Girls volleyball: Panthers advance with sweep

Brianna Craig had seven kills for Masuk in the Maloney match. — Andy Hutchison photo

The 11th-seeded Masuk High girls volleyball team swept No. 22-seed Maloney of Meriden, 3-0 (25-14, 25-9, 25-17), in the first round of the Class state tournament on Monday.

Coach Bryan Coloma’s Panthers improved to 16-5 and will meet No. 6 Joel Barlow (18-3) in the second round on the road today at 6. The SWC rivals split a pair of regular-season matches.

Ana Castro-Rodriguez had 30 assists, three aces and a block, Brianna Craig had seven kills and a block, and Paige Hine had nine kills and two blocks for Masuk.

Ali Lichvar had four kills and four digs, Emily Steffens recorded five aces to go along with four kills, and Olivia Collins compiled five kills.

The triumph was a product of the team’s hard work, culminating with the days leading into the start of states.

“We’re going into every game looking to play the very best we can play,” Coloma said after the win over the Spartans. “It’s a credit to the girls. They worked really hard the last couple of days in practice.”

After Maloney seized a 12-11 lead in game three, the Panthers called for time. Out of the break, Masuk reeled off five straight points and never looked back.

Courtney McCoy had a pair of aces during the run. The Panthers then answered a Maloney point with three in a row, highlighted by a pair of Collins spikes.

Kills by Lichvar and Hine ended the match.

Teamwork was the key to the win, by design.

“The entire team worked together. We all worked to get this win,” Lichvar said. “I think our offense was really good. We earned a lot of points as opposed to feeding off the other team’s mistakes.”

Coloma said, “We talked about it at the start of postseason, we really have to make sure we do everything as a team, we work as a team, we play every point as a team, and we pick each other up.”

In Coloma’s first year with the team, the Panthers won five regular-season matches. They nearly doubled that total last fall with nine victories, and again had a significant increase in the win column this autumn.

“It shows, over two years, we’ve built this program back up. And we’re really happy with where we are now,” Lichvar said.

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