up an ace. That would be as close as NFA would get in Game No. 1 as the Black and Gold rebounded with a 6-3 finish, highlighted by a pair of Sousa’s seven kills and a string of Wildcat mistakes.

The second game began in much the same fashion with a Vecchio kill, one of her  six aces as well as a Sousa score and a shot into the net by the Wildcats’  Abby Mattern  that gave Amity an early 4-0 lead.  Once again the visiting Wildcats answered with four points in a row that included aces from Phelps and Carli Hust . A kill and a scoring dump over the net by Kristen Post and a Sousa dink enabled Amity to grab a more comfortable 12-7 lead. Again the relentless visitors answered with kills from Phelps, Velles, and Brennan along with an ace by their libero, Melissa Castillo as they drew back within a point (12-11).

 As was the case earlier in the match, Amity felt NFA breathing down its neck and responded as Sousa’s ace sparked a 10-5 spurt that also included two Allison  Denny kills and a dink along with Vecchio hammering a spike onto the floor. The Wildcats once again surged back with kills from Brennan, Velles, and Phelps along with a Phelps’   block and a Brennan service ace but got no closer than two points (23-21). Another Sousa kill and a game-ending service ace from setter Kathryn Pisano gave Amity a 2-0 advantage.

According to Amity Coach Paul Thees, “I thought we placed very nicely in Games 1 and 2. Our passing was great and our serving was pretty good too.  We showed the ability to stick with it in a tight second game. My biggest concern was when we got up by eight points in the first game (15-7)  but then lost it and found  ourselves leading by only three points (19-16). That’s not good. We have to maintain our leads. Norwich hung in and played better defense than I had anticipated. #21 (Lane) was tall and had really long arms. She bothered us when she got to the net.”

For the third game in a row, the Lady Spartans came out with a strong start. Their early 7-2 lead was based on aces by Pisano and Vecchio, a Vecchio kill, and Post’s off-speed dink. Thanks to two more kills by Allison Denny, as well as additional scoring shots from Julia Bedini and Sousa with A Pisano dink tossed in for good measure, the winners jumped ahead 14-6.

As was the case throughout the night, Norwich Free Academy refused to fold under pressure. Amity suddenly lost its touch on service receipt as Castillo aced three serves and Brennan also landed an ace that keyed a Wildcat 7-1 response that chewed up Amity’s advantage and made it only a two point difference  15-13). When consecutive kills by Velles and Brennan were followed by a pair of aces by Hust. NFA completed an 11-2 surge and took its first lead of the match (17-16).

The remainder of that contest proved to be a see-saw battle that saw the lead be exchanged four times before Amity claimed a match-ending two point victory (28-26). During that time, each team was at match point on two occasions but unable to seal the deal. Trailing 26-25, Amity finally brought down the curtain with Vecchio dumping the ball over the net and then putting up two serves that NFA banged out of bounds.

“We were very inconsistent in the third game. Once again we built and then lost an eight point lead. They fed everything to No. 19 (Brennan). She had a tremendous number of hits, but not that many kills (11). We had not played or practiced in two days. We got our feet ready but have to play better Saturday night at Newtown,” Thees said. “I think our biggest problem tonight was our setting. The passing was good but our sets were too far off the net. That makes  it tough to hit the ball.”

In addition its hitting, NFA got solid efforts from Castillo (10 digs and four aces) and Hust (five digs and four aces) along with 29 assists from its sophomore setter, Sophie Swedin.

Amity checked out with Sousa being good on all 18 of her serves and landing seven kills. Vecchio missed only one of her 18 serves and chalked up six aces.  Foster was a perfect nine-for-nine from the service line and added a team-high 17 digs. Denny chipped in with 12 kills and three blocks. Pisano recorded 26 assists.

While NFA ended its season with a 7-10 record, Amity (now 17-4) is off to Newtown tonight to take on the 4thranked Nighthawks, that are 14-4 and the defending Class LL champs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nov 062012
 

File photo of the Lady Spartans in action

By PHIL BRODSKY

Orange Live Sports Writer

Sponsored by Robert Sousa of Sousa & Stone

No coach who has already played a team twice in a season wants to play that team again for a third time. For coaches that have won the first two contests, know how hard it is to beat an opponent three times. On the other hand, a coach that has already lost its first two contests to an opponent in the same season, fears a third straight defeat. These were the scenarios when the volleyball teams from Branford and Amity tangled on Monday night for the third time this fall. The Hornets had won the first two matches by identical 3-2 scores. This meeting, which was held in Woodbridge, pitted the third-ranked Lady Spartans and the fifth-ranked Hornets in the quarter-finals of the Southern Connecticut Conference play-offs.

“Tonight our aim was to finally beat Branford.  We didn’t think that we were that bad that we’d lose to them a third time,” said Amity coach Paul Thees. “We felt that we had taken enough from them. In the first match, we went up 2-0, and then let them come back and beat us. In the second match, we were behind 2-0, came back to tie the match at 2-2 and then lost. Enough is enough. We felt that it was time for us to finally beat Branford.”

Much to the delight and relief of the Black and Gold, they finally did defeat the Hornets 3-1 (25-16, 25-19, 21-25, 25-20). With this victory, Amity (now 15-4) advances to SCC semi-finals against second-ranked Mercy tonight at 5 p.m. in Middletown. The 15-5 Hornets now look ahead to the start of the CIAC state tournament later this week.

Thanks in large part to a trio of Allison Denny kills along with service aces by Amanda Vecchio and Claire Foster, Amity jumped out to an early 9-3 lead in the first game. Slowly but surely, the Hornets battled back to tie the score, 13-13. In addition to timely kills from Anna Atkinson, Brianna Williams, and Tara Dering along with Kelly Smith’s ace Branford benefited from a string of Lady Spartan mistakes.

After letting Branford off the hook and get even, Amity regrouped and closed out the game with a 12-3 surge. Ignited by the first of Sydnee Sousa’s four service aces, Denny banged Hannah Zampano’s kill attempt back over the net and did the same with a blast from Atkinson. Following a Denny ace and a kill as well as Amanda Vecchio’s timely off-speed dink, Amity held a 22-16 lead. The opener ended with three straight errant hits by the Hornets.

Branford held the upper hand during the early portion of the second contest. Following two Meg Wirtz kills and a dink by Zampano, the visitors had opened up a 13-10 lead. Once again Denny brought Amity back with a pair of blocks and a string of Hornet side-outs to tie the tally at 16-16. With Vecchio hammering two spikes to the floor and catching Branford off guard with a dink, along with three more Hornet misfires, the Lady Spartans wrapped up the second game with an eight point spurt that let to 9-3 run.

According to Thees, “Getting a win in the first game helped us a lot. It was a big key to our winning the match. I thought we played really well in the first two games. The story of the game was setting. When we spread out the assists, we’re not getting offensive production.  When we go with our primary setter (Pisano) and concentrate our assists in bunches, it’s a sign that we are consistently hitting the ball.At the outset of the third he Lady Spartans held leads of 6-3and 10-6, but those advantages were short-lived. Fired up by three Atkinson kills and a service ace, Branford flew off on a 12-1 run and grabbed an 18-11 advantage. With a string of errant Amity hits and two more Zampano kills, the Hornets extended their lead to 24-18. A final kill from Atkinson brought the game to an end.

“Things weren’t going well in the third game so I put in some substitutes, but that cost us,” Thees said. “I don’t know why but during the third game, we sat back on our heels and played defense, instead of being aggressive and hitting the ball at Branford. That’s something we cannot afford to do. If we had hit the ball more in the third game, we could have been out of here in three games.”

Breaking a 3-3 tie in the fourth game, Sousa put home another ace. Two more Denny kills and four consecutive Branford mistakes put the Lady Spartans on top, 10-5. Taking advantage of Amity errors and a Dering kill, Branford crept back within a point (12-11) but never got any closer.

Sousa banged home a kill and then scored on a dink that were sandwiched around a Vecchio ace to propel Amity out to a 17-11 lead that was extended to 22-14 on two Sousa service aces, kills by Allison and Rebecca Denny. Down but  not out, Branford answered with a pair of kills from Zampano and one from Atkinson and crept back within two points (22-20) but never any closer. A pair of Hornet misfires and a Sousa kill ended the match.

 Thees added, “We went back to our starting line-up for Game No. 4. I was nervous that if we lost this game, it would be ‘here we go again with a five game match.’ Kathryn Pisano began to set the ball and we began to hit the ball again. I think that got their heads. I had constantly told my kids not to hit the ball at Atkinson. She killed us in the first two matches, so we wanted to keep the ball away from her and instead, hit it at some of their weak links.”

In addition to a team-high 10 kills, Sousa landed all 19 of her serves with four aces. Allison Denny recorded six kills and three blocks. Vecchio added three kills and a block. Pisano put up 26 assists and was good on all but one of her 14 serves. Claire Foster chipped in with 17 of 18 serves and nine digs.  Libero Liz Marino recorded a team-high 14 digs.

 Summing up his team’s emotional victory, Thees said, “We wanted redemption tonight and we got it!”      


Oct 232012
 

 

One of the happy moments from Monday’s contest.

By PHIL BRODSKY

Orange Live Sports Writer

Sponsored by Robert Sousa of Sousa & Stone

At the conclusion of Monday night’s Southern Connecticut Conference inter-divisional volleyball game where Jonathan Law came from behind to upset Amity 3-2  (19-25, 28-26, 22-25,25-19, 15-13), Lady Spartan Coach Paul Thees stood at the scorer’s table staring blankly into space—not saying a word. While Thees remained silent for several long, silent seconds, anyone could easily read the frustration that was clearly written across his face.

Following those long, silent seconds, Thees finally said, “I have no answers to what happened here tonight. I don’t know what to say. We had a game plan which we followed in the first gamed and won that game, but after that, we went away from it. The girls were told where to hit the ball but they chose to do differently after the first game. If you don’t follow the game plan, you take the game into your own hands. We were up 2-1 but could never close things out.”

With Amity holding a 7-6 lead in Game No. 4, Law erupted  and went on an 8-1 run and turned its one point deficit into a six point lead (14-8). During that run, The Golden Eagles’ Caitlin Prete banged home three of her match-high 20 kills. During that same run, Amity made a number of unforced errors. With the Lady Spartans continuing to be their own worst enemy, Prete soon landed two more kills to wrap up the game and tie the match at 2-2.

The fifth and decisive game began with Prete once again leading the Milfordites. Twice she caught Amity off guard by softly dumping the ball over the net for points. While the Lady Spartans crawled back within a point (9-8) on a pair of kills and two service aces by Allison Denny and then knotted the score on consecutive kills by Sydnee Sousa, they would never take the lead. The game and match ended with a pair of Jessica Ruiz kills and a hitting violation against Amity.

According to Law Coach Stacy Loch, “We played and lost to Amity in the first match of the season, but now, we’re a completely different team. We changed things and improved a lot. We knew that this was a key match for us. We were 7-9 and needed one more win to qualify for States, but did not want it to come down to us having to win that last match to qualify.”

Amity had the upper hand and dominated the first game from start to finish. Early kills by Amanda Vecchio and Kristen Post along with a pair of aces from Kathryn Pisano staked the Lady Spartans to a quick 4-0 lead. Additional pairs of aces from Vecchio and Sousa and a dink from Sousa extended Amity’s advantage to 12-2. Thanks to three kills from Jenna Bernard and Hayley Soulier’s off-speed dink, Jessica Ruiz’s ace and another Prete blast to the floor,  the Eagles battled back with a 9-2 response that chopped Amity’s lead back to only three points (14-11). That however would be as close as the Golden Eagles would get. Fired up by four five Denny kills and an ace along with Sousa’s four kills, Amity soon closed out its 25-19 first game victory.

The second contest was a see-saw affair from start to finish and included 12 deadlocks and neither team able to open up more than a three point lead. With the game tied at 26-26, Prete landed a pair of aces to give the visitors the win.

The third game began in much the same fashion as the second, but with the tally tied at 8-8, Amity broke loose for a 9-3 run that featured  Denny  and Sousa each landing a pair of kills. In addition Denny and Pisano dropped in an ace.

Down but not out, Jonathan Law clawed back with scoring spikes from Tarah Kelly, Ruiz, and Jenna Bernard and got within a point (21-20). Denny regained the momentum for her team with two more kills. Vecchio then added a game-ending score.

With the fourth game knotted at 7-7, it was Law’s turn to break away. Led by pairs of kills from Prete and Kelly, the Eagles soared off on a 7-1 spurt that gave them a 14-8 advantage. Amity was never able to recover from that Law surge and reduce its deficit. After the two teams traded points, another Prete blast ended the contest and set the stage for the fifth and decisive game.

“It’s always emotional when we play Amity,” Loch Said. “I’m so proud of my girls for pulling this one out.”

Thees countered, “I was constantly encouraging my girls and constantly reminding them to stick with our game plan, but we ran into a team wanted it more than we did. It meant more to them then to us. Considering this was our Senior Night, we should have wanted it more than we did.  The match meant nothing to us as far as the SCC goes but it could end up hurting our state tournament ranking.”

 In addition to her 20 kills, Prete recorded 28 digs and five service aces. Colleen Bogucki added 43 assists and 27 digs. Rachel Hannan chipped in with another 19 digs for the winners.

Amity (now 13-4) cashed out with Denny posting 17 kills and 11 digs. Sousa put a dozen shots to the floor and was good ion 14 of her 15 serves with a pair of aces. Vecchio added 10 kills and was successful on all but one of her 18 serves with two aces. Claire Foster chipped in with a team-leading 18 digs and was nine of 10 serving, while Jenna Pisano recorded 12 digs. In addition to her 38 assists, Kathryn Pisano was a perfect 18 of 18 from the service line with two aces. Liz Marino dug up 13 shots.

Amity closes out its regular season with a visit to Career on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

Sep 202012
 

 

File photo of Lady Spartans Volleyball

By PHIL BRODSKY

Orange Live Sports Writer

 Sponsored by Robert Sousa of Sousa and Stone

On Tuesday night, the Amity volleyball team traveled to Guilford to take on the Indians and quickly took the first 2 games by scores of 25-9 and 25-23. The visiting Lady Spartans then dropped the next 2 games 20-25 and 23-25. With their backs to the wall and forced to play a fifth 15 point game, Amity quickly regrouped and pulled out the match by winning that fifth and decisive game 15-12.

It much the same story on Wednesday night when Amity returned home to host Branford in another Southern Connecticut Conference inter-divisional battle. Once again, Amity grabbed an early 2-0 lead, winning Games No. 1 and 2 by scores of  25-17 and 25-18. On the verge of being swept, the Hornets stung back by claiming the next 2 games  25-17 and 25-23. Again with their backs to the wall the Black and Gold faced a fifth and final game for the second straight night. This time, they could not dodge the bullet. The lights went out on Amity as Branford (now 3-1) jumped out to a quick 9-1 lead and wrapped up its stunning road comeback by winning that game 15-7.

Stunned by his team’s collapse after holding that 2-0 lead, Amity Coach Paul Thees denied that his team ran out of gas when forced to play back-to-back 5 game matches.

He said, “I don’t think that’s what happened.  I think it was more a case of us getting too comfortable after winning the first 2 games. We had more than our share of opportunities to win the match, but didn’t capitalize on any of them.”

Thees pointed out that his team normally lands more than 90% of its serves, but missed 3 serves in that final 15 point game.

“How do you miss 3 serves in a row in a 15 point game and expect the win the match? We never gave ourselves a chance to win Game No. 5,” he asked. “We didn’t miss that many serves in the first 2 games combined. We could easily have won in 3 and then in 4 games tonight. We were close to winning both games, but didn’t choose to get the job done. I’m totally annoyed with what happened tonight.”

After Amity scored the first point in Game No. 5, the Hornets ran off 9 points in a row. In addition to Hannah Zampano’s kill and Tara Dering stuffing Allison Denny’s blast back over the net, Branford took advantage of several Lady Spartan mistakes. While Denny reversed the favor by blocking a Dering blast, Amity still trailed by 7 points (10-3). Leading 13-3 Branford followed with a trio of misfires, but the Lady Spartans got no closer than 6 points (13-7). Following Sydnee Sousa’s scoring black of a kill try from the Hornets’ Anna Atkinson, Branford turned out the lights with sophomore Ellery Riccio’s bump and a match ending blast to the floor by Zampano.

According to winning Coach Eva Esposito, “We knew we were capable of playing better that we did in the first 2 games and still had the potential to win the match. We eliminated unforced errors and started doing some good things. Instead we started making more aggressive plays and making good things happen. Early in the match, Amity was tipping the ball a lot.  We finally started to read and react to those tips. Our comeback was a total team effort. It took us a while, but we finally game together.

Zampano led the 3-1 winners with 14 kills. Zampano added 12 kills and 3 blocks. Setter Lauren Kuhn chipped in with 16 assists.

Amity got off to a very slow start in Game No. 1. Back-to-back services aces by  Kuhn, followed by a pair of Zampano’s cross court kills, an ace by Kelly Smith, and 3 Amity misfires, staked Branford to a 10-3 lead.

Stung by the Hornets’ hot start, Amity quickly responded with an 8-1 run and tied the opener at 11-11.  That scoring spree featured 2 Sousa kills, a scoring bump by Kristen Post, and an ace from Katheryn Pisano.

Still knotted at 14-14, Amity broke things open with a final 11-4 spurt. Rebecca Denny rang up 2 kills, an ace, and a block. In addition to a string of Branford side outs, Post added a game-ending blast to the floor.

The second game saw Amity get off to the hot start and grab a quick 9-1 edge. Sousa led the surge with a dink, a dump, and a kill. Allison Denny added a pair of kills and a dink. Included in Amanda Vecchio’s 6 straight service points was an ace.

While Branford crept back within 2 points (17-15), Amity put that game away with its final 8-2 run. Sousa drilled home 2 aces. In addition, Allison Denny and Post hammered spikes to the floor. Denny also fooled Branford with an unexpected dink.

The third game belonged to Branford from start to finish. A pair of Zampano 

sparked an early 4-1 lead. Additional scoring spikes by Dering, Atkinson, Zampano, and consecutive services aces by freshman Abby Atlkinson and 2 more Dering scores opened up a 14-7 Hornet lead. Kills by Zampano, Anna Atkinson, Dering as well as a series of Lady Spartan errors gave the visitors the third game.

After jumping out to a 4-1 at the outset  of the fourth contest, Amity extended its lead to 14-8 with Allison Denny posting a kill, a dink, and an “in your face” block of Atkinson’s attempted kill. Vecchio drilled home 2 scoring blasts and Branford stumbled several times.

Still holding a seemingly stabled lead (16-11), Amity began to whither under heavy Branford offensive pressure. Lit by Anna Atkinson’s 2 kills, the Hornets exploded with a 9-2 surge that also featured Atkinson’s ace, senior Co-Captain Meg Wirtz’s tip, along with kills from Zampano, Dering, and Wirtz. Sitting on a 20-18 lead, the winners took advantage of a string of Amity mistakes and a game-ending kill from Anna Atkinson ended the fourth contest and evened the tally at 2-2.

Thess said, “Allison Denny had 9 kills and 5 blocks and Kristen Post  added 7 kills. We can’t win with only 16 kills. No way we should lose when we lead 2-0 at home. We lost because we didn’t play well in the third, fourth, and fifth games.”

Allison Denny was also good on all 8 of her serves with 1 ace. Pisano was good on all 16 of her serves with an ace. Vecchio was 22-22 until she missed a crucial serve in the fifth game. It was the same story for Sousa, who was 18-18 until she also missed a serve in the fifth game.

Amity is back in action Friday with a 7 PM Housatonic Division match at Shelton .

Allison Denny recorded 13 kills and Pisano had 26 assists in Tuesday’s marathon win over Guilford.

 

Sep 172012
 

By PHIL BRODSKY

Orange Live Sports Writer

 Sponsored by Attorney Robert Sousa

The Amity volleyball team wasted no time in blanking Career 3-0 (25-6, 25-6, 25-19) Friday in a Southern Connecticut Conference inter-divisional battle in Woodbridge . Each of the first 2 games lasted a mere 11 minutes and required the Lady Spartans to make only 1 complete rotation.

In addition recording 5 assists setter Kathryn Pisano was good on all of her 21 serves with 8 being aces. She ran off 15 serves in a row in the first game and a string of 7 straight serves in the second contest. Back-up setter Haley Pierson played in Game No. 3 and also had 5 assists. Heather Watt recorded a team-high 3 kills. Ashley Wu was 6 of 6 from the service line with an ace. The 2-0 winners were good on 66 of their 73 serves (a solid 91%).

According to Coach Paul Thees, “We played well and it was a pretty easy win. I was able to play 14 girls. I’m glad I got to play a lot of my young girls in the third game.”

He added, “We’ll see how good we are this week. We’re at Guilford on Tuesday (at 7 PM), at home against Branford Wednesday (5:30 PM), and at Shelton Friday ( at 7 PM).

 

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