Volleyball pg 1 11-1-18

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The Centaurs seniors and their parents celebrated Senior Night prior to the match with Conard Oct. 24 at the Alumni Fieldhouse at the Academy (Photo by Greg Smith/Woodstock Academy)

Going Up
Sammie Orlowski (15) and Amelia Large (21) go up for Woodstock Academy attempting to block the shot of RHAM’s Julia Hancin (18). Contributed by Brenda Orlowski.

Volleyball team
guaranteed #1
rank in  tourney
The Woodstock Academy volleyball team had quite the exciting week.
It celebrated Senior Night with a 3-0 win over Class LL Conard Oct. 24.
It followed that up with a 3-1 win over the team that beat the Centaurs in last year’s Class L state championship match, RHAM, on Friday.
That win gave the Centaurs their first-ever undefeated regular season and guaranteed them their first No. 1 ranking in the Class L state tournament.
“It’s pretty amazing and very special,” Woodstock Academy coach Adam Bottone said of the 18-0 regular season. “It’s hard to put into words and I don’t think it has really sunk in yet for me just because my mind is on the ECC tournament and state tournament and wanting to do well there. When the season is all said-and-done, that’s when it will sink in. It’s hard to have that kind of success and try to keep the train going and keep the team motivated and their heads in the right place. That’s my focus rather than reflecting back on the success but it’s a pretty awesome thing.”
And finally, the Centaurs downed Killingly, 3-0, Oct. 27 in an Eastern Connecticut Conference Division 1 tournament quarterfinal match.
An exciting, but exhausting, three games in four days.
“Everyone was kind of tired so it was kind of rough at the beginning,” senior Natalie Low said of the win over the Redgals. “We kind of held our own and picked it up in the second set.”
Killingly, which finished the season with a 4-17 record, hung close in the first set before falling 25-16.
Up 20-13, the Centaurs finished things off with Low getting an ace and Paula Hernandez (19 kills) getting three kills off of sets from Sammie Orlowski (29 assists). Orlowski polished things off with a kill of her own off a set from Low.
“It was brutal,” Bottone said of having to play in a must-win game if the Centaurs wanted to continue on in the ECC tournament just about 20 hours after beating the Sachems in Hebron
“You kind of just avenged the loss in the championship game last year and are flying high with a real intense environment at their place so I knew we would be down a little. I was actually happy with the results we had,” said Bottone.
The Centaurs downed the Redgals in the second set, 25-11.
A big key in that set and in the third that followed, won by Woodstock Academy, 25-14, was senior Maddy Gronski.
She stepped behind the service line and delivered nine straight points to raise a 12-9 Centaurs lead to an insurmountable, 21-9. She did the same in the third set where she delivered eight straight service points to put the Centaurs ahead, 21-8.
Bottone said Gronski was effective when she delivered three service points in the first set but was kind of just lobbing it over.
“We have a term we use, ‘flean’, which means flat-and-clean,” Bottone said. “I wanted (Gronski) to get them down more, make them float a little more and give them trouble. That’s exactly what happened. She stepped up nice.”
The top-seeded Centaurs (19-0) moved on to meet No. 4 Fitch in Groton in an ECC semifinal on Monday (the match finished too late for this edition). The championship match is at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 31 at Norwich Free Academy.
The one thing about beating RHAM is that the Centaurs, if they weren’t feeling the pressure before, are probably feeling it a little more now.
Beat the defending champs and everyone is gunning for you.
“I feel like all the eyes are upon us. It’s going to be exciting and nerve-wracking for the rest of the season,” Low said.
The Centaurs were their normal selves in the first set, feeding off the energy provided by RHAM and its fans on “Dig Pink” night in Hebron, and quieting them down with a 25-12 win in the first set.
“The first set we had a lot of energy and motivation, but we got comfortable in the second,” Orlowski said.
Comfortable is not something a team can be against a program like RHAM.
The Sachems (16-2) handed the Centaurs a 25-21 loss.
It was the first time since Sept. 21 at Fitch that the Centaurs lost a set.
“It wasn’t like that game was a blowout, it was a back-and-forth for most of the set,” Bottone said.
A couple of errors late in the set cost Bottone’s squad.
“It’s a testament to their personality and mindset that they didn’t let things bother them. We were able to bounce back because we knew RHAM was a good team, we knew what to expect and that their defense was going to be good and it was going to be a battle. Losing a set to them was not unexpected,” Bottone said.
The Centaurs, behind their leaders, rallied.
They downed the Sachems in the next two sets, 25-21 and 25-12.
Hernandez finished with 32 kills and 20 digs; Orlowski had 45 assists; Gronski 28 digs and Low contributed 18 kills and 16 digs.
Orlowski said the perfect regular season was a result of staying the course.
“We just played our best all season. I don’t think we had any let ups and when we started to, we stopped right away and went back to our game. It was a big accomplishment for us. We’ve just taken it game-by-game and it has paid off,” Orlowski said. “Now, we just have to go into the postseason with the same mindset, even more so.”
That mindset was in evidence against Conard.
The Centaurs celebrated Senior Night and then went out and took care of business.
The Centaurs came out of the gate and scored a 25-9 win in the first set against the Chieftains Oct. 24.
“That set was amazing,” Bottone said. “We came out on fire, very similar to how we played against East Lyme. I think we kind of took them off guard a little.”
It set the tone for the night as the Centaurs followed up with a pair of 25-18 victories to score the 3-0 win.
“I’m actually really surprised just because of how loose we do play,” Gronski said. “Previous years, we were thinking we have to get this point. It was serious. This year, we we’re very relaxed and we win a lot of games that way.”
While it was a special night for the seniors, Gronski, Bekah Wesler, Rachel Durand, Orlowski, Emma Green, Danuse Horka, Low, and McKenna Gagnon, it was hardly their focus.
“I wasn’t thinking that it was our Senior Night and we had to win. I was thinking that I wanted to have fun playing. That’s why we are doing so well,” Gronski said.
She also played pretty well, getting 23 digs in the win.
Orlowski had 26 assists while Low (17) and Hernandez combined for 30 kills.
Cate Di Giacomo had 18 assists for the Chieftains (14-4).
Marc Allard
Sports Information Director
The Woodstock Academy


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