(Byfield MA) Newburyport hadn’t won in over two weeks.
And they were blown out by Triton (25-10) in tonight’s first set.
After that, the Clippers (5-7) managed three straight happy endings to catch a 3-1 win over the Vikings.
The endings, however, weren’t so happy for Triton.
“Those last three games could have gone either way,” lamented Triton coach Bob Van Etten afterwards.
The Vikings (4-7) led 23-22 in the second game, 25-24 in the third game, and 24-21 in the fourth game. The Clippers were able to rally back each time; 25-23, 27-25, and 26-24.
“I don’t know what it is about Triton,” said Newburyport coach Lori Solazzo post-match, “it’s always a battle.”
Last time the two teams met, it took five games before the Clippers prevailed.
“We always end up having drastic highs and lows against Triton,” said Coach Solazzo.
“The first game was certainly a low, but we worked through it,” she added.
A key to the win was the play of Newburyport junior Sophia Messina who had fourteen kills.
“I switched her to the outside part-way through the set and she made a huge difference for us,” said Coach Solazzo.
“We struggled with our offense the first two sets and Sophia came out and hit well tonight,” explained Coach Solazzo.
“We’re a work in progress,” explained Coach Van Etten. “We have a lot of new players.”
Two of the Vikings veterans (Mia Berardino and Molly Kimball) carried the team tonight. Mia had nineteen kills while Molly had twenty-two assists.
Mia will be playing volleyball for D2 Stonehill next year.
“The team was very welcoming,” said Mia about Stonehill. “I love the coach. I’ll be playing at a D2 level in a very competitive conference.”
“We dominated the first set tonight,” recalled Mia, “but Newburyport adjusted.”
One of the “adjustments” was moving Sophia Messina to the outside.
Coach Van Etten noticed another one: “They kept feeding our setter (Molly Kimball) on free balls to take her out of the play.”
When Molly has a chance to set Mia up, good things usually happen for the Vikings.
Newburyport’s Ava Hartley is a senior and has seen Mia play numerous times. “Mia is insane,” laughed Ava. “You can’t necessarily stop her. We wanted to keep the ball away from her and on our side.”
Ava did a good job of blocking some of Mia hits and receiving some of her hard serves.
“Coach has been stressing blocking a lot recently,” added Ava.
Ava is hoping to play volleyball at Endicott next year. “I’ve been talking with the coach,” said Ava, “and things look good.”
Triton has now lost three straight, but they are optimistic about the future.
“We have a path to .500,” said Coach Van Etten with seven matches remaining. “We have a lot of new players but by the end of the season we’re going to be ready to go. We should make the states.”
Mia was also optimistic. “I’m really proud of our team,” she said. “Almost all of the girls were JVs last year. They are improving and getting better.”
Ava Hartley: “Tonight was important for us mentally so that we know that we have a team. We’ve had a lot of losses the last couple of weeks.”
Coach Solazzo: “We knew that this would be a rebuilding year, but we do have a lot of talent. It’s a matter of who plays where and trying to get that magic combination.”
Anna Rossi had six aces for Newburyport while teammate Abby Dwyer had four blocks.
Trinity Cole had twelve digs for Triton and teammate Kendall Liebert had three blocks.
My wife and I are officially back in Amesbury after 3 ½ months in Maine. Hoping to cover several area games each week.
(All of the pictures above and below should enlarge considerably if you click on them.)