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Thursday, December 12 High School Sports

Westhill sweeps Ludlowe, reaches first state final in 33 years

DARIEN — Two seasons ago, the Westhill volleyball team didn’t qualify for the FCIAC tournament and was knocked out of the state playoffs in one round.

Now, the Vikings are going where no Westhill team has gone in 33 years.

The Vikings delivered a tour de force performance as they shut out Ludlowe, 3-0, in the Class LL semifinals Wednesday at Darien High School. Westhill dominated the first two sets and then rallied to win seven of the final eight points in the third set for the 25-13, 25-13, 27-25 victory.

For the eight seniors on the Westhill roster, reaching the state final is a dream come true.

“This has been a dream of ours since we started freshman year,” Betsy Sachs said. “We have a lot of seniors, so this is our last time to do it. Watching it come together — everybody’s grown so much, even this season.”

Third-seeded Westhill (23-4) will square off against No. 8 Trumbull (20-4) in the Class LL championship match at East Haven High School at 7 p.m., Saturday. It’s Westhill’s first trip to a state final since 1986 and the Vikings last won a championship in 1980.

“I’m just so happy and proud of them for not letting up in that third set and fighting till the end,” Westhill coach Marianna Linnehan said. “They pushed until they won. If you go to set four or five, you never know what will happen. We had talked about finishing, if you’re up two against a good team, you need to finish, and they did that.”

For Ludlowe (22-4), it’s the end of the line for a great season and another group of seniors, who two weeks ago defeated Westhill for the FCIAC championship.

“This is a team I’m very proud of,” Ludlowe coach Meghan Skelton said. “We’ve accomplished a lot of things and we need to look at the whole picture and not just how it ended.”

It was a true team effort for the Vikings, with Gloria Twum playing a starring role. The senior hitter delivered across the board with nine kills, six digs, and five aces.

Sachs had a team-high 11 kills to go along with five digs, three blocks and three aces; Sophia Thagouras had 11 assists and five kills; Vana Servos had 17 assists and eight digs; Tamar Bellete had seven kills and three blocks; and Sanjana Nayak had 10 digs and five kills.

For Ludlowe, Maggie Nolan had nine digs; Amy Lumaj had seven kills and four blocks; and Jane Ransome had five kills.

After losing to the Falcons in the FCIAC finals, the Vikings wanted to come out flying.

“We were really hungry,” Twum said. “They beat us last time and we couldn’t let it go. We had to come out and beat them this round. It was the time to prove to everyone how good we are and we did it as a team.”

Westhill didn’t trail in the first two sets and posted matching 25-13 scores.

In the third frame, Ludlowe grabbed a 9-5 lead and held the advantage much of the way. After the Vikings rallied to tie it at 17-17, Ludlowe scored three straight points to go up 20-17 and eventually had set point at 24-20.

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The Vikings responded with five straight points to take a 25-24 lead. Ludlowe held off that set point, but Westhill was not to be denied. Sachs put down a kill and then had her final serve unreturned as the Vikings exploded in celebration.

“Something clicked in us and we were not going to lose,” Sachs said. “We were not letting the ball hit the ground, and we were going out swinging.”

“We had to keep playing, get the points, get to 25 and go home,” Twum said. “Our mentality was let’s just focus on one pass, one set, one hit, and we could come back and get it.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Gloria Twum, Westhill. Twum had one of her best efforts, contributing nine kills, five aces, six digs and 10 service points.

QUOTABLE

“Just walking around school this week, everybody’s cheering us on and it’s an amazing feeling. They want it for us too.” — Westhill senior Betsy Sachs

david.stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports

WESTHILL 3, LUDLOWE 0

LUDLOWE 13 13 25 — 0

WESTHILL 25 25 27 — 3

Ludlowe: Maggie Nolan 9 digs, 2 aces, 6 service points; Jane Ransome 5 kills; Amy Lumaj 7 kills, 4 blocks

Westhill: Gloria Twum 9 kills, 6 digs, 5 aces, 10 service points; Betsy Sachs 11 kills, 5 digs, 3 blocks, 3 aces, 10 service points; Sophia Thagouras 11 assists, 5 kills, 2 aces, 3 digs, 5 service points; Tamar Bellete 7 kills, 3 blocks, 1 ace; Sanjana Nayak 10 digs, 5 kills, 1 ace; Vana Servos 17 assists, 8 digs, 10 service points; Maddy Bautista 10 digs.

Records: Ludlowe 22-4; Westhill 23-4

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