GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: On a back-and-forth night, Titans complete season sweep of rivals

WALLINGFORD — Sheehan girls volleyball completed a season sweep of cross-town rival Lyman Hall on Tuesday night at Sheehan High School.

The Titans (9-5) won by game scores of 25-18, 16-25, 25-21 and 25-23 on the team’s annual Military Appreciation match tonight.

The gym was decorated with red, white and blue balloons and streamers. The proceeds raised from raffle and concession on Tuesday night will be donated to Salute To Valor, a local organization to support veterans.

Sheehan won the first meeting 3-1 at Lyman Hall on Sept. 20.

On Tuesday, the Titans were paced by Jayna MacKenzie, who had six kills, nine digs and two aces.

Freshman setter Sarah Beckert had 16 assists and one ace. Madison DiPasquale came up clutch with three kills and 10 digs and Shannon Murphy added nine digs and three aces.

“This was the last time for the seniors to play Lyman Hall and we didn’t want anything more than this last win,” MacKenzie said. “We wanted this one because we don’t get another shot at them. We had to fight from the start and we knew we could have it after the first set.”

Lyman Hall fell to 6-8 with the defeat, but senior standout Mackenzie Grady was everywhere for the Trojans with 24 digs, 15 kills and nine aces.

Trojan libero Keera Reed was a standout on defense with 14 digs to go along with two aces.

Senior setter Shakira Villanueva Mercado dished a career high 31 assists for the Trojans and had two aces as well.

“We had an awesome game,” Villanueva Mercado said. “I’m proud of my teammates and we had great energy today. I’m surprised I was able to get 31 assists. I’ve never had that many before.”

Sophia Donath also provided strong play for Lyman Hall as a middle blocker with three kills and two aces. This was the senior’s fourth game back after sustaining an ankle injury in preseason.

The Titans erased a 17-16 deficit and finished the initial set on a 9-1 run, which was served by DiPasquale.

MacKenzie had a kill during that run. Beckert also had a push volley that went down as a kill during the decisive run.

The set ended on a hitting error as the Titans took the early edge.

Earlier in the opening game, Elaine Tolentino served Sheehan to a 8-2 lead via a 6-0 run capped by a Lily Bauer slam set up by a Beckert assist. Tolentino had three straight aces as the hosts built an early advantage.

Grady spurred a Trojans’ 6-0 spurt to tie the match, 8-8. The hard-hitting senior had two aces and Viv Pawloski had a block to tie the match.

The rivals went back and forth for the middle of the set before Sheehan pulled away with the big run down the stretch.

Donath gave the Trojans a nice cushion in the midst of the second set. The middle blocker smashed a kill that sparked a 8-0 run that she served as LH went up 15-9.

Junior Callie Chordas picked up much of the slack down the stretch of the second set as the Trojans continued to pull away.

Chordas had three kills and an ace in the final six points of the set. Her ace sealed it as Lyman Hall tied the match, 1-1.

Sheehan opened up a 14-10 advantage midway through the third set courtesy of a 7-2 run. The spurt included two extended points that were both won by the Titans.

But of those two points provided an emotional lift as Sheehan’s run expanded to 10-3 and the lead rose to 17-11.

Murphy had a kill during that Sheehan run.

Lyman Hall showed some resilience with three straight points, forcing a Sheehan timeout at 17-14. Eventually, the Trojans erased the deficit behind two aces from Grady.

The visitors went up 20-19 and forced the Titans to exhaust their second and final timeout.

A Trojans’ missed serve and back-to-back kills by Mackenzie Warmoth put the Titans up, 22-20, forcing LH coach Marion Kish to call for timeout.

Warmoth added another kill as the Titans went up 23-20. Shannon Murphy served the final two points, including an ace on set point as the Titans took a 2-1 edge in the match.

In Game 4, Lyman Hall made its move with a 7-2 run to go up 15-12. Grady was a force with back-to-back kills. The first was a change-up over the top blocker and the second was a slam on the back row.

Later in the run, Grady connected on back-to-back aces as the Trojans went up 16-12.

The Titans responded with a 5-1 spurt that included by a block by Warmoth and a kill from Colleen Kelley to close to within 20-19.

MacKenzie gave the Titans their first lead since 10-9 with three straight service points to set up match point, 24-22. A Sheehan hitting error allowed the Trojans to fend off one match point and then Sheehan coach Victoria Sperrazza called for timeout.

The Titans won it on a missed serve.

“It’s always an exciting game playing Lyman Hall,” Sperrazza said. “We got back and forth and they always stay within at least three points. We just wanted to play one point at a time together. If we play together, we are going to win together.”

Kish said her Trojans were tough in defeat.

“It’s always tough playing Sheehan,” Kish said. “It’s always a good game and we definitely fought. We worked hard and had a super-fun game. We always expect it to be a back-and-forth battle and that’s what it ended up being, especially in that last set.”

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