ANSONIA – Down two games to one, Ansonia opened the fourth game on a 5-1 role and appeared destined to forcing a tie-breaking fifth game against Newton on Tuesday night in a Cross County Conference volleyball match.
Instead of putting that fourth game away, however, the Tigers lost that momentum and had few answers once the Indians gained control of the match. Newton won the tightly contested match in four games, 25-14, 28-30, 25-18 and 25-20.
“You can’t have 80 errors and expect to beat a team,” Ansonia coach Michael Dean said. “Not to take anything away from Newton, I thought they played well and did what they needed to do, but we had opportunities and momentum and we just lost it. I’m not going make any excuses for my girls. We made mistakes and we have got to learn from that.
“We’ve let two conference games – this one and one against Covington – get away from us like that and it has cost us dearly,” he continued. “We’ll go back to the drawing board in practice and get ready to play Mississinawa on Thursday and maybe it will be a different tale and we will change the narrative.”
Ansonia tried to change the narrative against Newton. After losing the first game 25-14 – the Tigers trailed 15-3 before mounting a comeback – Ansonia played sharper and more focused in the second game keeping the Indians within striking distance. In fact, the game was nip-and-tuck for much of the first half of it, but Newton did manage to get out to an eight-point advantage (21-13) before the Tigers roared back to tie the game 24-24 forcing extra points to be played. Eventually, Ansonia won out 30-28 to tie the match at one game apiece.
The Indians regained momentum in the overall match by winning the third game 25-18. The key to that victory was in their early 6-1 lead from which the Tigers could not recover. However, it was the Tigers that jumped out early in the fourth game looking to win in order to force a tie-breaking fifth game. Ansonia rolled to a 5-1 lead behind the serving of Heidi Runkel. The Tigers maintained that lead until the Indians slowly and methodically rallied to a 13-13 tie. The game was tied again at 14-14 and Newton took the next point for a 15-14 lead and never trailed again.
“We have struggled late in matches this year,” Newton coach Mike Albright said. “And to the girls credit they didn’t give up. Ansonia made a few hitting errors, and we didn’t hit the ball like I want us too to earn points. I’ve been preaching all year that we need to earn our points and not count on other teams to hand us points. Ansonia kind of hit a stretch where they struggled and had some hitting errors, but we dug a lot of balls too. That was one thing for us … our defense was pretty good tonight and that kind of held us hang in there even though we kind of pepsied away that second game a little bit up 24-20. “To Ansonia’s credit though, I told our girls they are not going to quit,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter how things go we knew they were going to be feisty. We get real nervous and tentative and do not attack the ball like we should and a lot of times that is why we get beat.”
For Dean’s squad, the loss drops them to 3-10 overall and 2-4 in the conference, while Newton improves to 4-8, 2-5 CCC.
“We didn’t play good until the end,” Dean said. “With the top teams in the conference I thought we were scrappy with them. We beat Bethel coming back to get them in five, but we had a lot of communication issues on offense tonight. We pulled back on our hits and we just didn’t want to attack. You give up all those free balls and you don’t attack and you don’t hit and you are not going to beat a team.
“Teams like Miami East and Tri-Village and Arcanum, you know the top teams in the conference that have a lot of talent, we’re hoping they will let us hang around long enough to make that difference in the game and give them a fight,” he continued. “Tonight we did that to another team and it cost us … it cost us a lot. We started getting our momentum in that fourth game, but then it seemed like our momentum got killed for one reason or another. We made several mental errors offensively and every time we would break one of their serves and get that momentum back we just lost it again.”
Statistically speaking, Emily Gariety and Kassy Wentworth lead the Tigers with 8 kills each, and Trinity Henderson had 25 digs which keeps her among the leaders in the entire state, according to Dean.