By MICHAEL LETENDRE
MIDDLETOWN – When the Bristol Central volleyball team hit the court in Middletown, the Rams ran into a young and hungry Blue Dragons’ squad. And while Middletown put up a pretty good fight against Central, the group from Bristol was more than a couple moves better than its opponent.
In the end, the Rams downed Middletown 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 25-9) in a CCC South challenge on Monday, Sept. 24. The match featured two competitive sets that saw 21 ties and 13 lead changes as Bristol couldn’t piece any solid runs early into things.
But in that final game, Central stepped it up and sent the Blue Dragons packing in a rousing effort.
“That third game, that’s how we play,” said Central coach Jen Broderick. “We weren’t communicating, talking in the first game. I had a couple subs in there…we started a little differently but needless to say, even when I played my normal rotation the second game, we still weren’t talking.”
“We missed four serves in the second game, we’d make a great play, then we’d get the ball back and we miss a serve so you can’t keep the momentum on your side when that happens.”
Bluntly, Middletown played a little bit over its head against Central and certainly rose up to its competition.
Against Plainville in a home match the previous week, Brielle Coleman struggled in the games and sent a bunch of hits into the net. But against Central, she racked up kills, blocked numerous shots, and was a complete menace on the court when on the frontline. Coleman ended up with three kills and three blocks to lead Middletown.
“They were pesky,” said Broderick of Middletown. “They got to a lot of balls. (Coleman) got some blocks and did a great job at the net. They got inside our head and I called that timeout in that second game (when we were down 21-18) and I said we just have to play our game. We can’t play any different no matter who we’re playing.”
“I think ever since that, they sort of turned it around and I told them to forget about it…we can’t live in the past, we can’t think about the first game (as it’s) over and done with.”
The Rams had plenty of crafty players on its side of things and each and every time the Blue Dragons inched towards taking a lead, it was usually snuffed out pretty quickly. Emily McKenzie showed power and zest, smashing 11 kills and collecting five aces. Lauren Vallee came alive in the third game and ended the night with eight kills while setter Lara Colegrove was just the floor-leader Central needed as she tallied 21 assists.
In the final game, Middletown struggled with the laser serving of Erin Palmquist as she scooped in 17 service points and was 24-of-25 serving on the evening. Then, throw in the contributions of the freshmen duo of Allie Martel and Cydney Martin, add a little senior leadership of Lauren Hartwell and finally some bench help from Gretchen Edelman, and Central got a complete game effort from everyone who stepped on the floor for the Rams.
The first set was a back and forth outing between the schools and off an errant Middletown serve, the game was tied at 9-9.
Martin then served up two balls that were not returned and the Blue Dragons never tasted the lead again.
The Rams went up by six, 17-11, off an ace by Colegrove. But Middletown – taking advantage of sloppy passing by Central – closed it to 17-15 before the visitors put together an 8-4 push to capture a 25-19 win in set one.
In game two, Central had trouble getting any continuity together but did hold several one-point leads midway through the fray.
And off a McKenzie smash into the net, Central was looking up at a 21-18 deficit on the scoreboard. But the young club couldn’t maintain any lasting momentum and quickly, the Rams closed the game off a fury.
Central put together a 7-1 run as consecutive kills by Vallee – assisted from Colegrove – made the second contest a 25-22 final and propelling the Rams to a 2-0 lead in the match.
“Here and there, we made some great plays but we couldn’t put it all together for a long stretch until the third game,” said Broderick.
Up to that point, Middletown had given it a good fight but off a 6-6 tie in the third and final frame, the Blue Dragons finally fell apart. That’s when the veteran Rams made its collective, final moves.
Off the tough serving of Palmquist, there wasn’t much Middletown could cleanly return.
Central went on a blazing 17-1 burst with the only point Middletown earning off a gaffe by the Rams. Off an non-returnable slam from McKenzie, Central pulled in front 23-7 and it was only a matter of time before the Rams took the game by a 25-9 final and took a sweep in match play.
“We’ve played 100-times better (earlier in the season) than we did tonight,” said Broderick. “But I guess that’s sport, that’s athletics. We’re not going to come out and play 120-percent all the time. You can’t win them all.”
It’s going to be a busy week for Central this week against taking on Bristol Eastern (Monday, Oct. 1) and Maloney (Wednesday, Oct. 3).
This Friday, the Rams square off against East Catholic from Bristol Central at 6 p.m. while the squad travels to Groton on Saturday (Oct. 6) for a non-conference showdown with the Falcons of Fitch.
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com.