Girls’ Volleyball sweeps Groton-Dunstable at regional semis

Varshini Ramanathan, Co-Managing Editor

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WA Girls’ Volleyball powered ahead of Groton-Dunstable Regional High School in the regional semifinals Thursday, taking three straight sets and settling a decisive victory 25-22, 25-17, 25-23.

This is the first year the team has made it past the 2nd round of DCLs in several years, and are now 16-2 as opposed to last season’s 13-5 record. Headed to the regional finals on Saturday, the girls are poised to play a historic season.

The Ghosts began the first set trailing the Groton-Dunstable Crusaders by a consistent two to three point margin. After dropping to 14-18, WA pulled ahead with a combination of powerful hits and misses on the part of the Crusaders to gain an 18-18 tie.

They capitalized on their momentum despite a time-out, making their way to 21-18 before Groton regained their footing and tied them once again at 21-21.

Senior captain and setter Kayleigh Semeter received a tough hit to propel the girls to 22-21, and from there they brought the set to a quick finish 25-22.

The second set started strong for Groton-Dunstable, as they secured several points in quick succession to rack up a 5-1 lead. A clean hit from senior captain Elizabeth Arnold got the girls up to 9-6, and from there a series of G-D misses allowed WA to tie them 13-13.

They dominated the court for the remainder of the set, grabbing a 23-16 lead among deafening cheers from the WA crowd and finishing the set 25-17.

Coach Brandon Eang attributed the girls’ decisive comeback to their tendency to play stronger when they are down.

“We tend to play a lot better when we’re behind. That’s our culture, that’s our personality,” he said.

WA took the first point of the third set as a Groton-Dunstable block went out-of-bounds, and junior Caitlin Cannuscio fought the ball past the net for an early lead. However, the Crusaders were on their heels, and soon the game became a tense point-by-point battle.

By the time Cannuscio gained WA another point to bring them 13-10, the Ghosts began to emerge in the lead. Despite G-D’s strong defense, WA responded in kind and, through a series of long rallies, maintained a four-point margin, 16-12.

For a moment, the Crusaders seemed to be catching up as they powered through several hits at once, making it all the way to 17-15 before their libero’s turn to serve. Eang had mentioned their libero as a point of worry before the game due to his fast and powerful jump serves.

Groton-Dunstable shouted and drumrolled in anticipation as his serve approached, but WA picked it up and managed to break his serve by winning the point and causing the rotation to change.

According to Eang, the girls were able to counteract the powerful serve by making adjustments based on knowledge of the Crusaders’ game and implementing those tactics to take away their momentum.

“He has a very effective, powerful jump serve […] it was one of those things, you know, just take out the steam. He has a lot of energy, he has a lot of air, and we just pull out the air,” he said.

WA’s energy spiked even more as the third set played out, never letting up against their opponents until they were ahead 24-20. A receive by senior Marina Ottaviano as well as a push over the net by Semeter were key in their lead, and when a G-D miss at the net led them to cross the 20-point mark the stands and team alike erupted in cheers.

In the last few points, the Crusaders stepped up their game, nearly overpowering WA as they edged closer to a tie, 24-23. However, WA maintained their focus during a long rally, and when a Groton-Dunstable block went out of bounds their victory was sealed.

Instrumental in the girls’ successful season was the fact that in recent years, they have been practicing off-season. Almost all successful volleyball teams have players in clubs throughout the year, and WA’s uptick in club attendance is what allowed for their historic record.

“In past years, we [didn’t] have enough players participating in clubs off-season, so they went the full year without touching a volleyball. […] I think last year and this year, I would say 80% of our players right now participate in clubs off-season, so that’s why we’re more consistent,” Eang said.

“It was a long season, and we came a long way,” he added.

The girls will be playing Hopkinton at Shrewsbury High at 3 P.M. on Saturday.