Greenwich High School’s girls volleyball team began the postseason today the way it started the regular season nearly two months ago – in absolute dominant fashion.
When the Cardinals swept Masuk in its season-opener on Sept. 9, it marked the first of many decisive victories for coach Steve Lapham’s team, which has made a habit of winning their matches in straight sets this fall. With each convincing victory, Greenwich built momentum for this time of year – the portion of the season where championship teams are made.
Winners of 19 of its 20 matches during the regular season, top-seeded Greenwich took a significant step toward capturing the first of two titles its chasing this season, defeating eighth-seeded Fairfield Warde, 3-0, in the FCIAC Tournament quarterfinals.
Senior middle hitter/blocker Liana Sarkissian recorded 16 kills, three blocks and six digs, while senior outside hitter Adele Sotgiu registered 14 kills, six digs and 12 service points for Greenwich, which topped Warde, 25-14, 25-9, 25-14.
A squad with high expectations in the playoffs, the Cardinals surely looked like a team on a mission.
“During the regular season, it’s easy for us to get complacent with how we play,” Sarkissian said. “But we just did a really good job of staying humble and aware of where we are, because everyone who makes it to FCIACs is at the same level.”
The Cards led the majority of each set against the Mustangs today. They also swept Warde on Oct. 7.
“I think it was really important for us to go into it like we’ve never played Warde before and I think we brought a lot of energy, which was really good,” Sarkissian said.
Warde was kept on its heels due to Greenwich’s strong serving and ability to find open gaps for kills.
“Everyone’s effort was really amazing,” said Sotgiu, who along with Sarkissian and senior Sophie Jones, serves as a team captain. “We weren’t letting any balls drop and we were all over the place and that’s what made our energy high and won us the game.”
The Cardinals, who last won the FCIAC title in 2017, will play either Trumbull or Wilton in Thursday’s 5 p.m. conference tournament semifinals at Fairfield Ludlowe High School.
“I’m so excited,” Sotgiu said. “The playoffs, we haven’t always played our best, but this year, I wanted us to play really good and today we brought it, so I’m happy about that,” Sotgiu said.
The first part of the opening set was close, as the Mustangs and Cardinals were tied at 7-7. A kill by Sotgiu pu the Cardinals ahead at 8-7. An ace by Sarkissian made it 9-7, before Warde won the next point. Standout serving by Sotgiu enabled GHS to build an 18-9 advantage. She posted five straight service points, including an ace.
“Adele had a great all-around game,” Lapham said. “Our defense was scrappy and we were covering the blocks.”
The second set saw Greenwich jump out to leads of 8-4, 13-5 and 16-5. Selina Torstere, a junior, was one of the players that paced Warde, which had trouble passing the Cards’ serve. Sotgiu sealed the second game with a booming kill, giving the Cards a 25-9 triumph.
Junior setter Lucia Spanjol helped the Cardinals’ offense run smoothly. Spanjol tallied 41 assists, eight digs, eight service points and four aces for the victors.
“We played a really good defensive game today and we really got a hand on everything, which helped me run the offense really well and me and the hitters were having a good connection today,” Spanjol said.
The host Cardinals also played from ahead on their way to taking the third set, 25-14.
“We just talked about getting their defense confused and trying to run a faster offense,” Spanjol said. “As long as everyone on the team wants to win as bad as each other, I think we can get really far in the playoffs.”
Junior outside hitter Maggie Saleeby was a tremendous force in the serving department. Saleeby had six kills, eight digs and rang up an eye-opening 22 service points for GHS.
“We just really played well today,” Saleeby said. “Just from the past games that we’ve done, we’re always trying to improve ourselves and make ourselves better and we brought a lot of energy today.”
Jones notched three kills, while sophomore Hayley Dionis had five digs for Greenwich, which was also paced by sophomore Kassidy Bonney.
“I think it was a great show of what we can do as a team when we’re all in sync and all playing our best,” Jones said. “We came out to fight today, we didn’t make a lot of errors and we really were determined to make it to the championships. Especially last year, since we didn’t get to participate in it.”
Greenwich (20-1), which is 32-1 dating back to last season, is looking forward to its next postseason challenge.
“I feel very confident and excited to have the confidence to play in the semifinals and hopefully the finals,” Sarkissian said.
Added Jones: “Our championship now is our main goal and it makes us more determined to win. I’m hoping that we have a big crowd in the semifinals. Big crowds fuel our team. We like when we get yelled at by the crowd, it really hypes us up and helps us play better.”
Keeping their poise during adverse situations is an aspect the Cardinals have focused on.
“We have to keep a cool head, stay calm throughout it, make the small points and small plays and keep our heads up,” Saleeby said. “This year, there’s a lot more competition and all these games we’re going to have to work for and I’m really excited about it.”