BERLIN -- Three games into the Class M state semifinals on Wednesday evening, the Weston High girls volleyball team found itself in a familiar spot.
The second-seeded Trojans were scuffling, trailing 2-1, and anything short of a complete performance the rest of the way would likely spell the end of their season.
While they were able to recover from that position just two days earlier in the quarterfinals, they weren't so fortunate against a powerful Ledyard squad with a spot in the state finals on the line.
Weston fell behind early in the fourth game and never recovered, as No. 3 Ledyard pulled out a 3-1 win over the Trojans (25-21, 24-26, 26-24, 25-15) at Berlin High School.
"We made way too many mistakes and lost some confidence," Weston head coach Jamie Charles said. "We really had to be playing awesome tonight to get a (win), because they were tough."
Ledyard (17-4) was aggressive at the net from the start and rode its middle hitters, Kylie Fustini and Michelle Klinikowsi, to the program's first-ever appearance in the state final, Saturday against top-ranked Woodland (19-2) in East Haven.
Fustini led the Colonels with 25 kills and Klinikowski added 10 kills. Setter Brianna Riley recorded 22 assists.
"Our middles in particular have a lot of power," Ledyard head coach Shirley Karkow said. "Sometimes they get overly concerned about where they should hit the ball, and I just want to say, `Just hit the ball.'"
Ledyard used its aggression around the net to its advantage in the third game and pulled out to a commanding 19-12 lead. Weston furiously fought back and trimmed the Colonels' lead to 24-20, before reeling off four straight points to tie it.
The Colonels, however, retook the lead 25-24 on a kill by Arianna Fustini and closed out the game one point later on a Weston unforced error.
Despite trailing 2-1, Charles was confident that the Trojans could respond, and eventually end up on top. They came back from that deficit to win 3-2 against Rocky Hill in Monday's quarterfinal, and did so on many other occasions during the regular season.
"We're so used to that. They've done that so many times and they're able to push their way back," Charles said. "I called a timeout and said `Listen, we are so used to being in this situation and I know you're going to get fired up again and start to climb back. It just can't be too late.'"
Unfortunately for the Trojans, it was too late.
Ledyard stormed out to a 6-1 lead in the fourth game and led by as many as 14 points, 19-5. The Trojans got back to within 24-15 but Madison Canestrari sealed the game, and the match, with a kill.
"You've got to be such a tough team and tough player at this level," Charles said. "We really did make too many mistakes."
For Weston (18-4), Savannah Carpenter had 12 kills and 21 digs, while Taylor Swanson registered 14 digs, 11 service points and 25 assists. Anna Hengelbrok led the team with 23 digs.
Weston's lone win on the evening came during a back-and-forth second game that featured nine ties and five lead changes. The Trojans trailed by as many as four points, 13-9, in the second game before knotting it back up 14-14.
With the score tied 24-24, Carpenter gave the Trojans the lead for good with a kill.
The Trojans were unable to carry that same effectiveness into the remainder of the match after splitting the first two games.
"The hitters were having trouble getting around the blocks, so they started tipping. We made it pretty easy for them way too often," Charles said. "To win a game in the semifinals, you've really got to come out attacking."
Weston led 21-20 in the first game, but Ledyard scored five straight points--the final on a kill by Klinikowski--to win 25-21.
Sydney Weiss added 10 digs for Weston on the evening, while Frances Holmes had 21 digs and eight kills.
firstname.lastname@example.org; 203-255-4561 ext. 114; twitter.com/DougBonjour
No. 3 LEDYARD 3, No. 2 WESTON 1
LEDYARD 25 24 26 25--3
WESTON 21 26 24 15--1
Records: Ledyard 17-4; Weston 18-4.
Highlights: L--Kylie Fustini had 25 kills. Michelle Klinikowski had 10 kills. Brianna Riley had 22 assists. W--Savannah Carpenter had 21 digs and 12 kills. Anna Hengelbrok had 23 digs. Taylor Swanson had 25 assists, 14 digs and 11 service points.