EAST LYME—In the end, the Stratford High volleyball team showed the heart that got it into a pair of postseason tournaments.
It was just way too late.
The 18th-seeded Red Devils made the long journey up Interstate 95 to East Lyme on Monday night to face the 15th-seeded host Vikings for a Class L state tournament first-round game.
East Lyme might have been a “15 seed” on paper, but the Vikings flew much higher, hit much harder and overwhelmed the Red Devils early on en route to a 3-0 win.
East Lyme topped Stratford 25-11, 25-10, 25-20 to advance to the next round.
“That’s a very good team,” Stratford coach Lisa Buccieri said. “Their hitting was great, their serving was great, and they’re smart. They see a hole and go for it.”
East Lyme’s aggressive offensive attack—led by outside hitter Mya Delesdernier, who the Vikings went to early and often—led to big leads in both of the first two sets for an early 2-0 lead.
“If you’re flat-footed, they’re going to go right at you,” Buccieri said. “They’re going to hit right to the spot where you’re supposed to be.”
East Lyme coach Jack Biggs said he knew little of Stratford but was pleased to see his team get off to a strong start and keep pushing through the first two games.
“Anything can happen in a state tournament,” Biggs said. “They kept their focus. This could have been a trap game. It’s 15-18 and it could be a very good matchup, or you play down because a team travels and comes here with nothing to lose. I was waiting (for a letdown) but it never happened.”
In the third game, with its season on the line, Stratford found itself in the game behind Sami Perley’s hitting and a defensive backline that adjusted to the Vikings’ hard-hitting ways.
“That’s what we should have done the whole game,” said Stratford senior Rachel Newall, one of two seniors on the Red Devils roster. “We got all down on ourselves and we kept our head down. We needed to stay up and going into the third game that motivated us.”
East Lyme held on, though, avoiding the fourth set and clinching the match.
“You chip away in the third game and it’s like why couldn’t it have been like that all game long?” Buccieri asked.
Perley had six kills and six digs to lead Stratford, which finished the season 11-11.
Sydney Ritchie had 10 digs while Anna Mayglothling had nine, Jayme Iodice had eight and Newall had seven more.
The game—and Stratford’s rhythm—was marred slightly by a myriad of “double touch” calls that went against the Red Devils as they were setting.
“It really takes the setter out of the game, which is too bad,” Buccieri said. “Some of them I disagreed with, but there’s nothing you can say. It just depends on what official you have.”
In the end, Buccieri said, she was proud of her team for the season it put together, making both the SWC tournament and state tournament after losing all but one of last year’s varsity players.
“I’m proud of us for having just that one returning varsity player (Perley),” the coach said. “It’s a goal I never thought we would accomplish.”
Newall and Angela Grindrod, are the only two seniors who leave the program after this season.
“We just worked hard,” Newall said. “We said, ‘OK, everybody is doubting us, saying we’re not going to make states or do anything’ and we just stayed together, put it all together, communicated, and bonded.”
A slow start might have doomed the Red Devils on this night, but there’s plenty of momentum to take into the offseason.
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