Ledyard - Shirley Karkow implored her Ledyard High School volleyball team to stop trying to be perfect Monday night.
The Colonels listened and did something their predecessors had never done — reach the state semifinals.
Ledyard rallied back to beat sixth-seeded Foran of Milford 25-22, 19-25, 23-25, 25-8, 15-8 in a CIAC Class M quarterfinal game.
The No. 3 Colonels (17-5) will play No. 2 Weston on Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.
It looked as if Ledyard had wasted its chance to win in Game 3. First it allowed a five-point lead to disappear. The Colonels later rallied from a five-point deficit and tied the match at 23 with the serve, but still lost game.
Through three games, Foran (14-7) was the more consistent team defensively and with serve. The Colonels had a significant height advantage, but couldn't take advantage due to passing and defensive errors.
That's when Karkow settled her team down.
"When you try so hard to be perfect, you tend to make more errors, I think," Karkow said.
Kyle Fustini said, "We calmed down a little bit because we were getting a little frazzled. We just focued on every single point as if it were the last. Play to win. Play to stay. That's how we got through."
Fustini, Ledyard's only senior, had 22 kills and three blocks at middle hitter. Sophomore middle hitter Michelle Klinikowski added 13 kills, 10 digs and five blocks.
Sophomore Jennifer Nohara had 19 assists and junior Brianna Riley added 17 assists.
Riley played a huge role in Game 4. She served first for her team and disrupted Foran's consistent serve-receive.
Riley served two aces as Ledyard took a 6-0 lead. It went ahead by as much as 12 points in that game (14-2).
"It was either win or go home, and I didn't want to go home," Fustini said.
The Colonels also figured out a defensive adjustment all on their own against Fallon Bevino (22 kills), the Lions' best hitter. Bevino often attacked from the back row.
"She reminded us a lot of Plainfield's Morgan Griffin," Karkow said. "That's what they said — 'Should we (defend her) like we do with Morgan?'
"'(I said), 'Yeah, like that.'"
Foran had a 6-5 lead and the serve in Game 5 when Klinikowski tipped a ball over for a kill.
Klinikowski stepped to the service line and took apart the Lions. They struggled to receive her serve and either made an error, or overpassed the ball to the net.
Fustini made Foran pay twice for an overpass with two monsterous solo kills.
"I like overpasses," Fustini chuckled.
By the time Klinikowski was done, Ledyard had a 12-6 lead. Fustini finished the match with a kill.
"They're just a good all-around team," Foran coach Julie Johnson said of the Colonels. "Their middles (Fustini and Klinikowski) are outstanding."