WINDSOR – When the Bristol Eastern volleyball team ended its 2018 campaign with a 3-0 loss to Class L’s top-rated squad Woodstock Academy on Wednesday, Nov. 14, the locals finished the year with an impressive 19-4 ledger.
However, the Lancers went into that Class L semifinal bout with every intention of nabbing its 20th victory of the campaign and then moving on to championship Saturday.
“I think we had all the tools that we needed to,” said Eastern coach Stacy Rivoira of beating Woodstock. “I just don’t think we displayed them all [last Wednesday].”
And Eastern certainly had the firepower to make it to the finals.
Eastern’s sophomore sensation Zoe Lowe once again proved her future is very bright as she finished the contest against Woodstock with 15 kills and 11 digs.
She made big hits throughout the match but, as a team, the squad could not generate enough kills to force additional sets that night.
“I’m disappointed because we’re a better team than we displayed tonight,” said Rivoira.
Seniors Bella Nozzolillo (five kills, two digs), Amber Blais (three kills, two aces, eight digs), Olivia Beaudoin, Alex DiMattia (six digs), and star setter Aliana Rivoira (seven aces, 10 digs, 25 assists) all contributed to the effort against the Centaurs.
Junior Taylor Keegan (two aces) and sophomore Ryley Plourde (three blocks, two digs, 25 assists) also made big plays in the challenge versus Woodstock.
And then defensively, Woodstock’s outside hitters Paula Hernandez and Natalie Low always seemed to put down the ball where Eastern was not in position to defend it.
And Woodstock had the Class L championship in its collective grasp but let a 2-0 lead slip through its hands against Joel Barlow — eventually dropping a devastating 21-25, 20-25, 25-13, 25-19, 16-14 final.
But against Eastern, those two outside hitters — Hernandez and Low — just could not be slowed down.
Hernandez collected 20 kills while Low backed her up with seven.
The setback to the Centaurs was only the fourth loss all year for Eastern as the squad dropped matches to Southington, RHAM (twice) and Woodstock — all either state semifinals or state championship runner’s up.
“[We could have] beaten them, honestly,” said Rivoira of the Woodstock match. “Who likes to lose? No one likes to lose. I hate losing. You always want to do better. Why wouldn’t you want to beat those teams to know that you’ve accomplished something? Beating those teams, you should be proud. That’s the difference between being a state championship team and not being a state championship team…it’s winning games like this.”
“There’s only two teams that end up there and there’s a reason why [Woodstock] ended up there.”
Eastern returns juniors Brooke Dorsio, Taylor Keegan, and Rebecca Bender while sophomores Ryley Plourde and Lowe will all make an impact on the 2019 unit at BE.
Lowe ended the year with over 250 kills; Bender had 56 aces and 215 digs; Plourde rejected 33 shots; Keegan nabbed 48 digs; and Dorsio bumped up 57 digs of her own.
But that’s next season as Eastern had some moments in its final match of the 2018 campaign to be proud.
“I thought we hit well out of the middle,” said Rivoira of the squad’s final match. “I thought Zoe was playing really strong and giving us some offensive points. I thought Ali did well setting for what she was given. She hardly was ever setting out of target which makes it really hard to run an offense when you’re running it out of the back row.”
The 19-win Eastern squad was led by five outstanding seniors this year as the showdown against Woodstock ended up being the final match for seniors Alex DiMattia (270 digs), Olivia Beaudoin (100 kills), Bella Nozzolillo (137 kills, 40 blocks), Amber Blais (175 kills, 207 digs), and setter Aliana Rivoira (139 aces, 197 digs, 761 assists).
That five-pack of players represented the program well over the last few seasons and put this year’s squad on the cusp of a Class L championship match.
“I’m proud of my seniors,” said Rivoira. “I’ve had this group for three years now as a whole group. It was our goal to make it farther. I think I got out of them as much as I could and hopefully, they can reflect on their time in the program as a positive that they learned more than just volleyball but they learned how to face adversity in life and what do when things aren’t going well and learned a lot of about themselves that they’ll take with them as they grow and mature later in years.”
“I’m so happy to have coached them. They’re a great group of girls who care very much about one another and that’s a nice thing to coach.”