Volleyball: Cadets defeat Nighthawks

St. Joseph High's girls volleyball team overcame a tough non-conference team, Newtown of the South-West Conference, to earn a 3-1 win in the season opener, at home, on Tuesday. St. Joes overcame a hard-fought setback in the first game to earn a 24-26, 25-20, 25-20, 25-22 win.

It’s just one match, but getting off to a good start is a nice confidence booster for a team, that lost some significant contributors, including All State and All FCIAC outside hitters, to graduation a year ago. “We’re trying to figure some things out on the outside,” coach Jeff Babineau said. “We’ve got some young kids out there with no experience.”

The coach added that St. Joes is striving to learn something with each match, and each game within each match, for that matter.

“It’s always nice to start with a win,” senior captain Susie Vazzano said. “We’ve got to work on things, but we know what our strengths and weaknesses are.”

Vazzano said the strengths of the team seem to be the middle hitting abilities of Jackie Jozefick and Claire Condron, along with the setting skills of Ellie Dudzinski. As for the areas in need of improvement, “We have to work on our serve-receive and our back-row passing,” said Vazzano.

Jozefick had a dozen kills and a block; Riann Rooney compiled ten kills; and Dudzinski racked up 26 assists to go along with two aces.

Newtown cut a seven-point deficit to three, and pulled to within 21-18 late in the third game, but St. Joes seized the two games to one advantage as a few errant hits by Newtown, and a clutch kill on a soft touch by Rooney enabled the hosts to close out the game.

In the fourth game, neither team led by more than two points until a pair of errant Newtown hits sandwiched an ace by Dudzinski, making it 17-14. The Nighthawks clawed back and pulled to within one point three times before eventually tying the match and claiming a short-lived 21-20 lead.

After a service error knotted the score, Jozefick’s block/kill gave the hosts a 22-21 lead. An errant hit extended the advantage to a pair, before Newtown again closed to within a point, at 23-22, on a net violation. Jozefick closed things out with a booming kill followed by an ace.

A strength for St. Joes in its win was its service game. “We served very, very well,” said Babineau, whose lineup kept the Nighthawks on their heels, and forced errant returns that went into the net or wide, with well-placed, hard serves. “It’s been a focus of our all preseason."

St. Joes also did a good job of keeping the ball in play. “I think we played well on defense. We kept the ball alive,” the coach said.

With all of the high marks his players get, there is some room for improvement. “We have a lot to improve on,” said Babineau, adding that communication on the floor will be pivotal in the team continuing its winning ways. “We have to talk more,” he added.

That’s something the squad will work on in practice, and it should come around as the players gain more experience playing together, the coach anticipates.