One of the marks of a team that’s primed for the pressure that’s attached to the postseason is how well it handles adversity and Greenwich High School’s girls volleyball team faced an adverse situation at the outset of Monday’s state tournament match against South Windsor.
Senior Maggie Saleeby, one of the Cardinals’ captains and main outsider hitters, rolled her ankle on one of the match’s first plays and was sidelined thereafter, forcing the team to make adjustments both strategically and mentally.
Visiting South Windsor had the upperhand in the first game of the CIAC Class LL Tournament opening round match, but the Cardinals responded in impressive fashion, taking the next three games and the match.
Senior outsider hitter/captain Katherine Ford registered 13 kills, 16 digs, four aces and one block for ninth-seeded Greenwich in its 3-1 win over No. 24 South Windsor. The defending Class LL champion Cardinals advanced to the Class LL Tournament’s Round of 16, where they will visit eighth-seeded Shelton, a 3-1 winner over No. 25 Maloney in the first round.
Greenwich needed players to step up in the absence of Saleeby, a powerful hitter, who watched the match from the sideline, where she iced her ankle. Junior Kassidy Bonney and sophomore Joy Houdre were two of the Cardinals’ athletes that helped spark the squad.
“Maggie is our leader on the court,” Greenwich coach Marianna Linnehan said. “She’s always the one talking and leading and being super aggressive and positive. We had Kassidy swinging on the outside and Joy stepped up in the back row on defense. Our team adjusted well after the first game.”
South Windsor won the first set, 25-20, then Greenwich took the next three, 25-14, 25-18, 25-15.
“I’m really excited, I think if we play together as a team and keep our energy up we can go farther,” Ford said. “We had Kassidy play outside, she was getting a lot of good kills and Grace (Darnow) did a good job of moving the ball around. We’re excited about the next round. We know what we need to do and we’re focused and what we need to execute.”
Junior setter Grace Darnow helped the offense flow, posting 36 assists, 10 digs and two aces, while junior libero Hayley Dionis was excellent defensively, registering 23 digs and three aces for the Cardinals (18-5).
“We were really amped up in the beginning, but after Maggie got hurt, we were all nervous about her and how she was doing, so we weren’t really able to focus,” Dionis said. “Then we really pulled it together and focused in on what we needed to do. They (South Windsor) were really scrappy, they had good hitters and they really kept us on our toes.”
After dropping the first set to the Bobcats, the Cards won the second set, then seized a 12-6 lead in the third set, behind kills from Bonney, sophomore Alina Sarkissian and Ford.
Greenwich increased its second set advantage to 18-6 due to strong serving from Dionis, a kill by Sarkissian and a block from senior Izzy Erceg. Solid serving from Darnow closed out the second game.
Sarkissian tallied 10 kills and three blocks, while Bonney notched eight kills and two blocks to also highlight the winning effort.
“After Maggie got hurt, the energy was down,” Sarkissian said. “We got a little bit in our heads, but we picked up the energy. I feel like our defense was getting better.”
GHS held the upperhand in the fourth game as well, exhibiting strong play at the net and solid hitting and passing.
“They had really good servers and they were serving to spots really well,” Sarkissian said. “We kind of picked up where they were serving to, then we were just digging them up.”
Greenwich’s Round of 16 match against Shelton on Thursday is scheduled to start at 6 p.m.
“I’m so excited, it’s all going by so fast,” Dionis said of the season. “I’m amped up for the next game and I think we’re going to do well.”