NEW BRITAIN - From the opening volley to the final point of the match, the New Britain girls volleyball team had no answer for Bristol Eastern’s Zoe Lowe.
The Lancers’ all-conference junior picked up nine kills in a dominant first set and 20 overall to lead Eastern to a 3-0 win over the Hurricanes, who were playing in front of their home fans for the first time this season.
“That’s Zoe,” Eastern head coach Stefanie Reay laughed when discussing Lowe’s performance. “She’s a really good player with a tremendous amount of potential.
New Britain saw that potential when Lowe picked up four kills early in the first set, including one in a vacated space on the Hurricanes’ front line, to make it 8-2 Eastern and force a timeout from Hurricanes head coach Michelle Abraham.
New Britain’s troubles continued out of the timeout, as a service ace by Rebecca Bender stretched the lead to 11-2 for the Lancers. The Hurricanes grabbed service back after an error on the service line by Bender, but two straight kills from Lowe continued Eastern’s dominance.
While the Lancers cruised, the Hurricanes struggled to find any production when serving themselves. Five of New Britain’s first six points came on Eastern service errors, with the first Hurricanes offensive point coming on an Anyerina Lugo kill to make it 15-6 Eastern. The Lancers committed a total of eight service errors in the first set, but Lowe’s nine kills led Eastern to an easy 25-12 win to take a 1-0 lead.
“We’re jump serving this season, which they’re not all used to,” Reay said of the Lancers’ early serving struggles. “They were a little nervous about it, but I’m expecting a little more mistakes early in the season and it’ll get better as the season goes along.”
The service-error bug caught New Britain early in the second set, as the Hurricanes committed three to fall behind 3-2. Kills by Arianna Caucci, Hannah Webber and two by Lowe helped stretch the Lancers’ lead to 9-2 and force a New Britain timeout after an 8-0 run by Eastern.
Lowe threw down another two vicious kills on the first two volleys following the timeout, ending the Lancers’ dominating run at 10-0 before a kill by Abria McDonald stopped the bleeding for the Hurricanes.
Trailing 21-11, New Britain’s Raven-Symone Jarrett sent over two well-struck kill attempts that were both somehow kept alive by Eastern before the Hurricanes were finally able to secure the point. An unforced error by Eastern the following volley prompted a timeout from Grey, but Jarrett threw down a kill out of the timeout to pull New Britain within seven, and a service ace by Nataly Hernandez trimmed the deficit to six.
“I think something clicked in that second set,” Jarrett said. “We realized what we needed to do, and I got some kills and we got some serving aces.”
Two more kills from Jarrett cut the score to 21-17, part of a 7-0 Hurricanes run, but Lowe responded with a kill of her own to put the Lancers back in control and on their way to a 25-18 win.
“We were all pretty calm throughout the whole thing,” Lowe said of the trying second set. “It’s good that in situations like that that we know to stay calm and play the way we play.”
New Britain opened the third set with a 2-0 lead, but Eastern grabbed momentum in the form of an 8-0 run to take control, and unlike the second set, it wouldn’t give control back. A service ace by Caucci later in the set made it 17-6 Lancers, and Lowe later added one of her own to stretch the lead to 22-8 in lopsided win led by Lowe and Eastern’s daunting front line.
“There were a lot of free balls and [Eastern] killed them,” Abraham said. “They have three great hitters. Their libero is really good too. They’re just a well-rounded team.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org