Eagles soar past Hawks in Class M quarterfinals

Jonathan Law's Jackie Kochiss sets the ball in the Eagles' 3-1 victory over Woodland in the Class M quarterfinals. (Photo by Russ McCreven)

Jonathan Law's Jackie Kochiss sets the ball in the Eagles' 3-1 victory over Woodland in the Class M quarterfinals. (Photo by Russ McCreven)

MILFORD — There were no visions of vicious RHAM hitters or precise setters in the minds of the Jonathan Law volleyball players as they went into attack mode against Woodland Regional in a Class M quarterfinal game last Friday night.

The mission on the minds of the Eagles was to defeat a well-balanced Hawks’ team, then think about moving on and the possible matchup for the third straight year RHAM, another regional high school covering the towns of Hebron, Andover and Marlboro.

It took a little more than expected, but fourth-seeded Law downed its pesky opponent, 3-1, and the Eagles will indeed get another chance to meet RHAM.

Losers in last year’s final and defeated in the semifinals the previous season, Law met RHAM, the two-time defending M champs last night in Middletown, after press time.

The fifth-seeded Eagles (21-2) breezed through Games 1 and 2 by respective scores of 25-12 and 25-16 against the Hawks.

That’s when Woodland coach Jim Amato implemented a few changes.

It worked.

Woodland won the third game, 25-23, then battled hard in Game 4 before falling, 25-22.

The Hawks (20-3) fell behind early in Game 3, trailing 3-2, after a Leigh Hunt kill. They charged back, holding the lead all the way up before losing it at 22-21 when junior Caitlin Stapleton blocked a shot.

“We got a little down and got lazy,” said Law senior outside hitter Casey Dulin, whose 26 kills led the way. “They began digging everything. It showed us that we have to play our best at all times.”

The front line hitting trio of Dulin, Stapleton (11 kills) and junior Meaghan Abbott (12 kills) proved to be too much for Woodland.

“We changed things up and tried to find a way to neutralize their offensive game,” Amato said. “It’s something we do well. We have made a habit of coming back all season long.

“Law was a team that wasn’t going to fade. We needed to put them away. Unfortunately, we couldn’t.”

Law coach Stacy Loch said: “We have to expect teams to play that way against us. After all, this is the quarterfinal round of a state tournament, not a regular-season game. My team has got to understand that.

“I think we started to get down just a bit mentally. That’s when you have to step it up. Keep playing technically sound. You’re constantly learning in volleyball.”

Sophomore setter Jackie Kochiss had 43 assists for the Eagles. On the defensive side, Shayna Calandro had 19 digs, Abbott added 18 and Amanda Keator had 16.

For Woodland, Erika Barnett had 10 blocks, Stephanie Badale added six kills and 14 digs and Jessica Patrizi had 21 assists.