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Week 2: Centaurs now 4-0

Last year, the Woodstock Academy volleyball team won five matches in total.

The Centaurs have almost matched that total in the first two weeks of the 2022 season.

Woodstock Academy raised its record to 4-0 with its second win of the season over Ledyard, 3-1, on Friday on the road.

“It’s definitely nice,” said coach Adam Bottone. “We have a few more games coming up that put us in a good position to potentially qualify for (the state tournament) early on. I knew we would take our lumps last year with being so young and it’s starting to pay off now.”

The freshmen of last year are sophomores this year and they are already making an impact.

Liliana Bottone has been solid as an outside hitter.

“We’re so happy. We can’t believe it,” Liliana Bottone said of the fast start. “Last year, we didn’t do so hot and this year, we’ve come together and are really working. The chemistry is so good. None of us have any issues with each other. We’re always together.”

Sophie Gronski has been getting better and better at setter and Cassidy Ladd is one of the most consistent behind the service line for Woodstock Academy.

“The young girls are certainly coming through when we need them,” Adam Bottone said.

Liliana Bottone led the way against Ledyard with 13 kills while senior Morgan Bonin contributed 10 kills and five aces. Junior Reegan Reynolds added six kills and was equal to Bonin from behind the service line with five aces.

Gronski had a big day with 28 assists.

The Centaurs won 25-15 and 25-23 and then Adam Bottone decided to rotate in some younger players.

“We tried to get those girls some playing time and experience. The starters can come back in and get the job done and win. I don’t mind losing a set here and there to get the girls some experience,” the Woodstock Academy coach said.

The Centaurs did lose the third set to the Colonels, 26-24, but easily won the fourth, 25-16.

The win followed an emotional victory over Bacon Academy the night before when the Centaurs paid tribute to Woodstock Academy football quarterback Braiden Saucier at the Alumni Fieldhouse between the second and third sets.

The crowd got into it when senior Leila MacKinnon announced she was sending a video message to the quarterback, who is recovering from a medical emergency suffered during a football game on Sept. 9, from both the team and the fans in attendance.

“It was so special. We wanted to wait just to make sure everyone was here because of practices and stuff that ended around the time that our game started, but it was so special. We just wanted to get everyone involved,” Bonin said.

As far as the match was concerned, the Centaurs were dominant in the first two sets but then had to hold off a Bacon Academy club in the last two to score a 3-1 victory over the Bobcats.

The Centaurs took the first two sets by identical 25-19 scores.

But Bacon Academy rallied to take the third set, 25-17.

And the fourth was pretty contentious.

The Bobcats (2-1) took a 21-20 lead off a service error by the Centaurs.

But MacKinnon, off a nice set by Gronski (30 assists), delivered a kill from the middle that tied the set at 21.

That kill gave the ball to sophomore Destiny LaMarre.

The lefty went behind the service line and delivered an ace to put the Centaurs ahead to stay.

An illegal hit by Bacon Academy made it 23-21 and another ace by LaMarre put the Centaurs at match point.

LaMarre had a ervice fault when she was put in by Adam Bottone earlier in the match but the coach showed his confidence in the youngster.

“You have to do that,” Adam Bottone said. “You have to give the kids who are playing confidence, put them in in tough situations. She was disappointed about not making that first serve but I want them to understand that they can go in for tough moments and rise to the occasion. She did that.”

The Bobcats staved off defeat when Meghan Walsh delivered a hard ball to the floor but a service error resulted in the 25-22 Woodstock Academy victory.

“It was really fun and got some nerves out of the way. It makes you feel like you did something and it was so much fun to come back and win after losing that (third) set,” Liliana Bottone said.

Bottone led the way with 14 kills and five digs.

Reynolds added seven kills for the Centaurs.