Greenwich volleyball stops St. Joseph to advance to FCIAC semis

The Greenwich High School girls volleyball team upended St. Joseph 3-1 to advance to Thursday's FCIAC semifinals. — Paul Silverfarb photo

The Greenwich High School girls volleyball team upended St. Joseph 3-1 to advance to Thursday’s FCIAC semifinals. — Paul Silverfarb photo

The Greenwich High School girls volleyball team has matured quite a bit since the start of the season. Just ask St. Joseph High School during Tuesday afternoon’s Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference quarterfinals.

After St. Joe’s dominated Greenwich the first time they faced off, this time a more confident and fundamentally-sound group of Cardinals from where they were at the beginning of the season, lost the first game but went on to beat Cadets 3-1 (15-25, 25-15, 25-16, 25-21).

“Once we got that first game, things kind of snowballed and they started to go to the tank,” Greenwich head coach Steve Lapham said. “We hit the ball out of bounds a lot and the setting wasn’t there in the first set, but Maggy (Egan) really picked it up and put the ball where our hitters could do something with it. Our serve was pushing their pass back and they were giving us some easy balls that we were able to work on.”

With the victory, Greenwich advanced to another FCIAC semifinals.

“We played them last year and it was pretty close,” St. Joseph head coach Jeff Babineau said. “They are talented and very well coached. We said that they weren’t going to come in here thinking that we are going to hand it to them. We came out today very well in the first game, but then put it in reverse. We went from being really aggressive to passive and that hurt us. They took advantage of all our mistakes and not being forceful on the offensive side.”

The Cards will travel to Fairfield Ludlowe High School on Thursday to battle top-seeded an undefeated Darien High School.

“We’ve been to the semis quite a bit and I’m thrilled to be back there again,” Lapham said. “Darien is light’s out. We are going to have to settle in and bring a lot more offense and better defense.”

Against the Cadets in the FCIAC semis, Greenwich was paced by Abbie Wolf, as she finished with 19 kills and one assist. Nadia Sotgiu added a team-high 11 digs and four kills.

“It feels great because at the beginning of the season we knew we were a young team and I didn’t expect us to do well,” Sotgiu said. “Our team has come together so nicely and are able to fight and keep up the energy. We were able to overcome the first set by going on good runs, passing well, talking well and keeping up the energy.”

Maggy Egan pitched in with 31 assists and two digs, while Jahaira Guerra added 16 digs, two kills and two aces.

“We are happy because that we won this game and moved on in FCIACs,” Guerra said. “We still need to get better and work hard. I am so happy.”

Morgan Rafferty finished with six digs, two aces and two kills. Not to be outdone was Lew, who finished with nine digs and two aces.

“It feels great to get to semis,” Lew said. “It’s my first year on varsity and it’s great to get the victory. We worked really hard. Although we lost the first game, we got it back together the next three games and I think we did a nice job coming back. Our confidence went up a lot and we were sure that we could win the game. It were thinking that it’s never over until it’s over.”

“I thought Micalea (Lew) had a great game and was passing the ball really well,” Lapham said. “Jahaira did a good job in the back from. We had some smart dumps at times. Abbie was her usual dominant self up front. We had a lot of errors and mishits and the sets weren’t there early, but then the girls picked it up and got their confidence back.”

For the Cadets, Matie Gritsko led the way with 16 kills and one ace, while Ellie Dudzinski finished with 30 assists and two aces. Lauren Pitney added 12 kills and one ace.

“Our season is certainly not over,” Babineau said. “I really want my girls to be ready for the state tournament. What they can take out of this is that they can’t take the foot off the pedal. They have to be aggressive all the way through. As soon as you back off, the other team is going to come back and that’s a good lesson today.”

Back on Sept. 9, the Cardinals, a team looking to rebuild after losing the majority of its players from last year’s FCIAC championship team to graduation, opened its season against the Cadets and were blanked 3-0.

“The first game we played with them, we beat them in all the games by only four points,” Babineau said. “I think both teams have really improved. I think today was all about which way the ball bounced and a couple of balls that were going out, we hit. If you don’t touch those, it’s our point and a momentum swing. Both team are very talented and evenly-matched.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Greenwich (14-6) returned back to Trumbull for competition against St. Joe’s (17-4) in the FICAC quarters a much-improved squad.

“We grew up quite a bit and it was our first game with a bunch of new players,” Lapham said. “It’s 20 games later and we got some varsity experience under our belt.”

“It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come,” Lew said. “We look completely different from where we were the first time we played St. Joe’s. We improved a lot.”

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