A win against Hopkins School continued an impressive midseason trend for Sacred Heart Greenwich’s volleyball team, one that it obviously, hopes, to continue.
The Tigers’ 3-0 sweep of visiting Hopkins marked their third straight match that they won in straight sets. It also extended the Tigers’ winning streak to three matches and improved their overall record to 6-5.
Hopkins School from New Haven won the FAA Tournament championship the past two seasons.
“It was a great match, we were really excited to play Hopkins, they won the FAA last year, so they’re a really great team,” Sacred Heart junior co-captain Emilia Bernal. “We respect their coaches and respect they’re players. I’m really proud of this team, we’ve come a long way.”
Emilia Bernal serves as a captain along with her older sister Martina Bernal, a senior.
“It’s awesome, I like playing with my sister,” Martina Bernal said. “It’s nice, we go home and we talk about the team at the dinner table and what we can do. It’s really cool to have a family member on the team.”
Displaying efficiency both offensively and defensively, the Tigers won their FAA matchup against the Hilltoppers by game scores of 25-15, 25-10, 25-21. The triumph raised Sacred Heart’s FAA mark to 4-1.
Each match we just keep getting better, so I’m really proud of the way we keep coming together,” Martina Bernal noted. “We put all our energy on the court, that’s one of our best assets as a team.”
While Emilia Bernal effectively set up her teammates from her setter position, junior Kaitlin Robinson, sophomore Grace Gapen and Martina Bernal led SHG in the hitting department, registering a number of key kills throughout the match.
“We’re learning to thrive in the environment that we’re in and we’re having a lot of fun while doing it and that’s what’s helping us excel the most – appreciating the time that we’re together and enjoying the time that we have,” said Robinson, who also excels on Sacred Heart’s lacrosse team.
Sacred Heart jumped out to a 6-2 lead on Hopkins in the first set behind the strong serving of Martina Bernal and a pair of kills from Robinson. After the Hilltoppers closed to within 6-4, SHG gained some separation, with Robinson serving an ace and Gapen posting a kill, making it 9-5. The Tigers’ lead became 13-5, courtesy of two more Gapen kills and solid serving from senior Annie Cornell.
Gapen closed out the opening set with a booming kill.
“We played very well today, this was the best energy had throughout the whole season,” said Gapen, who earned a spot on the varsity squad last fall as a freshman. “We worked really well as a team, which we showed on the court and I’m very proud of how we played.”
In the second game, aces by Martina Bernal and a Gapen kill put SHG on top, 11-2. A kill by sophomore Josephine Prinz stretched the Tigers’ advantage to 21-7 later in the set and Robinson ended it with a kill.
The home team also performed well defensively, digging up hard hits by the Hilltoppers and impressively passing the serve.
“This was some of our best defense that we played,” Gapen said. “We dove on the floor and weren’t afraid to go for anything. There was no hesitation and that comes into play to get into great offense.”
In the third set, Emilia Bernal served the Tigers to a quick 6-0 lead, then kills from Robinson and Martina Bernal made it 9-2. Hopkins closed the gap later in the set, but Sacred Heart was able to close it out for the FAA sweep. Sacred Heart has faced adversity, as it lost sophomore setter Evangelyn Forte for the remainder of the season due to a back injury she sustained early in the season. Emilia Bernal has taken on most of the setter duties.
“At the beginning of the season, we lost our setter due to an injury, since then, we’ve been working hard at practice to get touches and adjust,” Emilia Bernal noted. “I’m really proud of the progress that we’ve made and I’m happy that we got to show that out on the court today.”
Said Sacred Heart coach Beth Wilson-Jordan: “Emilia is doing a fantastic job. She stepped in as setter when she can be used elsewhere on the court and she’s done a great job of leading the offense.”
Sacred Heart is back in action again on Oct. 12 when it hosts neighborhood FAA rival Greenwich Academy in a match both teams always eagerly anticipate.
“We just did everything great all-around,” Robinson said of today’s match against Hopkins. “We all worked really hard, put it all together and showed a lot of teamwork. We’re playing GA playing Wednesday, it should be really fun. It’s always a great match.”
After hosting Greenwich Academy on Oct. 12, Kent visits Sacred Heart on Oct. 15.
“We have great potential,” Martina Bernal said. “We keep getting better every single match and I’m so excited to see how we can grow and come together and become even closer.”