There’s nothing like a good start for any team to build momentum. In volleyball, a sport in which teams get fresh start after start with restarts after sometimes dozens of points in as many as five games in a match, momentum shifts occur numerous times. It all begins with the serve, and that first hit is serving Newtown High School’s girls’ spikers well this fall.
“I think our serving is one of the strongest aspects of our team. When you have a nice start we get in their heads and its hard for them to make a good play,” Newtown captain Mylis Post said.
The Nighthawks earned convincing 3-0 wins over visiting New Fairfield on October 16 and host Bethel two days later, then topped Stratford in four games to carry a record of 14-3 (12-1 in South-West Conference play) into the final two matches of the year.
It doesn’t hurt when facing teams that don’t have a strong receiving game, and that’s been the case at times, but the Hawks often put pressure on the opposition with booming, well-placed serves.
In the 25-15, 25-18, 25-19 win over New Fairfield, the Hawks compiled 42 service points, led by eight from Post, seven from Kyle Dandrea, five from Kayla O’Grady, and four each from Tonya Tucker and Meghan Logan. Among them were five aces from Post and four aces off Dandrea serves.
Against Bethel, it was more of the same with Newtown logging 17 aces among its 43 service points. Post had 13 service points, including six aces; Logan and Dandrea each had eight service points and collected four and two aces, respectively; O’Grady had seven service points, including an ace; and three of Cassie Ekstrom’s five service points were aces.
“When our serving is on we prevent teams from running the type of offense that they want to. While it may not always end in an ace, our serving has been a huge asset to us all year,” Newtown Coach Tom Czaplinski said.
Of course, there is a lot more than the serving game that leads to victories. Ekstrom provided eight digs and seven kills in the win over New Fairfield, Tess Janiak had nine digs, and Logan set up her team with a dozen assists. Then, of course, there is team chemistry.
“I think we all bond really well together and that goes onto the court,” Logan said.
“But there’s always room for improvement,” said Post, noting that the Nighthawks need to work on passing and defense — elements of the game that can help the Hawks hold serve or side out to get possession for those serves.
In the Bethel match, Newtown cruised 25-12, 25-22, 25-18. Post had seven kills and six digs; Dandrea compiled eight kills and three digs; and Ekstrom had 13 digs and three kills.
Bethel, now with ten SWC wins, is one of the better teams in the conference, and that triumph could give the Hawks more confidence than a victory over a weaker team might, but Post insists the NHS girls just need to only worry about their collective performance.
“No matter what the team’s ability we should just focus on ourselves,” Post said. “Every game prepares us for playoffs — not just bigger games.”
The Hawks overcame a tough start to upend visiting Stratford 3-1 (22-25, 27-25, 25-10, 25-16) on October 21. Stratford fell to 7-6 and conference play and 10-6 overall. Post had 12 digs, five kills, and four aces; Ekstrom logged 15 kills and ten digs; Janiak had 15 digs; and O’Grady registered ten kills, five digs, and two blocks. Serves, once again, were key. O’Grady had 14 service points, and the Hawks had a dozen each from Post and Ekstrom, and ten more from Mackenzie Lapp.
After closing out the regular season with matches against Weston, and East Lyme this week, Newtown will embark on the postseason, beginning with the South-West Conference playoffs which will start on October 28.