GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Cohesive Titans find their groove against rival Lyman Hall

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WALLINGFORD — This fall’s Sheehan girls volleyball squad is the most tightly-knit squad in coach Victoria Sperrazza’s tenure.

It showed Monday night in a 3-1 win at Lyman Hall.

The Titans rallied to a 23-25, 25-19, 25-20 and 30-28 victory to improve to 3-2 on the season. The Titans dropped the first game and erased a 18-12 deficit in Game 4 before finishing it off with an ace by Emily Franzik.

“They play really well together,” Sperrazza said. “I have to give props to Lyman Hall; they play well off the block and get touches.

“The biggest thing is playing one point at a time and setting small goals in each game. I tell the girls to play the first to five points,” the Sheehan coach added. “They have really come together well. The cohesion on the court is the strongest asset this year. They’ve all been playing a long time. It sounds corny, but they love each other, they trust each other.”

Sheehan won behind Colleen Kelley  (6 kills, 2 blocks), Mackenzie Warmoth (12 kills) and Jayna MacKenzie (13 digs) as well as freshman setter Sarah Beckert (20 assists).

The best player on the floor was Lyman Hall’s Mackenzie Grady. The senior smashed 21 kills and two aces to go along with 13 digs for the Trojans (1-4).

LH started strong on Monday, finishing the opening set on a 9-3 swing that spanned a pair of 4-0 runs. LH scored the final points of the set after trailing 25-21.

Kaylee Salas served it out. She had an ace to tie the match, 23-23. Grady had the kill to give the host match point. LH sealed it on a shot hit wide by Sheehan.

Grady had five kills, two aces and a block in the initial set. 

“We put forth our best effort,” Grady said. “It was a hard game to play and Sheehan is a good team, but it was fun.”

Grady, already a two-time All-Record-Journal selection, said she’s a more consistent hitter this season.

“She has put in a lot of time and effort into her play in the offseason,” LH coach Marion Kish said of Grady. “She came in this year with lot of confidence and she’s embraced her role as a senior captain.

“She's much more confident this year and the team rallies around her. It’s not every day you see an arm like Mackenzie’s. She’s one of those once in a lifetime players.”

The Trojans started out Game 2 with a 3-0 run, but that was the only lead the hosts would have in the set as the Titans responded with a 9-2 run. Madison DiPasquale had two kills during that span and Beckert had an ace and two assists.

Late in the game, LH got within two points on three different occasions. Grady provided the bulk of the offense with three late kills. Sam Ralston also slammed down a kill with an assist from Shakira Villanueva Mercado.

Leading 18-16, Sheehan finished Game 2 on a 7-3 run. It was a block by  Kelley that sealed it.

Sheehan used a 12-1 run to bolt to a 14-4 advantage in the third set. Emma Smith served seven consecutive winning points. Her lone ace of the string made it 10-4.

Lyman Hall’s Callie Chordas sparked a 7-0 burst that brought the home team back to 15-12. The junior had an ace. Viv Pawlosk (6 kills, 3 blocks) had two kills and Grady had one.

Keera Reed (11 digs) also came up with some clutch digs for the Trojans in the set.

Sheehan answered with a 6-2 run to build the lead back up to 21-14. Warmoth and Kelley had kills as the Ttans regained control. Grady had three more kills down the stretch, but the Titans gap was too big as Jayna MacKenzie sealed the set with a kill as Sheehan went up 2-1.

It was the Trojans that controlled the bulk of the play in the fourth set. 

Grady had three kills and Alana Peruti added a block as LH built a 15-9 cusion. Later in the game a Chordas kill made it 18-12. Chordas struck again to make it 20-15 later in the fourth, then Sheehan went on a 8-2 run to go up 23-22.

Then the drama started. Lyman Hall had two set points and Sheehan eventually clinched match point on its fourth try. Anna Fekieta had an ace and Pawloski had a block to keep LH alive. 

Warmoth had a big late kill for Sheehan and Franzik concluded the match with an ace.

“We really pulled it off today,” MacKenzie said. “We were clumsy at times, but we came together as a team and I'm proud of that. There’s no game we want to win more than Lyman Hall. We put it all out on the line.”

Kish said Lyman Hall’s energy fell off at times and the Trojans stopped communicating. She added that the team played timid at times.

“I think it was a hard-fought match,” Kish said. “Sheehan-Lyman Hall matches always are, especially when the fourth set goes 30-28.”

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