Strong serves power Gaelettes’ sweep

A strong service game by the Shelton High girls volleyball team gave it a lead in every game, and coach LeAnne Bianchine’s club went on to sweep West Haven High, 3-0, in an SCC road match on Monday night.

“We’re getting better,” Bianchine said. “We’re still tweaking the lineup and moving our libero, Brooke Grand, around. Gina Orazetti is our defensive specialist and we look to control the back row.

“Defense wins championships. Mr. Gura (Howie) taught me that back in the day.”

Orazetti showed off her accurate serve in game one, when the junior stepped to the stripe first in rotation and had five straight winners, including four aces, to put Shelton on top 5-1.

Francesca Testani added an ace to start her turn in serve, before Orazetti passed to Nicole Beard, whose perfect set resulted in Emily Rogalin’s first kill of the match.

Beard took over serve with Shelton leading 13-8, and the senior added five winners. The most impressive point came on a great dig by Grand, which led to a Testani save followed by a Dominika Marczak kill.

“Dominika is a key player for us in the middle and is doing a good job,” Bianchine said of the junior.

Leading 17-8, Shelton coasted to a 25-17 game one win, with Testani closing things out with the Gaelettes’ sixth ace.

Shelton followed suit the next two games — getting into West Haven’s back row for aces.

Testani had three aces to start game two’s 25-21 win. Grand had two more to boost the lead to 9-3, and Beard bracketed a five-point run with a pair of unreturnable serves to boost the advantage to 15-7.

The Westies made things more difficult down the stretch in each game.

In game two, they put together multiple points in consecutive serves and forced three straight sideouts to get within 23-19.

A great sideline save by Testani on Talon Yahaya seemingly winning spike, saw West Haven turn its backs on the play to celebrate, and Kaitlyn Giangregorio’s resulting spike caught the Blue Devils off guard.

Orazetti’s one-arm dig led to a hitting error by the home team, and Shelton had a 2-0 lead in games.

The Gaelettes couldn’t create the same point separation in game three, as West Haven stayed in it the entire match.

Marczak had a pair of center kills, Kristen Sewell had a key point with Shelton leading 10-8, and the senior later won a pair of free balls at the net to extend the lead to 16-11.

Rogalin had a kill to the middle of the Westie defense, and after being turned back three times on one volley by Westie libero Cassidy Allen, Testani altered her shot and went up the near sideline for another winner and a 21-15 lead.

Beard had seven service points in game three, and Rogalin’s ace was followed by Testani tipping home the match point at 25-16, as the Gaelettes improved to 2-0 on the season.

“This is a good group,” Bianchine said.

“We survived a tough match with Branford (a 3-2 win on Sept. 11) and controlled the back row today.”