Sacred Heart Greenwich’s volleyball team certainly had an impressive response after dropping the first set of its match against rival St. Luke’s School in the semifinal-round of the FAA Volleyball Tournament on Wednesday.
The Tigers rallied to win two of the next three games and advanced to a match they’ve had their sights set on all season – the FAA Tournament final.
Surging Sacred Heart, which hasn’t lost a match since late September, registered a hard-fought 3-2 comeback win over St. Luke’s, earning a spot in the championship match of the FAA Tournament. Coached by Beth Wilson-Jordan, second-seeded Sacred Heart visits top-seeded King School in today’s 5:15 FAA final in Stamford.
Since losing to King, 3-2, on Sept. 28, Sacred Heart has been on some kind of roll, winning 14 consecutive matches. They finished the regular season with a record of 9-1 in the FAA and overall for they season they have a mark of 17-5.
“All the hard work, the dedication, the long hours at practice, it’s definitely paid off,” Sacred Heart junior setter/co-captain Emilia Bernal said of making it to the finals. “It feels so rewarding.”
In Wednesday’s FAA semifinals, Sacred Heart recorded a 21-25, 25-18, 25-15, 20-25, 15-7 triumph.
“We actually lost to them last year in the FAA tournament and this year we wanted to come back,” Sacred Heart sophomore outside hitter Grace Gapen said. “They’re an extremely good team.”
The Tigers went undefeated in October and have won all four of their matches this month, including victories in the FAA quarterfinals and semifinals.
“We’re playing extremely well with all the issues we’ve faced as a team,” Gapen said. “We’re trying hard and we’re doing extremely well. Today, we didn’t let a ball drop down to body and if we made a mistake, we came right back from it.”
After winning the opening set, the Storm took a 7-3 advantage on SHG in the second set, but the Tigers rallied back before their home crowd, with Gapen providing key kills and junior middle hitter Kaitlin Robinson blocking well at the net.
In the third game, the Tigers were able to carry the momentum and played from in front the majority of the time.
“The nerves were definitely there, but we were all just really excited and we wanted so much and we proved it,” Robinson said. “It’s so exciting, I’m pretty sure this is the first time we’ve been to the finals in a long time. It’s such a great feeling.”
The Storm rebounded nicely to take the fourth game, evening the match at 2-2. St. Luke’s used strong serving to finish the fourth game strong, forcing the deciding 15-point fifth game.
In the fifth and deciding set, Emilia Bernal helped get SHG off to a strong start with stellar serving and a kill by sophomore Josephine Prinz gave the home team a 6-2 lead. An ace by senior Annie Cornell and a Gapen kill extended the Tigers’ lead in the final set to 10-5.
Another kill by Prinz made it 14-7 later in the set and the Tigers won the next point to earn a berth into today’s championship match.
“It was really intense and a little emotional,” said Sacred Heart senior co-captain Martina Bernal, who helped power the Tigers’ performance with impressive hits. “This is my last home game as a senior, so it was a little emotional, but that helped me to push through and give it my all.”
Wilson-Jordan has seen her team play battle through some adversity, as it has had some injuries, to reach the tournament’s finals.
“St. Luke’s did an awesome job of stopping us with blocking and they really made us work really hard,” Wilson-Jordan said. “Our girls got a little nervous, but at the end pulled it out. Our crowd was awesome, it was very exciting, they definitely helped us.”
The Tigers, who received strong defensive play from eight-grader Ana Pizzimbono, lost to the Storm in the FAA quarterfinals in 2021.
“We are on a really good winning streak and we’ve had a lot of success recently, so hopefully, we can keep it going,” Robinson said.
“In the finals, it will be about playing our game, no matter what and playing with heart,” Emilia Bernal noted.
Categories: Fall sports, Sacred Heart Greenwich
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