By Eliot Schickler

eschickler@bcnnew.com

Despite being a match point away from pulling off the upset, the fifth-seeded Weston girls volleyball short fell short of making the SWC championships at home on Wednesday. Top-seeded Newtown defeated Weston 3-2 (13-25, 25-22, 21-25, 27-25, 15-11) in the SWC semifinals to raise its record to 17-3.

"It's tough to battle a tough team like Newtown when you make that many errors," Lady Trojans Coach Jamie Charles said. "It's tough to be disappointed we battled and played tough all the way through but had too many unforced errors."

Newtown will play third-seeded Bunnell for the SWC title on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Bethel. Weston dropped to 13-6 and will begin their quest for the Class M title on Monday.

The Lady Trojans had a 24-23 lead in the fourth game after senior co-captain Maggie Montelli (11 service points, one ace) served three straight points but she then served it past the service line to tie it up. Overall, Weston had 21 service errors, which is 21 points they gave away to the Lady Nighthawks.

"Our missed serves hurt us and Newtown did a good job of getting the ball into the middle," Lady Trojans senior co-captain Christina Welsh said.

No one can blame Welsh (19 kills, 12 service points, one ace, six blocks, 26 digs), who played her heart out and got to many balls, digging up what would have been kills against most other defenders, for the defeat. She also pounded the ball home well in the front row and was the only Weston server who had zero service errors and didn't give away any points.

The Lady Trojans looked like they were poised in pulling off the upset in the first two games after having a dominating performance in Game 1 and jumping out to a 13-6 lead in Game 2. Welsh had three service points that made it 9-4 and junior Jessy Gersh (10 service points, four aces, one kill, 31 assists) served two points that made it 13-6.

Especially in her service rally, Welsh hit the floor and came up with some of the toughest digs possible.

"Once they got to the middle, I tried to anticipate and cheat there," Welsh said.

However, Gersh's rally ended when she hit it over the line.

Newtown started to fight back with junior middle hitter Emma Herring (19 kills, six digs, four blocks, two aces) leading the way. Herring had five straight service points to tie it 14-14.

Welsh's defense and a block by sophomore Fran Holmes (five blocks, one kill, three digs) helped Weston reclaim the lead, 21-17.

However, the Lady Trojans had trouble handling the 5-10 Herring, who had a kill to force a sideout and two more kills and two blocks with junior Alyssa Finkenstadt (six digs, five blocks, one kill) serving. Finkenstadt served five straight points to give the Lady Nighthawks a 23-21 lead and ultimately the match with Herring delivering a kill and a block.

Weston came out strong in the third game and took a 9-3 lead after sophomore Hannah Ashmore (12 service points, five aces, 12 kills, five blocks, one assist) delivered six straight service points, two aces. Welsh had a block for the sixth point of the rally.

Gersh added three straight service points, two aces, to make it 13-4. However, the surge ended because her next serve barely went over the line.

The lead peaked at 10, 15-5, with Welsh delivering a kill off a Gersh to force a sideout. Welsh then served and had a dig in forcing a Newtown error but the lead didn't reach 11 points because of Herring's tip kill, which forced a sideout.

The Lady Nighthawks pulled within two, 21-19, with sophomore Amanda Rowan (12 kills) and junior Riley Wurtz (11 digs, seven kills, one ace) each delivering kills. However, Lady Trojan junior Lili Clement (four kills, 13 digs, one service point) had a dig which led to Holmes' block and forced a sideout. Ashmore had two blocks on Herring that made it 24-21 before Gersh closed out the game with a service ace.

Welsh continued her hitting prowess in the fourth game and put Weston on the verge of clinching, giving it an 8-4 lead. She knocked in a running kill from Gersh after getting a dig and then pounded home a deep kill from Gersh.

"Jessy really tried to give it to me at the net so I can go around the block," Welsh said. "I was trying to keep it away from their libero."

She was referring to Newtown junior Abby Doski (38 digs, one kill), who got to many balls. Overall, the Lady Nighthawks showed why they were the No. 1 seed with their defense in procuring 100 digs, which made a difference and Doski played well defensively as the match progressed.

Lady Trojan senior Sammy Fino (two service points, one ace, three digs) made it 9-4 with a service ace. Following the ace, Newtown crept in, mostly with Herring's kills. Sophomore Savannah Carpenter (one service point, one ace, one block, two kills, 13 digs) gave Weston a 14-12 lead with an ace but the Lady Nighthawks took a 21-18 lead, mostly through Herring.

Even when Herring didn't get the kills, it opened things up for Rowan and Carly Iwanicki (six kills, 18 digs), who delivered kills and gave Newtown a 21-18 lead. Rowan's tip made it 23-20 but Holmes came up with a block, setting the stage for Montelli's near-heroics.

After her serve that went to long, the Lady Nighthawks ended up pulling out the game.

A coin flip to determine who served ensued and Welsh won the toss and elected to serve. Newtown junior setter Jess Lynch chose the side of the court near the gym's entrance, the side that won the previous four games and ultimately the fifth one.

"We wanted Jessy to get out and serve first," Welsh said.

Ashmore hit well all night and gave the team a 3-2 lead with a service ace. Holmes' block made it 4-2.

"The key to our aggressive offense was communication and timing," Ashmore said. "Both were so important and hitting was a strength for us."

Welsh's kill made it 7-5 but a Rowan block turned the tide. Herring then had two kills and a block during Doski's serve to give the Lady Nighthawks a 9-7 lead and they never looked back.

"She [Herring] was definitely effective and able to beat our defense," Welsh said.

Charles said, "Newtown doesn't quit easily and you have to give them credit. Herring is a great blocker and got us thinking. She knows how to find the floor. She [Herring] has a lot of power, gets high and knows how to put the ball down."

Doski said, "Emma played amazing tonight and was the face in the front for us. She really helped us out, is an amazing player, gets better every day and I'm thrilled to play with her every day."

Newtown Coach Tom Czaplinski was impressed with his opponent.

"I don't think we ever had a game where we only had three service aces," he said. "Their serve-receive was great and they blocked well."

Despite the loss, the Lady Trojans left the gym feeling good about themselves and are ready to make a run for the Class M title.

"We're still proud because we thought we deserved to win tonight," Welsh said. "It will motivate us and push us for States. We made too many mistakes tonight but we have nothing to be ashamed of and we're excited for States."