Stamford volleyball bounces back, beats New Canaan
NEW CANAAN -- Anne Eilertsen posted 23 kills, 14 digs and 11 service points to lead the Stamford girls volleyball team past New Canaan Wednesday in a 3-1 victory on the road. The Black Knights bounced back from a tough loss to Ridgefield the day prior, while the Rams furthered their streak of alternating wins and losses to five consecutive games. Stamford (13-3) took the opening two sets and led for almost the entirety of the fourth.
"We knew New Canaan has a tough team this year, but we didn't know what to expect," Stamford coach Mike Smeriglio said. "They do a lot of back-row attacks. They're pretty good."
Unable to overcome a 12-point deficit in the opening set, the Rams rebounded midway through the second game with a 9-1 run built on strong serves and timely digs. However, they couldn't fend off the Knights for long and later fell back into an 18-18 draw. From there, New Canaan reeled off six straight errors to position itself on the brink and Stamford took advantage, winning 25-20 for a 2-0 lead.
"We had points where we played really great and then points where we lost focus," said New Canaan coach Kim Palmer, who played under Smeriglio at Weston High School. "But I give my girls a lot of credit. They didn't let down. Now it's just a matter of how we can be consistent."
One and two-point leads were not safe in the third game, where the conference foes again battled to an 18-all draw. From there, Rams senior Kate Balzer served up five consecutive points, a stretch eventually ended by an Eilertsen spike. New Canaan captain Pari Koochek then stepped in for a stellar block, handing the ball back to her team, which quickly claimed its first and only set of the night.
According to Palmer, the difference for her team in the two end-of-set series was not so much physical as it was mental.
"It comes down to confidence and not panicking," Palmer said. "It's something we've been talking about in the last few practices and the last few games. When we have that lead it's holding onto that lead and stopping on any run from the other side. And when we're down, it's minimizing any chances for mess-ups."
Fueled by the play of Eilertsen and Brianna Arias (31 digs), Stamford steadily grew its early lead in the fourth set, slowed only by a Chiara Piccoli ace to bring the Rams within 17-13. But New Canaan's errors eventually did them in, fulfilling a caution Palmer gave her team about what it would take to win.
"We needed to make sure that we were aggressive and we didn't give them anything easy because we knew they would take advantage of everything," Palmer said.
The Black Knights return to the court Friday against Norwalk for a home game at 4 p.m., shortly before New Canaan travels to Fairfield Ludlowe at 5:30.
STAMFORD 3, NEW CANAAN 1
STAMFORD 25 25 19 25--3
NEW CANAAN 15 20 25 16--1
Records: Stamford 13-3, New Canaan 9-6.
Highlights: S--Anne Eilertsen 23 kills, 14 digs, 11 service points, two blocks. Brianna Arias 31 digs. NC--Gracie Castle 19 assists, six digs, two aces.