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Class L state tournament: WA advances to 2nd round

It wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot better.

Since losing in the Eastern Connecticut Conference quarterfinals to Fitch, the Woodstock Academy volleyball team has been concentrating on one aspect of the game- serve/receive.

That practice appeared to be worthwhile on Tuesday when the 12th-seeded Centaurs shutout No. 21 Brookfield, 3-0, at the Alumni Fieldhouse in a Class L state tournament first-round match.

“It’s great to be moving on to the second round. It was one of our big goals and, hopefully, we can keep pushing through the next few rounds but this is what we wanted,” senior Morgan Bonin said.

Woodstock Academy will go on the road to the shoreline on Thursday as it plays No. 5 Guilford in a second-round match at 6 p.m.

The Grizzlies received as first-round bye.

“The receive was better although it’s still not at the level I want it to be. There are still too many balls catching us off guard that we’re struggling to get to. We tightened up a bit, though, and when we did that, we’re extremely effective. We have to pass better and if we do that, we will have even better results than we did (vs. Brookfield),” Woodstock Academy coach Adam Bottone said.

The other side of the equation, the service, was also more effective.

The Centaurs had only two errors in the first game, six in the second and four in the third. They also had 11 aces, four by Liliana Bottone, three by Cassidy Ladd and two by Bonin.

The biggest takeaway from that, however, was the errors did not come at crucial times in the match.

“The first set we only had those two errors which was really good. I thought that was going to continue but then we had more than we wanted as the game went on but they weren’t debilitating to the team and that’s something we’ve worked on,” Adam Bottone said.

A big example of that came in the first two sets as the Centaurs scored nine of the final 13 points in each against the Bobcats (9-12) to win by the identical score of 25-16.

“That’s all we’ve been working on for the past few practices and the hard work has paid off,” Bonin said.

The third set was a bit more difficult as Brookfield pulled within one, 21-20.

A kill by Leila MacKinnon, one of her five in the match, put Woodstock Academy back up by two and then Reegan Reynolds (5 kills) followed with a kill of her own to make it 23-20.

Bonin delivered just about the finishing touch with her fourth block of the match, but a service error delayed the celebration for just a moment. The Centaurs wrapped things up, 25-21, when the Bobcats were called for a net violation.

It was a win in what was likely the last match ever at the Alumni Fieldhouse for seniors like Bonin.

“It’s definitely sad being my senior year, last home game, but still a lot of fun and I’m glad we’re going to keep playing,” Bonin said.

Bonin also learned her season will be extended by one match.

She has been chosen to play in the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Senior Class LL-L Senior All-Star match to be played at Maloney High School in Meriden on Nov. 21 at 6 p.m.

“I’m so excited. That’s going to be a lot of fun,” Bonin said. “I don’t know what to expect to be honest, but I’m just excited to see what it brings.”

Several opposing coaches had suggested Bonin should be chosen to play in the Senior event and Adam Bottone was pushing for her selection.

“I think she has definitely earned the right to be there,” the Woodstock Academy coach said. “She is one of the girls out here who is serious, plays year-round, gets after it and stays confident. It’s nice to see her be rewarded for the time she puts in.”

Liliana Bottone paced the Centaurs will 11 kills against Brookfield while fellow sophomore Sophie Gronski had 21 assists.

The Centaurs have history with Guilford.

The Grizzlies downed Woodstock Academy, 3-2, in the Class L semifinals in 2019.

“We just have to make the minor changes that we need to make and now, it’s all about mental toughness. We’ve got the skills, we have the people in the right spots, we can make things happen. We just have to be confident,” Adam Bottone said.