Foran advances to Class L semifinals
MILFORD — Everyone was searching their memory banks last Saturday night, trying to remember the last time a Foran volleyball team reached the semifinals of a state tournament.
Most believed you’d have to go all the way back to 1975 when Edna Fraser, who was in attendance, coached the Lions.
They were pleasant thoughts, however, because they came in the aftermath of Foran’s exhilarating 3-2 Class L quarterfinal victory over East Lyme.
It was not only a win that propelled the Lions to an 18-3 record, it also earned them the trip to the semifinals.
Foran will meet top-ranked Darien tonight (Nov. 19) at 5 p.m. at Fairfield Ludlowe High School. The winner of that match will advance to Saturday’s 4 p.m. final at Berlin High School.
It took an explosive shot from outside hitter Nicole Weichner (her 17th kill of the match) that went off two East Lyme defenders and fell just out of the grasp of a third to finally put away a resilient group of Viking players who had only one senior in their starting lineup.
“I’m really proud of my kids because we did this after a shaky start,” Foran coach Julie Johnson said. “They (East Lyme) gave us as much as we could handle tonight.
“Our players, however, rose to this occasion. We’re going to need as much or even more resolve if we’re going to beat Darien.”
No less than 45 points were scored by both teams in the first four games.
East Lyme, which came in as the 12th seed and defeated Pomperaug-Southbury, 3-1, to reach the quarters, took the first game 25-23 before Foran rebounded with victories in Game 2, by a 25-22 score, and Game 3, by a 25-20 score.
The Vikings (13-9) then came right back, taking the fourth game, 25-20, to force the tiebreaker.
“Even though we lost tonight, we never broke,” East Lyme coach Jack Biggs said. “And, when you consider that it comes from a group where only one senior starts, that’s pretty incredible.
“We played this well under pressure tonight because we played a very difficult schedule all season long. We had a few matches like this under our belts, although they weren’t in such a pressure situation.”
Foran got off to a good start in Game 5, taking a 2-0 lead on a pair of kills from Weichner.
Weichner put the finishing touches on her 16th kill, allowing the Lions to nudge ahead 4-1.
But the Vikings came back.
They pulled even at 9-9 before going ahead, 10-9, on a Foran error.
A service ace by Christine Durkee and an unforced error by the Lions gave East Lyme a two-point cushion at 12-10.
At this point, Foran’s players dug down deep.
An East Lyme hitting error made it 12-11 and Genna Savoca’s service ace created an even game, at 12-12, before Carli Matrisian’s point gave the Lions their final lead, 13-12.
Weichner got a point and her final kill put the match away.
“We needed that kind of game from someone tonight and Nicole got it for us,” Johnson said. “This group has worked so hard all year long and many of them were on our teams that didn’t do so well. We’re going to enjoy this for about a day, then get back to work to get ready for Darien.”
In addition to Weichner, Foran’s libero, Alyssa Healey, had 17 digs and junior setter Sage Esposito had 42 assists.
“She (Esposito) made the difference tonight,” Biggs said. “She’s as good as any setter that we’ve seen all season long.”
Both Raeann Nesta and Rebecca Anderson had 10 kills each for East Lyme.
Foran reached the quarterfinals after a 3-0 second-round victory over Platt-Meriden last Thursday night in Milford.
The Lions won by game scores of 25-19, 25-13 and 25-16.