Trumbull wins first FCIAC volleyball championship
Trumbull High didn’t have to play a perfect match, but the No. 2 seeded Eagles came close in winning their first FCIAC championship with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 25-13) victory over No 1 seeded Westhill High in Fairfield on Saturday.
“Our goal was to keep the pressure on,” Trumbull High head coach Nicole Trommelen said. “We wanted to take the game to them. We kept the ball alive on our side. We were inspired. I only ask the girls to play hard. I don’t ask them to be perfect.”
Game MVP and sophomore setter Ali Castro had 36 assists, senior co-captain and hitter Krystina Schueler had 15 kills, and senior co-captain and libero Rachel Hage had 11 digs to lead the Eagles (18-3), who last played for a league title in 1999.
“It was such an honor to set for this team,” Castro said. “I remember walking into the gym the first day of practice and having my eyes almost pop out of my head when I saw the way Krys was hitting the ball.
“Rachel is such an amazing libero. She was the setter, switched positions, and helped me so much. We have such a great passing team with Rachel, Julia Roberto (12 kills, 2 blocks), Bailey Cenatiempo, Ashleigh Johnson and Hailey Angelucci.”
Schueler, who added three blocks and a pair of aces, said, “The whole thing is a little surreal, considering we hadn’t been here since ‘99. I’m so proud of my teammates. We worked so hard for this. Our passing and defense was great all game.”
Hage has been the steadiest of Eagles.
“The key today was that when we did make a mistake, we bounced right back,” she said. “That wasn’t the case in the semifinals and that is why it went five. Our defense gets our confidence up, and then our offense can put it away. It we keep the ball alive and get it to Ali, we know that Krys, Julia, Bailey, Lauren (Haslam) or Lindsay (Gibbs) will put it away.”
To win the title, Trumbull had to vanquish two opponents that had bested it in the regular season.
In the semifinals, the Eagles topped Fairfield Ludlowe 3-2 after the Falcons had won 3-0 in the earlier meeting.
Westhill had swept Trumbull in its meeting. Coach Marianna Linnehan’s Vikings brought a 20-2 record into the final.
“We expected it to go five,” Trommelen replied when asked if she had expected a sweep. “Westhill was the team to beat. Last time they took the game to us; this time we wanted to take the game to them. We kept our composure. That last point in game two propelled us forward in game three.”
Trumbull won game one 25-22 after the set was tied at 22-all.
The juncture in game two that Trommelen pointed to, came with Westhill’s Nikki Newcomer (8 kills) serving for her third consecutive game-saving point and Trumbull in the lead 24-22.
The long rally saw the Eagles’ Angelucci stop the ball from hitting the floor with a right arm dig.
The point resumed with the Vikings’ Sanjana Nayak (8 kills) and Betsy Sachs (5 kills) hitting tough spikes. Lindsay Gibbs twice came up with saves, and Castro and Roberto had digs.
Hage’s pass to Castro resulted in an outside set to Roberto, who earned set point with a kill.
How the point was earned is the keystone to how Trommelen envisions the game should be played.
“We [assistant coach Tom Zultowski] preached from day one that players one through eighteen were vital to this team,” she said. “For every time we get an easy point, there is the time we get the block covered by Lauren Haslam or Lindsay Gibbs, or get a sideline play from Hailey Angelucci or Ashleigh Johnson.
”They began to trust each other. They knew the ball couldn’t touch the floor and worked on it. It’s been a pleasure to watch the team grow into a unit.”
Neither team could create point separation from their rival until Cenatiempo stepped the service line at 11-8 and posted seven consecutive winners. The sophomore had two aces during the run.
After a long series of side outs, Trumbull played its winning number 33-27-26 (Hage pass, Castro set, Schueler kill) twice before Roberto ended the match with a tip to the middle of the defense.
Game notes: Schueler had three service winners midway through the second rotation to give Trumbull its first lead in game one at 13-12. Cenatiempo added three points, before Castro served out the win with an ace.
In the second set, Cenatiempo answered a four-point run by the Vikings’ Sophia Thagouras with three of her own. Included in that stretch was a brilliant save deep in the corner by Johnson.
Castro had four winners early in the third set, including an ace for a 6-2 advantage.