FCIAC VOLLEYBALL FINAL Westhill swept for title
FAIRFIELD — Making history was the mission. And nothing was going to stand in the way of the Trumbull High School girls volleyball team from finishing the job.
The No. 2 seeded Eagles soared to a 25-22, 25-22, 25-13 victory over No. 1 seed Westhill High Saturday afternoon before a raucous capacity crowd at the Ludlowe High gym to capture their first-ever FCIAC Championship.
“It was 20 years since a Trumbull girls volleyball team even reached the FCIAC final,” Trumbull’s sophomore setter Ali Castro said. “Knowing we are the first Trumbull High girls volleyball team to capture an FCIAC title. That’s history that will stay with us forever.”
HAVING THE LAST WORD
For Trumbull (18-3 overall), there were equal measures of revenge and growth in its run to the league crown.
After dispatching Ridgefield (3-0) in the quarterfinals, Trumbull outlasted Ludlowe in five games in the semifinals. Trumbull had lost to Ludlowe in the regular season.
Topping Westhill Saturday, healed two wounds. Westhill had beaten Trumbull in the regular season. And that loss gave Westhill the FCIAC West Division regular-season title via tiebreaker as both schools were 14-2 in league play.
“I knew from last year and we all knew this season that Westhill would probably be the team to beat for the FCIAC title,” said Trumbull’s Castro, who earned the game MVP plaque with her 36 assists. “We shuffled some things around early in the season. But our belief in each other grew stronger as we went along. When we beat (intracity rival and East Division champ St. Joseph) on October 12 (3-1) after losing a non-league match (3-1) with them on Sept 15, that was a huge turning point for us.”
POWER, PRESSURE WON THE DAY
The opening two games Saturday were close on the scoreboard.
But emotionally, Trumbull didn’t allow Westhill to take a deep breath and settle into the match.
Game 1 was tied 17-17 and 22-22 when Trumbull scored the last three points (Castro served the final pair) for 25-22 and the early edge.
Game 2 was knotted 11-11 when Trumbull fashioned a 10-2 surge for 21-13. Westhill got as close as 22-18 and 24-22 before senior Julia Roberto (12 kills) brought the hammer down for 25-22 and a 2-0 lead.
“Our goal was to keep the pressure on. We wanted to take the game to them,” said Trumbull’s first-year head coach Nicole Trommelen. “We kept the ball alive on our side. We were inspired. I only ask the girls to play hard. I don’t ask them to be perfect.”
The height and power of Trumbull’s multiple hitters vexed the shorter Westhill squad. Senior co-captain Krystina Schueler (15 kills, 3 blocks) was an unstoppable force. Senior co-captain Rachel Hage (11 digs) keyed the defense on the backline.
In Game 3, an 8-0 surge for 18-8 settled the issue for Trumbull.
And the Eagles got their just reward.
“I watched the last point and I knew we did everything we could to be the best team we could be,” Castro said. “We saw all the hard work all season long pay off. We knew we deserved this FCIAC title.”
BUMP IN THE ROAD FOR WESTHILL
It was disappointing — especially for senior captains Nikki Newcomer and Nina Bakuradze — for the Vikings not to complete the journey to what would have been their first FCIAC title since 1986.
And although she played with a great sense of urgency, Newcomer didn’t get involved in the offense as much as she probably could or should have.
Now Westhill, the No. 3 seed in Class LL, must look forward to its second-round match next Wednesday against either Hamden or intracity rival Stamford.
“It wasn’t our best match. We played well in spurts but not in others,” Newcomer said. “We didn’t take control. Trumbull deserves the credit today. We look forward to the state tourney. One loss doesn’t define our season.”
“I’m proud of the girls. It is an accomplishment being here in the final,” Westhill coach Marianna Linnehan said. “They should keep their heads up. They are already winners. We had a lot of unforced errors. Trumbull just took it.”
At Ludlowe HS gym
TRUMBULL 3, WESTHILL 0
TRUMBULL 25 25 25—3
WESTHILL 22 22 13—0
Records: Trumbull 18-3 overall, Westhill 20-3 overall.
Highlights: T—Krystina Schueler 15 kills, 3 blocks, 2 aces. Julia Roberto 12 kills, 2 blocks. Ali Castro (game MVP) 36 assists, 3 aces. Rachel Hage 11 digs. W—Sophia Thagouras 15 assists, 11 service points. Vana Servos 9 assists, 6 digs. Nikki Newcomer 8 kills, 5 service points, 14 digs. Sanjana Nayak 12 digs, 8 kills. Betsy Sachs 5 kills, 5 digs.