By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – After a huge 3-1 bounce back match victory against Farmington the previous Friday, the Bristol Central volleyball squad was at it again, this time taking on New Britain in a Central Connecticut Conference Interdivisional showdown from the Charles C. Marsh Gymnasium in Bristol on Tuesday, Oct. 15.
And the Hurricanes came to play, establishing mid-game leads over all three sets before the Rams pulled out each period – zipping up a 3-0 victory behind set scores of 25-17, 25-19 and 25-22.
Central, in the midst of another excellent campaign, moved to 9-3 overall while New Britain fell to an even 5-5.
Eleven lead changes and 23 ties showed that the match was anything but one-sided as the Hurricanes turned defense into offense and made the home squad work all over the court.
“I think we got off to way too slow of a start in all three games and that’s something we haven’t had difficulty with this year,” said Central coach Lance Pepper. “It’s obviously very frustrating as a coach seeing where we can be at times and then to see us the way we played today. It comes down to the girls and they have to figure out what to do in order to get over that hump.”
Central used a one point at a time method to chip away at the deficits and once Ashleigh Clark (30 assists) set the deck, Kathryn Ross, (15 kills, two digs) and company slammed the door shut on the visiting aggression via big kills.
“Kat was, obviously, pretty much unstoppable,” said Pepper of Ross. “And that shows us when our passes are there, we were able to utilize her a little bit better. And that’s something come tournament time, we need to make sure that we’re locking in with our serve-receive and our passing so we can run her as many times as possible.”
“She’s a great weapon for us to have and it was pretty evident tonight.”
Emily Ericson (nine kills, 10 digs) just missed out on a kill/dig double-double, playing extremely well from the service line (two aces), while Kayla St. Onge (three kills), Jadyn Bauer (three kills, three aces) and Peyton Greger (three kills, seven digs, four aces) all made contributions for the home team.
Brooke Soucy added four digs while Gwenyth Torreso played with zest, racking up 20 digs while her serving (three aces) also made a big difference throughout the match.
New Britain’s Raven Jarrett was tremendous with 14 kills while teammate Angie Lugo added nine kills.
And setter Audrey Belliveau scooped in 27 assists, playing a tough game at the net.
A bad serve put the Hurricanes up 9-8 over the first set but that edge did not last.
St. Onge then dropped in a slam and, off the power of Torreso’s serving, Central picked up a 13-9 lead and New Britain never recovered.
Later, off a tip-over and point by Ericson, the Rams’ 19-13 edge was enough of a cushion to carry the squad to the end of the set.
The Hurricanes chopped the deficit to four late but off a Ross kill and New Britain error, Central rang up a 25-17 win in set one.
The Hurricanes came out firing in set two with Lugo dropping in two kills as the visitors led it 9-5 early on.
Greger’s jump-serving pulled Central even at 11-11 but off two slams by Jarrett, the Hurricanes’ lead was back to two again (13-11).
The Rams managed to tie the event up at 17-17 and quickly, it became a Clark-to-Ross fest as a 7-0 burst slammed the door on New Britain.
Clark got the ball to Ross in the middle of the court – off a slick, short passes, and the hitter jammed the ball in time, after time, after time, and off a Ross block, it was a 24-17 game in Central’s favor.
And when the Rams zipped up a 25-19 victory over the second set, Central led the match, 2-0, and needed just one game to close things out.
“What will end up happening is that will end up opening our outsides a whole lot more,” said Pepper of Ross scoring in the middle, “so that they can be more effective and that way, the middle blocker on the other side of the net can’t cheat to the outside, the middle or vice versa.”
The Hurricanes went to work yet again, taking advantage of Central’s mistakes, slamming home kills and when New Britain nabbed a 12-6 push in set three, the Rams were forced to call time out.
“They’re a scrappy team,” said Pepper of New Britain. “Obviously, Raven is a retuning all state player. She definitely made us earn our points at times. She swings very well out of all aspects of the court. She put a few balls down that I was very impressed with. I think that’s a testament to their program and how hard they’re working.”
New Britain eventually rolled out an 18-12 edge late in the final set but Central made all the key stops late.
Off a damaging 10-2 run – powered by a neat kill from Greger – the Rams edged in front, 22-20.
And it was a fight to the finish as Jarrett slipped in a shot that was never returned but when Clark ended the match with an assist to Ross – making one, final loud kill – Central took the set, 25-23, and the match was a clean sweep to move the home team to 9-3 overall on the season.
“I told the girls that at this point of the season, a win just isn’t a win,” said Pepper. “We have to put together a full and complete game because if we have a tough start to games like we did tonight, come tournament time, it’s going to be one-and-done for us. But we have far too much potential on paper for that to happen.”
“We’ve just got to put that all together [and] continue to build.”