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It was a breakthrough season for the third-year Newtown High School boys’ volleyball team. The Nighthawks, for the first time, qualified for the postseason. They earned the right, as the No. 15 seed, to travel to No. 2 Darien in the Class L state tournament’s first round, on May 31.
Darien, which lost only one match this fall on its way to an FCIAC championship, ended Newtown’s season with a 3-0 (25-17, 25-11, 25-16) triumph. The Blue Wave went on to advance to the semifinal round for the rematch with FCIAC championship finalist Ridgefield, on June 5.
“The boys played well,” said Newtown Coach Sandy Doski, adding that the Hawks held a couple of leads against Darien before the Blue Wave turned up its hitting. “Our defense was great, digging some of their really good hitters. We just couldn’t get a ball to drop on them. They move very well on the court.”
Gavin Stubbs had four kills; Ardi Kodzodziku compiled two kills, one assist, five digs, and an ace; Eric Moore had four assists to go along with a dig; and Matt Prinicipi registered an ace, five digs, and “played amazing defense picking up balls that Darien thought were down,” Doski said.
Newtown, after winning two matches in each of its first two seasons since boys’ volleyball was established at the school, went 8-10 this spring to get into the 16-team Class L bracket.
“The boys were very excited to play in their first state tournament game and were very pumped to give Darien a run compared to the last time we played them. Improved serving and passing was the key to keep us close to them,” said Doski, whose Hawks lost in three, with scores of 10, 7, and 12 in a regular-season meeting.
The Nighthawks were in contention for the two-team South-West Conference playoffs until late in the campaign, and will strive to get into both states and the conference tourney next spring.
A key to success this past season, Doski said, was in offseason league play that kept players sharp and enabled them to build skills on the court. Doski expects more of the same as the team members head into next spring.
Stubbs, Nick Lansing, and Jackson Fletcher are seniors who will be missed next year, but with a bulk of the improving lineup expected to be back in the fold, hopes are high for Doski and company.
“Losing only three seniors this year, I will have a lot of players returning next year. They are very excited to improve on this year’s record and qualify again for the state tournament and go even further next year. Our other goal for next year is to make SWC playoffs,” Doski said. “Many are planning to play during the winter to help improve their skill level and come in next year surprising some more teams. I am very excited to see what the boys do during the summer and winter and am looking forward to next year’s schedule.”