By KEN MORSE
What do they say about not judging a book by its cover? On paper, the Plainville volleyball team struggled through a 2-18 season. However, they don’t play volleyball games on paper.
The battle takes place out on the court and the Lady Blue Devils learned how to compete this season after snapping a 30 game skid posting their first win in two seasons.
Consistency was hard to come by but complacency was no part of their game. Sure, there were volleys that hit the open floor in between players but there were also all out dives to the court in an effort to keep returns alive.
“I wish I could bottle that and perfect it,” said second year head coach Bob Moffo, about his team’s ability to play flawless at times.
“Consistency is our biggest battle right now. There are times we play unbelievable and then a mistake adds to another one and it unravels. But we have built a solid foundation and the seniors have been a big part of that.”
Six seniors rallied around their coach two months ago and began to build a foundation for future success. Along the way, they formed a team and in the end they became a family.
Co-captains Samantha Lozefski and Victoria Corriveau brought such a passion to the court that it began to affect the overall play of the rest of the team. Seniors Shai-yonna Durham and Josie Rupaka played in a full speed ahead mode bringing the energy level to a fevered pitch.
Seniors Samantha Paradis and Avalon Borra showed a confidence level that settled the nerves of a young team trying to navigate the pressure of competing against some of the toughest teams in the CCC.
“The seniors have been great leaders,” said Moffo. “They have kept a positive attitude all through the season and helped to develop the confidence in some of these younger players.”
Following their win against Wilby 3-0 on Oct 3 the Blue Devils battled against Hartford Public and may have been upended 3-1 (27-29, 25-15, 23-25, 23-25) but they learned to compete.
Putting their heart into it they managed to pull victory from the jaws of defeat in a 3-2 win over Manchester on Oct. 12 (26-24, 22-25, 25-16, 20-25, 19-17). Lozefski was spot on with nine aces and Corriveau made five dig saves and dished off four assists.
Along the journey junior Katherine Tanguay and freshman Wiktoria Galazyn became a force to be reckoned with in the front row. Tanguay had eight blocks against Avon and Galazyn continued to learn the position dropping six kills against Rocky Hill.
The middle row of juniors Margaret Cronkhite, Olivia Wazorko, and Olivia Gajor formed a tight knit group that could set the ball, make dig saves and get it back over the net.
Juniors Simona Barbagallo in the back row, Mackenzie Alvarado at the net, and Emily Savage overall play provided a spark for a team that was coming together. Head coach Bob Moffo had all the tools in the shed to turn this team into a competitor.
Juniors Vanessa Xiques, Makayla Caron, Kaylie Hall and Mikayla Doucette gave the Blue Devils some depth off the bench adding to the solid foundation that was taking place.
Down the stretch of the season Plainville faced some superior opponents who were gearing up to get ready for battle in the upcoming state tournament. Needless to say losses to 12-6 Avon, 15-2 Bristol Eastern, 17-3 Kennedy of Waterbury and Bristol Central at 16-3 made things tough for the Blue Devils.
But that didn’t stop Plainville from competing with the best of them. In last Thursday’s 3-0 loss to Kennedy, an Eagles team that is ranked second in the NVL, the Blue Devils battled until the final point hit the court.
Corriveau (five points) served up a pair of points to keep it close and Lozefski (six aces, four side out kills) drove one to the back row to get the serve back with Plainville trailing 6-4.
A few unforced errors handed Kennedy a 12-6 advantage but the Blue Devils were not backing down. Gajor sent an ace down the sideline and Cronkhite served up a point to close the gap at 15-10.
Consistency was still a battle to overcome for Plainville as the Eagles started to pull away and took a 25-13 decision to take a 1-0 lead.
Lozefski served up a 5-3 lead in game two before Kennedy battled back. The Blue Devils trailed 11-7 when Gajor dished off a ball to Galazyn and she drove it to the back row for a side out.
Returns into the net and digs that deflected out of bounds fueled the Eagles run as they pulled away to a 25-9 win to take a 2-0 advantage heading into game three.
Kennedy got out to a 10-5 lead but the block and side out kill from Tanguay was the Blue Devils way of saying we are not done yet. Caron blasted an ace in serve and Alvarado served up a point.
The Eagles may have had the lead but they by no means had the momentum. Lozefski took up serve and began administering well places aces that kept closing the gap. With Kennedy at game point 24-12, it was only a matter of time before the next unforced error ended the game but Plainville battled to the final point dropping a tough 25-18 decision.
“We already have the returning players lined up for some camps,” said Moffo. “We have a few girls interested in playing travel ball. I have also reached out to the middle school looking to put on some clinics and generate some interest there, building a feeder program.”
PHOTOS by KEN MORSE