By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – There’s a big difference in the CCC landscape between the Bristol Eastern volleyball team and, frankly, everybody else. And with a young team like Plainville entering the Thomas M. Monahan Gymnasium to do battle with those Lancers, the odds were not in the visitors favor.
When teams came to Bristol over the past, oh, 10 years or so, the odds of success for the visitors were non-existence. While Plainville never quit in the match, the size, the experience and the power of Eastern was simply too overwhelming for the Blue Devils as the Lancers pounded the Blue Devils 3-0 from Bristol on Monday, Oct. 15. The win moved the Lancers to a perfect 13-0 ledger as the squad has won 39-of-39 sets.
During the sets, Plainville simply couldn’t put any substantial drives together as it fell to 2-10 on the season.
“They set themselves very well,” said Plainville coach Steve Compson of Eastern. “Tonight, a handful of times, we set them pretty well too. We just can’t do that. Eastern is a very formidable team. Just for (Eastern’s) sake, I hope the CCC South is getting them in state tournament mode, getting them ready for that.”
“I think they have plenty of weapons on that team to make a very good run.”
It was senior night for Eastern as its trio of captains, Jessica Hubina, Karissa Smith, and Beth Cucka were honored in a ceremony before the match. But when the first set commenced, it was back to business for the Lancers.
Cucka led Eastern with four kills while Jenna Rodjenski, added three kills and was a perfect 28-of-28 on the serving front.
For Plainville, both Sarah Thompson and Alicia Gorski were both 3-for-3 from the service line.
And though it wasn’t a picture perfect first set by Eastern, the Lancers got the win and then ramped it up during the final two sets. “We try to do the basics well,” said Eastern coach Stacy Rivoira. “And no matter who we’re playing, we want to take care of the ball, make sure we’re not giving (the opponent) points. In the first game, we gave Plainville nine points (and) that’s something we don’t want to do or can afford to do especially going up against a high caliber team.”
“We would like to make them earn those points instead of giving them up off errors.”
Hubina helped Eastern get off to a good start in set one as her serving gave the Lancers an early push before an ace by Cucka made it a 12-1 contest. Off an ace by Maggie Getler, the Lancers made the set a 13-point affair but Plainville went on a mini 5-2 run and off a hit from Juliana Roszkowski – which was blocked out of bounds by Eastern – the Blue Devils cut the deficit to 19-9. Kelley Slabinski also posted a serve that was not returnable during the run but Eastern composed itself and quickly, the Lancers made the set academic. Cucka ended the fray with two straight serves that were not returned as Eastern took a 25-9 win in set number one. Set two was a blowout from the start as Plainville was limited to only two points in the stanza. But Plainville started the period with a little boost as Roszkowski sent over a hit that was not returned as the game was a 1-1 affair.
But from there, it was a nearly perfect set by Eastern and a nightmare for the Blue Devils.
Eastern went on a blazing 24-1 run to capture the set and post a 2-0 stake in the contest.
“We haven’t picked up some of the small lessons along the way that we’ve needed to,” said Compson. “There’s a lot of things that we should be doing that we’re not doing and some of our basic skills, we’re just not getting rid of the flaws we’re having. This is one of the harder groups I think I’ve had to work with here over the years in trying to get some of that done.”
“I think even playing our best, I don’t know that we give them quite a run for their money but I thought we could have played a little bit better than we did.”
During that second set, the Lancers were leading 6-2 and off a miscue by Plainville, it gave an opportunity for Rodjenski to do a little serving.
And that little serving became a lot.
Rodjenski went 18-for-18 from the service line with a number of her serves not making it across the net the other way.
After her final toss over to the Plainville side of the court, the Blue Devils made a nice play to get it back to Eastern.
But off a beautiful set-up from Brianna Root, Cheyenne Orsi made one final slam as Eastern’s 25-2 victory put Plainville on the brink.
In the third and final fray, the set started off as a 1-1 tie but that began another Eastern run as a 9-0 push made it a 9-1 contest and the Lancers were rolling again.
Orsi then got a rare chance to serve as a number of Eastern players were afforded the luxury to switch to different positions on the court, all the while maintaining a double-digit edge in the final set.
“The girls were able to have some fun,” said Rivoira. “Beth (Cucka) got to play all around which is great. She has been looking forward to being able to do that. I’m glad she had that opportunity.”
Plainville trailed 20-6 late but even as the door was still open for a comeback bid, the Lancers shut it for good.
Bristol racked up five straight points to end the match as Bristol Eastern tallied a 25-6 set win and a 3-0 sweep in the match.
“We just played really well,” said Rivoira. “I’m very happy with them.”
For Plainville, there still is a chance to salvage the season and finish things off on a high note with a couple winnable meets from the Ivan Wood Gymnasium.
“We had no solutions for anything they did,” said Compson. “I felt a little like Custer felt at the Little Bighorn. Two points in set two is an all time low for us I think. We play in their division but we are not in their league.”
“Our goals as a program are to improve and to begin challenging the top teams in our league (and) we are very far short of that goal this year.”
Two days later against Platt, the Blue Devils showed a few signs of life but the results were the same as in previous games.
Plainville was swept 3-0 to a very talented Panthers squad.
The Panthers won by scores of 25-11, 25-13 and 25-15.
“After the first two sets we put in a group of our swifter players and tried a new line up,” said Compson. “We did not win but the groups did give Platt a tougher run than in the first two sets, we scored more. Going with a line-up we had only worked on for a little bit in practice the day before we could expect some mistakes but the girls did well with it.”
“The hitters of April Lemanaski, Emily Duda and Emilia Filipkowska got us some good attacks and we threatened the Panthers in that third set.”
Lemanski and Duda have been giving the Blue Devils some good time on the court.
“Emily is just a sophomore and we look to see more from her in the future,” said Compson. “April sometimes does not believe how good she can be (and) we try to push her a bit more. Filipkowska is another sophomore and is also beginning to click more. She does not have great strength but is using her height and quickness to her and our advantage.”
Then there was a Thursday showdown with state tournament bound New Britain in a CCC Interdivisional showdown.
But, first, Plainville’s junior varsity played very well in the undercard.
“The JV won a nice game at NB and looked like a team while doing it,” said Compson. “They had contributions from just about everyone out there.”
In varsity action, Plainville won the first set but eventually fell 3-1.
The games scores were 23-25, 25-7, 25-11 and 25-16.
“Varsity got off to a good start in set one and then lost their footing,” said Compson. “New Britain came on strong but we rallied after falling behind and took the first set. Emily Duda gave us some nice serving and great enthusiasm off the bench to help us take the first set. Thompson was our ace at the service line again, firing the ball off with some of her best serving of the season.”
“Our first team hitters had trouble putting the ball down and we went with various players to try to over come that.”
Plainville switched several players in against New Britain’s big stud, hitter Faith Ford.
Ford shows limitless ability, has springs in her legs and smashes the ball with vicious power.
“She was better than advertised and ignited their team with some of the best hitting we have seen all year,” said Compson of Ford. “I have added her to my all star nominations. We had seniors, juniors and freshman Martha Boltromiejuk all trying to get block or deflection but we could not stop her.”
“The great finish we had to set one did not carry over and the rest of the match contained too many errors for us and better execution across the net.”
By MICHAEL LETENDRE