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What a season it was for Newtown High School’s boys’ volleyball team. The Nighthawks, coming off winning the South-West Conference championship, saw their Class L state playoff run and unbeaten ways end in a 3-0 (25-13, 25-20, 25-18) loss to the Ridgefield Tigers in the semifinals at neutral site Fairfield Warde High, on June 4.
“Even though we lost, they shouldn’t hang their heads. They played hard; they played great. We had a phenomenal season,” Newtown Coach Sandy Doski said.
Third-seeded Ridgefield used a strong defensive effort to set the tone as well as set up clean hits to score points.
“Ridgefield is very disciplined, and they have a great block. They have the best block and the best defense we’ve seen all year,” Doski said. “They outhit us, they outplayed us, they outblocked us. They got touches on everything.”
In the third game, the Nighthawks scored three straight points for a 6-5 edge capped by Silas Decker’s ace. The Hawks cut into 11-7 and 12-8 deficits on a blast of a spike by Ardi Kodzodziku and a Liam Jones kill, but Newtown never got any closer, despite diving efforts by Nate Jones, Matt Principi, and others.
A diving save by Robbie Morrill glanced off the hand of a quick reacting Eric Moore as the Hawks seemed to fend off a point, only to see the Tigers finish the sequence with kill as they pulled away late in game three.
Kodzodziku had six digs and 12 kills, Moore logged six digs and 26 assists, Principi had 11 digs, Morrill registered three digs and five kills, Decker had five service points and four kills, and Liam Jones had seven kills; Nate Jones had three digs and three service points, Morten Sande added three kills, and Kyle Nicholson tacked on a trio of service points.
The Nighthawks defeated No. 7 Hall 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-15) in the Class L state tournament quarterfinals in Newtown on June 1.
“Unbelievable. It’s crazy to think that we’re going to the semifinals,” said Doski, whose program is in only its fourth year of existence.
Kodzodziku had 25 kills, five digs, five service points, an ace, and three blocks; and Moore logged two kills, three digs, 28 assists, five service points, and two blocks.
Principi recorded five digs, five service points, and one ace; and Morrill had 13 digs, seven kills, 11 service points, and a pair of aces.
Decker notched seven kills, two digs, three blocks, seven service points, and three aces; Liam Jones had four digs, seven service points, two assists, and an ace; and Sande added five kills and four blocks.
Leading 13-11 in game two, the Nighthawks reeled off six unanswered points, capped by a pair of Moore blocks at the net, making it 19-11.
Hall hung around until consecutive Kodzodziku kills, the last of which was a smash at the net set up by Principi’s save, put Newtown up two games to none.
The Hawks trailed by as many as three points in the third game and did not take their first lead until Decker’s spike made it 14-13.
After Hall answered to even the score, the Nighthawks went on an 11-1 run to close things out.
Decker’s kill made it 15-14, and two straight Decker aces pushed the lead to 17-14. Kodzodziku’s kill extended the lead to four, prompting Hall to take a timeout.
Newtown went up by five on an errant Hall hit. Although Hall managed the next point, despite a diving save by Moore earlier in the rally, momentum was not slowed. Kodzodziku’s spike made it 20-15. Two straight Hall hits out of bounds and a Sande kill brought the lead to 23-15. Kodzodziku added a kill, and Hall’s final hit went into the net to seal the Nighthawk victory.
“I honestly did not expect us to do this well this year. I didn’t expect us to go undefeated and get past the second round of states,” Kodzodziku said.
A key to Newtown’s success is simply not being satisfied.
“No matter how much we win, we know we have to stay humble and keep improving,” Kodzodziku said.
“I’m extremely proud of these guys. They worked hard for this,” Doski said. “In the beginning of the year I never would have expected us to be 17-0. But as the season played out and the way we gelled, I would have been upset if we lost a match.”
Doski said she expected her team to have to be at its best in order to defeat a strong FCIAC team in Ridgefield.
“We’ve got to bring our ‘A’ game with us,” she said following the win over Hall. When it came time for that match, Doski thought a combination of Ridgefield’s strength and her team’s nerves got the best of the Hawks.
Newtown had defeated No. 15 Greenwich 3-0 (25-13, 25-10, 25-15), at home, in the first round of states. Kodzodziku had seven digs, ten kills, nine aces, and 16 service points; Decker had one dig, six kills, one block, three aces, and nine service points; Moore logged four digs, 11 assists, two kills, an ace, and four service points; and Sande and Morrill each contributed six kills.