CLARK – After losing the first set, which it started with an 11-0 deficit, the Westfield High School girls volleyball team fought all the way back to clinch a spot in the Union County Tournament final.
Second-seeded Westfield edged third-seeded Cranford in a three-match decision, 25-21, 25-21, 25-15, in the UCT semifinals on Wednesday night at Arthur L. Johnson High School.
“I think in the first set we did not adapt to the officials’ calls because we’re not used to getting called on those things,” Westfield head coach Bev Torok said, referring to a handful of overlap penalties that the Blue Devils racked up. “Second set, we dug deep and we said, ‘Let’s breathe, let’s just play every point,’ and we got the mental aspect of our game back, and we carried that through.”
After that tumultuous first set, Westfield (16-4) came out in the second with far more composure. But Cranford (9-10) would not give up easily. The Cougars battled the whole way through, managing to keep the score within one point for most of the set. Heading into the third game with the score tied 1-1, the Blue Devils fed off their second-set momentum and ran away with the win.
“I think it was a mental thing,” Westfield senior captain Kelly Dorry said. “We kind of got in our own heads right in the beginning, but we’re used to fighting back, and I think we did a good job of it.”
Stephanie Borr led the Blue Devils in kills with 10. She also had three digs. Lizzy Sottung contributed with 29 assists and three aces, and Lindsay Miller recorded six kills, two aces, 18 assists and 14 digs.
Westfield will meet the other winning team of the night, top-seeded Union Catholic (17-5), in the UCT final at Kean University on Friday night.
Vikings get final spot
Union Catholic won in straight sets, 26-24, 25-13, over fourth-seeded Scotch Plains-Fanwood (13-8) in the other semifinal on Wednesday night.
For the entire first set, the Vikings and the Raiders remained within a point of each other. Every time one team would gain a point, the other would quickly come back with an answer to tie it.
The cheering sections for both teams were electric. The Arthur L. Johnson gym was filled with deafening cheers and raucous chants from both sets of bleachers that fueled the volleyball battle. But it was the Raiders fans who got a bit quieter after the first set.
Union Catholic came into the second game with momentum behind it. The Vikings scored six in a row before Scotch Plains-Fanwood had an answer. A three-point margin was the closest the Raiders could manage, making Union Catholic’s second-set victory an easy one.
“The goal was also to return to the county final,” Union Catholic head coach Nancy Saggio said. “We’re very happy to have done that. It’s not going to be easy — this will be our third time playing Westfield — but I think they kind of showed their vulnerability tonight, as did we. We struggled in our first game, and they struggled in their first game, so it’s going to be a good one.”
Westfield and Union Catholic met in the UCT final last season as well, and it was Westfield that walked away with the win. Union Catholic senior captain Julia Hayes sees this as an opportunity for revenge.
“It’s a huge win tonight,” Hayes said. “But last year, Westfield wound up beating us in the finals, so we’re definitely looking forward to playing them on Friday and getting our revenge.”
Staff Writer Alyssa Davis: firstname.lastname@example.org