Guilford defeats Law in SCC volleyball semis

Guilford junior Emma Appleman is well known around the state for her offense. Appleman and her Guilford teammates showed they are more than just an offensive-minded squad.

Behind a stellar team defense and a pair of easy wins to start the match, top-seeded Guilford defeated fourth-seeded Jonathan Law 3-1 Thursday evening in a Southern Connecticut Conference semifinal match at Guilford High.

With the 25-8, 25-14, 12-25, 25-14 victory, the Indians earned their fourth SCC title game appearance, where they will take on second-seeded Shelton, a 3-2 winner over third-seeded Cheshire, for the SCC title Saturday evening at East Haven High at 6 p.m.

“Our defense was huge for us tonight,” Appleman said after finishing with nine digs. “We really put an emphasis on defense for this game. We did not want to let anything drop. We worked on that a lot in practice and that was our expectation going into this game.”

Appleman, who also finished with 22 kills, helped her team get off to a quick start in the contest as Guilford allowed the first point of the match then never trailed again in the opening two games. Appleman had three kills in a 7-0 run to set the tone of the first game, then added two more kills for a 12-4 advantage.

An ace by Appleman and kills by Eva Ott Hill and Emily Brouder had the Indians on top by 11, before an ace by Sabrina Zuniga and a kill by Megan McNamara extended the advantage to 20-6.

“Emma hits the ball really hard, but she can also place the ball,” Guilford coach Laura Anastasio said of Appleman. “She can take something off the ball as well. Emma can jump high enough where she can see the open court. She just places the ball so well.”

The Indians started the second game even quicker, running out to an 11-1 lead. Appleman had four kills in the run, and McNamara and Juliet Young each had aces.

While the offense was flowing, it was the defense which carried the play, forcing Law to work to earn its points. Young was the key as the junior libero finished the game with 18 digs, several of which kept the play going long enough for the Indians to garner points.

Law made a little bit of a run getting within 16-6 on a kill by Alexis Neider and 20-10 on a pair of Guilford errors, but the Indians closed the game with a kill by Zuniga for a 2-0 advantage.

“The first two games did not show who we are,” Law coach Stacy Loch said. “I pulled them together in a timeout and asked who they were. I wanted to know where my team was. But, the third game was the team we are. We were not able to come all the way back, and that was because of missed opportunities in games one and two. That drove the rest of it.”

Pushed to the brink, Law responded in the third game, taking its first lead since scoring the opening point of the contest. Law jumped out to a 10-5 advantage on a kill by Caroline Chesson, and after Guilford got within five, another kill by Chesson had Law rolling once again.

Maddie Lula increased Law’s lead to 18-11, and kills by Lula and Elma Radoncic gave Law a 21-11 advantage.

“We knew Law was better than the first two games,” Anastasio said. “They did not take us by surprise. They are a tough team and I am glad we showed that toughness to come back.”

Any thoughts of a Law comeback faded quickly in the fourth and decisive game as Appleman gave her team a 4-3 lead with a kill. Guilford never looked back, taking a six-point lead, before Law got as close as 13-12.

Brouder and Appleman helped seal Guilford’s trip to the finals as the pair combined for five kills in Guilford’s final nine points of the contest.

Brouder finished the contest with 12 kills, Young had three aces, and Eva Ott Hill finished with 25 assists. Lula led Law with 12 kills, Neider added six kills, Katie McNellis had eight digs and Eryn Mower had nine assists. Olivia Kowalski finished with six assists for Law.