BRISTOL - The Bristol Eastern girls volleyball team started out the season 9-7, but ever since being shut out by Woodstock Academy on Oct. 20, the Lancers have been a team on a mission, winning six of their last seven matches.
The loss over that stretch was against RHAM, the No. 1 seed in the Class L state tournament.
With Monday’s win over Bristol Central in the first round, Bristol Eastern will next play at No. 2 Killingly on Thursday at 6 p.m.
The Redmen are 20-1 this season and will test the Lancers’ ability at the net, something that has been a strong suit for the group in recent matches - led by the freshman/senior combination in Zoe Lowe and Sienna White, with juniors Amber Blais and Gabriella Nozzolillo also playing well.
Against the Rams, the four players combined for 35 of the Lancers’ 41 kills in the match and Blais especially stood out with the team-leading 12 kills.
“I thought that Amber had the game of her life tonight,” Bristol Eastern coach Stacy Rivoria said of Blais. “She swung at everything. She only had two errors. Every ball she put in. It was great to have an outside that was swinging and getting the ball in. I think it really helped us get a lot of momentum.”
The four will be challenged against Killingly, as the Redmen have an advantage at the net over Bristol Eastern.
“It’s now or never,” Rivoira said. “They have a big middle, so we have some work to do. Our middles aren’t particularly tall, so we’ll see what happens.”
Following the match against the Rams, improving on defense was something that the Lancers stressed moving forward in the tournament.
That will be key in order to slow down and counterattack the Redmen’s attack.
“We have to be in the right position,” coach Rivoira said. “We have to find a way to slow down the middles, because we’re smaller. We have to be in the right position and anticipate and read their hitters better. Know when they’re going to swing, when they’re going to hit, so we’re going to be in the right position. I think that’s the most important thing for us going into the next game. If we don’t get better at that, they’re going to crush us.”
After the straight-set win, confidence isn’t an issue.
“This win will give us more confidence going into our next game,” Bristol Eastern junior Aliana Rivoira said. “We believe now that we can do anything.”