STAMFORD — With only one returning player from a year ago the Stamford volleyball team has found itself way ahead of schedule.

After defeating New Canaan 3-2 in a nail-biter Monday afternoon the Knights are 4-0 to start the young season.

“We’re a young team so we’re going to have some ups and downs,” Stamford coach Mike Smeriglio said. “We were making a lot of mistakes and once we cut those down we started playing better — New Canaan did a great job, they never gave up.”

Stamford often found itself down early in sets, but were able to recover. In the first and third sets the Knights trailed by four and six points respectively before battling back. In set three it took all the way until the 19th point to tie the game, from which Stamford went on a 6-1 run to claim it.

In the fourth game facing defeat New Canaan rattled off nine straight points after being tied at 11, eventually going on to win the set 25-17.

“Our senior leadership out of the floor and Sarah Brindisi lit it up on the service line for us,” New Canaan (2-2) coach Kim Palmer said of the run. “Our seniors have such positive energy on the floor and everyone else buys into that especially when we’re down.”

In the deciding fifth set Stamford was finally able to put its foot on the gas to win 15-8, with Gloria Mattioli providing the final five service points.

“We wanted game four but we didn’t need it so I told them to relax and get our game back,” Smeriglio said of his message between sets four and five. “Momentum is a big thing in volleyball so we just tried to switch it after game four.”

A major factor in that switch was Liisa Balazs, Stamford’s only returner from a year ago. Balazs accounted for seven kills, 15 digs and 22 service points in the contest.

“Not only was she a great player today but she switched positions from last year,” Smerigilio said of Balazs who went from being a setter to an outside hitter. “So between her passing and her hitting she did a great job.”

Despite starting the year with a .500 record Palmer isn’t disappointed with how her team has performed, being competitive in every set and working to get better.

“We’re getting better every day,” Palmer said. “The kids are working really hard in practice and its showing in the games, we’re contending with the teams we’re playing. We made a lot of errors today which Stamford capitalized on and we go back to work tomorrow and face McMahon on Friday; I’m proud of how my girls played today, they never let down and they fought against a good team.” @reportedbytheAP


NEW CANAAN 22 25 20 25 8—2

STAMFORD 25 18 23 17 15—3

Records: NC 2-2; S—4-0. Highlights: NC—Hailey Wheeler had 13 kills, Maggie Tensen had 12 digs. S—Liisa Balazs had seven kills, 15 digs and 22 service points, Jayla Wilson had 53 assists.