Stratford's Sydney Ritchie reacts after a point as the Red Devils defeated arch-rival Bunnell 3-1 on Wednesday at Needham Gym. (Photo by John Nash)

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL: Stratford tops Bunnell to sweep season series

​STRATFORD — Even though the Bunnell girls volleyball team ​entered Wednesday’s contest with Stratford still seeking its​ first win of the season, Red Devils’ coach Lisa Buccieri knew ​better than to take the Bulldogs lightly.​​

That’s because Bunnell pushed Stratford to five sets in the​ earlier meeting between the town rivals.​​

While the rematch didn’t go the distance, the Red Devils​ trailed early in all four sets before holding off the​ Bulldogs, 25-21, 8-25, 25-22, 25-18, at the Needham Gym.​​

Sydney Ritchie recorded eight blocks, five assists and 13​ kills for Stratford (8-5), which overcame a number of unforced errors to clinch a berth in the​ state tournament.​​

“It wasn’t a pretty win, especially coming off that second​ set,” Buccieri said. “I have no idea what happened to us but​I was just glad that we overcame it and pulled together.​​ We had a lot of problems with setting tonight. Once you ​ start getting caught like that your setters are afraid to set​the ball. Thank God my setters finally came through. They ​ started getting the ball to the hitters and we hit more.” ​​

Samantha Perley was strong on defense for the Red Devils with​ 16 digs while adding nine kills, five assists and five points.​ Also solid on defense for the Red Devils were Anna Mayglothing​ (15 digs) and Julie Carbone (13 digs).​​

Stratford’s Sami Perley bumps the ball to a teammate during Wednesday’s game against Bunnell. (Photo by John Nash)

The Bulldogs opened leads of 6-2 and 8-5 to start the match​ before Stratford reeled off eight straight points to take ​control of the opening set at 13-8.​​

In the second set, however, Bunnell was in command from start​ to finish, surging out to an 8-0 advantage and building its ​lead to as much as 19-3.​​

With their confidence growing, the Bulldogs continued to​ play Stratford tough in the third set, grabbing a 13-10 lead​on Mia Noisette’s kill.​​

“I can’t get mad at the girls,” said Bunnell coach Daniel ​ Romaniello, whose team dropped to 0-14. “They fought until the​ very end. Obviously, its a rivalry that goes back for ages and​ they didn’t give up on me.​​ Game two was phenomenal. I wish we could have pushed a little​ harder after that and carried that into game three but, ​unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us. They gave us chances ​ and we didn’t take advantage of them, a lot of balls into the ​net. Just didn’t get it done.” ​​

The third set remained tight with four ties before Stratford​ broke a 17-17 deadlock with three straight points.

Bunnell got ​within 22-21 before Stratford scored the final three points​ to go up two sets to one.​​

Early in the match, however, Buccieri thought her team was getting​ outplayed.

​​”I knew they wanted it badly,” she said. “They were just​ ready to play. It seemed like they were on top and we were​ kind of flat and very, very slow. It got kind of scary in​ the beginning and I really thought that Bunnell was going to​ take it from us.”​​

Stratford extended its winning streak against Bunnell to​ six, sweeping the season series for the third straight year. ​​

“Their middles were phenomenal tonight,” Buccieri added. “I ​ saw more in their middles this game than the first time we ​played them and their serving was good. Thank God we stepped ​it up a little more and played better.”​​

Bunnell’s Ashley Rivera gets ready to serve the ball vs. Stratford on Wednesday night. (Photo by John Nash)

The final set also was close before Stratford took the lead​ for good at 14-13. At 20-18, the Red Devils reeled off the ​final five points to finally put away the Bulldogs.

Perley’s ​kill made it 24-18.​​

“We didn’t really take advantage fully of the free balls,”​ Romaniello said. “We had to get those free balls closer to the​net so that we could more aggressive with the kills at the net.​ That kind of slipped away from us in game four, unfortunately.​​ We were setting from the 13- 14-foot line rather than nice,​ quick two balls at the net, but they held their heads up​high the entire game. They really did fight.”

Stratford is back in action on Thursday at Platt Tech​ while Bunnell visits Pomperaug on Friday in its next match.​


Bunnell at Stratford Volleyball

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