Balanced effort pushed Rams into first state volleyball final in program history

It was a total team effort that drove the Bristol Central girls’ volleyball team to its first state championship final.

Central won, 3-1, over third-seeded East Lyme on Wednesday night at Cromwell High School. The set scores were 25-15, 25-15, 22-25, 25-17. The Rams improved to a robust 19-7, and it was thanks to a strong effort from a multitude of players.

Up front, Central received double-digit kills from Maddie Lodovico (12), Lily Kirk (11) and Brooke Valentino (10). Olivia Clingan and Grace Higgins contributed seven kills apiece as the Rams displayed a balanced offensive attack.

Lodovico had two aces, but more impressively put 23 of her 24 serves in play (95.8%). Higgins had two aces and put 17 of her 19 serves in play (89.5) while Alex Rivera added two aces and put 19 of her 22 serves in play (86.4). Clingan had one ace and put a strong 13 of 14 serves in play (92.9).

Clingan was huge at the net with five total blocks (three solo, two assists). Kirk (2 solo blocks) and Valentino (2 block assists) also reached double digits. Defense was key for Central, which received a high of 22 digs from Sam Sklenka. Valentino and Rivera had 17 digs apiece, followed by Lodovico with 13, Higgins with 12 and Clingan with six.

Four players recorded at least one assist for Central. Rivera led the way with 43 assists while Sklenka contributed three. Sklenka (23) and Valentino (18) each recorded double-digit serve receives.

Central, led by fourth-year head coach Lance Pepper, has had a great season. It has been an historic one as well with a first appearance in a state championship match. It could become legendary Saturday with a victory.

PHOTO CAPTION: Members of the Bristol Central girls’ volleyball team were all smiles following Wednesday night’s state semifinal win in Cromwell. (Credit: Pete Wininger via Twitter)