October 11, 2017 09:37PM
By Ken Lipshez
MERIDEN — Both teams have talent in the various facets of the game.
The fact that neither has developed consistency at any one of those facets accounts for why the volleyball teams from Sheehan and Maloney haven’t been able to compete with the elite programs in their respective leagues.
Their assets and shortcomings, however, made for a compelling interleague skirmish between local teams that would undoubtedly come down to who stepped up — or down — in the big moments.
Sydney Hunt seized the initiative with some savvy serving Wednesday to lead Sheehan to a 3-2 (25-14, 21-25, 22-25, 25-13, 15-8) victory over Maloney at the Benjamin Nessing Gym.
When Maloney’s ultra-athletic, All-CCC hitter Melanie Polanco (game-high 17 kills) is at full throttle, defender beware.
When Hunt or libero Emily Musso is dealing, advantage Titans. Hunt was in the right spot and in an analytical state of mind when it counted, dicing up the Maloney defense with some well-placed serves down the stretch in Game 5.
“I look for what’s open and you also look for people who can’t pass it as well as others, and that’s who you serve it to,” said Hunt, who landed three of her nine aces to give expand the Titans’ lead to 12-5 in the finale. “I figure it out from there. It’s called strategy.”
Both coaches have endured the heartbreak of inconsistency, but winning provides relief.
“I wanted their goal to be just swing away and have fun with it because they play so much better when they’re having fun and taking chances,” Sheehan coach Victoria Sperrazza said. “They were playing like they’re practicing. Come game time, everybody gets a little nervous and tends to play safe. I told them to leave their hearts out on the court and they did today. They proved to me that they can do this.”
Maloney (8-6) has lost five of six since starting with a 7-1 record. The Spartans had 11 missed serves and 26 hitting errors.
“It’s consistency and their libero Musso stopped everything,” Maloney coach Kevin Savejs said. “She stopped a lot of attacks that would have found ground against a lot of teams. [Consistency] has been our struggle. It’s not the kills, per se. It’s the easy passes where the ball is dropping where it should be picked up.”
Polanco and Anna Hendrickson (14 kills, 8 digs, 3 aces) were at their best when the fifth game began. The Spartans won the first point on Polanco’s kill and the second on her ace. Hendrickson’s kill made it 3-0 and then 4-2, but two hitting errors and two passing mistakes allowed Sheehan (7-7) to regain its composure.
Musso (23 digs) had two aces and freshman middle hitter Caitlyn Hunt made a block to propel Sheehan from a two-point deficit to a four-point lead that would prove insurmountable when Sydney Hunt took charge.
“She’s been one of the most reliable players we’ve had,” Sperrazza said. “She knows how to bring everybody together.”
Sheehan took command of the first set when Sam Iannone stepped to service line and ran off five points for a 6-1 lead. The Spartans were hurt by hitting errors. An ace by Iannone and a kill by Macey Sundwall highlighted the early surge.
Maloney recovered enough to cut the lead to one at 11-10, but passing errors undermined thoughts of a comeback. The Titans put it away when Musso got them back in system with an ace and Hunt (9 kills) delivered her third kill of the set.
The Spartans overcame an early Sheehan lead in the second set, which became a battle to the finish.
The serving of Hendrickson backed by a kill from Grace Anetrella tied it at 8. From there, Polanco was the focal point. With the score 21-20 Maloney, Polanco landed consecutive kills. Hunt answered with a kill, but a missed serve and net violation enabled the Spartans to draw even.
Maloney won the pivotal third game with Anetrella stringing together four straight service points. She simply served consistently and Sheehan made hitting and passing errors.
The fourth game went much like the first with Sheehan gaining command after a service run, this one by Sydney Hunt. Once again, mistakes took Maloney down.
Carolyn Biel had five kills and four digs for Sheehan. Setter Kari Dietl had 18 assists.
Maloney libero Isabel Frazza had nine digs. Setter Carly Massicotte dished out 34 assists.