Greenwich volleyball falls to Staples 3-1 in CIAC class LL semis

Greenwich High School's Jahaira Guerra serves the ball during the FCIAC championship match. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich High School’s Jahaira Guerra serves the ball during the FCIAC championship match. — Paul Silverfarb photo

The magical run for the Greenwich High School girls volleyball team came to an end last night at Trumbull High School, as the third-seeded Cardinals fell to second-ranked Staples High School 3-1 ( 22-25, 25-14, 20-25, 11-25) in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class LL semifinals.

“I just don’t think we kept the pressure on them like we did the last two matches,” Greenwich head coach Steve Lapham said. “We were giving a lot of easy free balls and you can’t do that. You have to give it to Staples because they had a tough serve going, there weren’t any easy balls to pass and they kept on hitting at us. We were a bit tentative at times.”

The Lady Cardinals were led by the senior duo of Mirei Kato and Xanti Katsigiannis. Kato finished with a team-high 13 kills and added 10 digs, five blocks and five passes.

“I thought this game wold be very emotional, especially because we already played them twice already,” Kato said. “We knew they were gunning for us and wanted to play us. They wanted to push through and they succeeded. I am so proud of my team because we’ve worked so hard over the season. As the games progressed, we kind of developed, clicked and gelled. I am so proud of this team.”

Not to be outdone was Katsigiannis, who finished with a team-high 26 assists and added four kills, four digs and one ace.

For Lapham, having Katsigiannis and Kato out on the court meant the Lady Cardinals always had a chance to win every game.

“Xanti has been starting for three years and has broken every setting record at GHS,” Lapham said. “Mirei is stunning and probably the best all-around player in the state. Mirei does it all. She digs, passes and hits.”

In addition, Big Red senior Jessie Schelz added 11 kills and 4.5 blocks, while fellow senior Heather Desino pitched in with seven digs, six kills and six aces.

“In the first game, we made a lot of unforced errors and they didn’t,” Desino said. “Staples is a really great team and brought it today, but I think the difference was that they had a lot of energy and our defense wasn’t there. However, I love these girls so much and I couldn’t be more proud of them. We got along great and spent all the time we could in each others company. It was an amazing season.”

Staples was led by senior Amelia Brackett, who led both teams with 26 kills and also added six digs and three assists. Teammate and fellow senior Lauren Mushro helped the Wreckers by picking up 11 kills, 10 digs, four aces, two assists and one block.

“Staples is a really good team and we knew that we would have to step up our game when we play teams like this,” GHS senior Catherine Cabano said. “We weren’t quite there today, but you have to give it to Staples on making it to the finals.”

Staples advanced to the CIAC class LL championship game on Saturday night and will face top-seeded and undefeated Cheshire High School.

Despite the loss, it’s hard to say Greenwich’s season was anything less than highly-successful. They finished with a 22-3 record overall and also took home the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship for the first time in school history.

During the season, Big Red beat teams like Darien back on Oct. 9 3-1 and exacted revenge on Fairfield Ludlowe for a loss earlier in the year by winning the FCIAC semifinal game. They also upended Staples twice this season, with one of the games being the FCIAC title match 3-2 (25-14, 17-25, 25-20, 24-26, 15-5).

“It was a huge deal,” Desino said. “We are the first team in Greenwich to win FCIACs, so we will always have that. We had a great season and it’s been really exciting for me as a senior.”

In fact, Greenwich’s first loss was to New York powerhouse John F. Kennedy-Somers, 3-2. Big Red’s first Connecticut loss happened against Ludlowe on Oct. 16, falling 3-2.

Cabano said that she couldn’t be more proud of the way this season went for the Greenwich volleyball team.

“We played our heart’s out on that court,” Cabano said. “Staples did a great job and I am really glad we made it this far. We are still FCIAC champions and nobody could take that away from us. We really came together as a team and I could trust anybody on the team. Every day in practice, we put in 110% and we would always put our heart’s on the court.”

To read more on the class LL semifinal game against the Wreckers, check out Thursday’s Greenwich Post.

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