BRISTOL - The 18th-seeded Bristol Eastern girls volleyball team saw its ups and downs throughout the regular season and drew rival No. 15 Bristol Central in the first round of the state tournament.
The last time the two met, the Rams took the Lancers all the way to five sets. The match wasn’t as close this time around.
Behind a dominant straight set win, the Lancers defeated the Rams 3-0 Monday night and advanced to the second round of the state tournament against No. 2 Killingly.
Bristol Eastern appears to be hitting their stride on the court, having now won six of their last seven matchups.
“We knew they could play at a tempo that we play at,” Bristol Eastern’s Aliana Rivoira said. “But we knew that we were the better team and if we played our game and did what we needed to do, it would be easier for us this time.”
Bristol Central came out slow in the first set and the Lancers took advantage getting out to a 5-1 lead.
“As a team, altogether, it’s been a tendency to do that,” Rams’ senior Brianna Saverino said on the slow start. “Almost in every single game we’ve played in it’s almost like we pick it up too late. But we fought hard and I couldn’t be prouder.”
That strong start held up and other than a second-set scare for Bristol Eastern, when Saverino reeled off five straight service points with the help of fellow Bristol Central senior Xia’ian Carrasco playing big at the net, it was the Lancers night and wasn’t close as the Lancers won convincingly 25-10, 26-24, 25-13.
The second set was the opportunity for the Rams to take control of the game.
Down 20-13, Saverino got the ball back for the Lancers after winning a point at the net.
On her service, Carrasco finished off four points at the net and with the Rams back within one point at 20-19, Bristol Eastern coach Stacy Rivoira called a timeout.
Saverino finished with six kills and 13 digs and Carrasco had eight kills and three blocks.
That timeout made a difference in the service streak Saverino had going as the first point out of the timeout Carrasco hit the ball out at the net, giving Bristol Eastern the ball back.
Although, Bristol Central still stuck in there and down 24-23 after the Lancers Sienna White won a point at the net, the Rams were looking a 2-0 deficit right in their eyes before Kathryn Ross had a huge point at the net for Bristol Central and tied the set up at 24-24, giving the Rams a glimpse of hope.
With Ross serving on the next point, Bristol Eastern’s Amber Blais got setup at the net and won the ball back right away for the Lancers with a big kill putting them up 25-24 and with a match point on service.
Blais led the Lancers in kills with 12.
Paige McLaughlin served and it was Rivoira with the save that led to Bristol Eastern taking the second set.
“They were very, very smart,” Carrasco said of Bristol Eastern’s performance. “They found the spots that were open on the court and they put the ball down.”
As a team the Lancers only had four service errors in the match. McLaughlin, Rivoira and Rebecca Bender were perfect serving.
Bristol Eastern finished with a 94.6 serving percentage.
“We really had good passing, good communication and good confidence in our team,” Bristol Eastern’s Gabriella Nozzorillo said.” “Nobody let down and we were [playing] as a team out there. What we struggled with was defense and just relying on each other a little more but other than that we were good.”
With the Lancers up two sets, the Rams refused to back down and started the third set with a 5-3 lead before the Lancers took over and didn’t give up their lead for the rest of the set as Bristol Central saw its season end with a sweep on the home floor.
“I thought we had it there in that second set,” Bristol Central coach Holly Willette said. “I love their fight. They don’t give up. That’s something that we’ve been working on and they’re getting it little by little. I’m proud of them. We started out a little bit too slow. Our passing wasn’t quite on. A little bit of communication mishaps here and there but they didn’t give up.”
Bristol Eastern will face Killingly in the second round on Thursday at 6 p.m.
For the Lancers, it’s test time.
“I think they want to represent where they are and what they can do,” Lancers coach Rivoira said. “Especially as we prepare going into the next game. I don’t know what’s going to happen but certainly we’ve been tested. We had to play [No. 1] RHAM and some really good teams along the way so I think that mentally we are ready.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @OrencoleDan