By MICHAEL LETENDRE
REDDING – When it came to focus in its Class L semifinal volleyball game against third ranked Joel Barlow, Bristol Eastern’s was off the page against the undefeated squad from Redding.
With an up-and-down showing against Maloney two days previous, the sixth-rated Lancers showed poise, crispness and a willingness to not only start plays. But finish them with authority.
And in the end, it led to a sweep of Falcons as Eastern pounded the squad by a 3-0 final in a playoff challenge from Joel Barlow High School in Redding.
Games scores were 25-13, 25-16 and 25-17 in what turned into a major romp.
With the win, Eastern moved to 21-2 on the season. Meanwhile, Barlow lost its only match of the campaign (22-1).
The Lancers squared off in a showdown against No. 2 RHAM (21-1), a squad that was undefeated in regular season play. But was swept by Eastern in the semifinals of the CCC Tournament this past Thursday.
In the other side of the bracket, top seeded Farmington tangled with No. 4 Ledyard. Both matches were slated for Thursday, Nov. 14.
But against Barlow, Eastern looked like a well-oiled machine and everyone contributed to the victory in another amazing effort.
“I’m proud of them,” said Eastern coach Stacy Rivoira of her squad. “They played as a team. They all contributed. They all did what they needed to do. They really stepped it up.”
Jenna Rodjenski tallied up a team-leading 14 kills along with four aces. Meanwhile, Cheyenne Orsi rang up 12 kills and blocked two shots in the winning effort.
But those two weren’t the only players to rack up kills as Savannah White, Kaylee Cruz, and even setter Brianna Root (32 assists) dropped in critical shots for scores.
On the serving front, Bailey Wyrebek went 17-of-18 with five aces. Brooke Johnson was 8-of-9 from the back-line. Meanwhile, Maggie Getler was 8-of-9 serving.
“I thought their serving was particularly strong,” said Rivoira. “And all my hitters participated tonight. They all did what they need to do. It was just an all-around effort. I couldn’t be prouder of my girls.”
And then there was the outstanding play from sophomore Angela Daley.
She stepped into a big starting assignment, coming away with a couple critical kills, 14-of-15 from the service area and showed plenty of hustle, guile and guts on the evening.
“She really did a nice job filling in for Shannon (Michelson),” said Rivoira of Daley. “Shannon’s injured. Kelly (Quirion) is injured. You know, I didn’t have too many reserves and she really did a nice job. For a sophomore, she doesn’t get easily rattled.”
“She has some things to work on. But as a sophomore, you would expect that (but) I think when we needed her to do what she needed to do, she did it.”
The match featured 10 lead changes and 17 ties. But each time the home team scooped up an edge in a set, the Panthers quickly gave the advantage back to the visitors.
Barlow didn’t lead at all over the first set of play and its biggest edge in the second tilt was one.
In the third and final frame, the Falcons held a 5-3 push and that was as good as it got.
Rodjenski got the first set off to a rolling start, zipping in several serves that weren’t returnable, and Eastern led 6-0 off the bat.
Two Bristol errors cut the Lancers’ edge to 8-4. But even leading by a 10-6 push, the Lancers put together a near game-ending run.
Eastern went on a 7-0 jaunt and off an ace by Wyrebek, the Lancers were in charge at 17-6.
The Panthers closed the deficit to eight points late. But in the end, Eastern wrapped up a 25-13 victory in set one.
The second tilt was a bit more of a challenge as four lead changes and 10 ties keep things close throughout between the teams.
Eastern led 6-3 early. But eventually, Barlow caught up. Off a kill by Hannah Goetz, the Panthers inched ahead 13-12.
Eventually, the contest rolled into a 16-16 stalemate before Wyrebek got to the service line.
She helped close out the set via a 9-0 jaunt as Cruz and Rodjenski kills – along with several misplayed balls by Barlow – propelled the Lancers to a 25-16 win and a strong 2-0 lead in the match.
At that point, the Panthers – gamely trying to stay in the fray – couldn’t keep the pace in the physical and mental attacks that Eastern was employing.
“I was definitely a bit more relaxed (tonight) because I felt like they were in it mentally,” said Rivoira. “When they’re into it mentally, I don’t get as nervous because I feel like they have it under control. I can tell by the look in their faces that they’re into it mentally and they were in the zone.”
“I felt very comfortable with that.”
Again, the set went back and forth. Off a long Bailey kill attempt that went out of bounds, the Panthers led 5-3.
But off a 5-0 burst by the Lancers – highlighted by a tip-over from the crafty Root – Eastern gained an 8-5 advantage.
However, that lead wouldn’t last. Again, Barlow led 13-12 before Eastern ended the tomfoolery once and for all.
Off a bad serve, a failed Kaitlyn Marino kill, a block by Orsi and a big reject by White, the Lancers were out in front for good at 16-13.
A damning 9-4 match ending run finished off Barlow’s undefeated season and off one final kill by Rodjenski and a final Panthers’ error, Eastern gained its 25-17 match clinching win and earned another date against tough RHAM.
“I’m happy,” said Rivoira of the outcome. “We’ve never played this team before and it’s nice to come out with a win. Our next opponent is one we know all too well. It’s one we’re going to have to prepare for.”
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com.
By MICHAEL LETENDRE