By Dan Bahl
HAMDEN, Oct. 5 -- On the scoreboard, the match may have been over early. But the deficit didn’t change how Hamden High coach Patricia Shugrue executed her game plan. And, if Shugrue is fully entrenched in the game, you can bet that her team is, too.
Hamden controlled play throughout the match Wednesday night, racking up 12 aces en route to a 3-0 win against West Haven, winning each set by scores of 25-14, 25-12 and 25-15, respectively.
Hamden moves to 11-1, and Shugrue recognizes that it takes an entire team to elevate a program to this level of success.
“The team chemistry is there for them,” said Shugrue. “That’s one thing I enjoy watching with them -- they stick together, the work together, they fight.”
Hamden got off to a strong start in the first set, taking leads of eight and nine points before ultimately winning the set 25-14. Senior Tyra Smith paced the Hamden offense throughout the set, accumulating two kills and three blocks.
“I think our teamwork and communication pushed us to do as (well) as we did today,” Smith said.
Hamden’s dominant play continued into the second and third sets as Smith finished the game with 10 kills. Senior setter Sophia Flanders added 26 sets.
Smith realizes the importance of every game and works with her fellow seniors to set the tone of each match.
“We try to pick them up and motivate them to keep talking, keep making their passes to the setter, keep hitting,” Smith said.
Shugrue echoed this statement and her sideline demeanor showed it.
From the first serve of the game until the final point, she was straight-faced, arms crossed, showing her team that this is no time to quit.
“Sometimes they need to be reminded (to stay focused),” Shugrue said. “Sometimes they need to just look over, (and see my) arms crossed and my face and they know that I’m not happy with them.”
With the loss, West Haven falls to 2-9.
Hamden’s constant offensive pressure dominated West Haven, as the Blue Devils lost a number of points on aces from the Green Dragon servers. They fell behind early and never mounted a comeback.
“We didn’t run enough offense and score enough points,” Kate Coldren said. “We played a lot of defense. We couldn’t be aggressive enough to score points.”
Senior setter Megan Patterson led the West Haven offense as she put up three assists and two aces. She scored seven of the Blue Devils’ total points. Having been with the program for four years, Patterson recognized what has been going wrong for her team.
“I think we can stay focused and talk better,” Patterson said, “We don’t shake off our mistakes right away and we need to start doing that.”
The Green Dragons head out on the road as they play Wilbur Cross in a nonleague match on Friday, while the Blue Devils travel to Mercy High School to play the Tigers on Friday.
Hamden looks to extend its winning streak to eight matches, while West Haven will try to break a four-match skid.
“We just need to carry our momentum,” Shugrue said. “The competition in the second half of the season is always more and we need to continue to stay focused and never take any team lightly.”
“They didn’t give up,” Coldren said of her West Haven team, “It was good to see the energy and them not getting down on themselves and working together as a team.”
By Sarah Russell
CHESHIRE, Oct. 4 -- As the volleyball flew over the net and hit the floor of the Shelton High Gaels’ side of the court, players and coaches of the Cheshire Rams volleyball team were on their feet and cheering loudly. This was not the play that ended the game, but happened in the first set.
The Rams focused on bringing the noise tonight.
Cheshire defeated Shelton decisively, 3-0, in a Housatonic League match. The Rams remained undefeated as they took each set 25-8, 25-19, 25-10.
Communication was key for the Cheshire volleyball team, now 11-0. The team started the night on an eight-point run, cheering louder for each other with each added point.
“One of the big things we’ve been stressing in practice is really talking and being loud on the court and I thought we did a really good job of that today,” Cheshire coach Sue Bavone said. “The more we talk, the more fluid our game was.”
“Lately we’ve been working on talking a lot and today we were really determined to get out and show our coach how we can talk,” senior Brady McQuade said. “We were loud and energetic. The other team, they got loud at some points, but we maintained our game.”
McQuade was on the court most of the night tallying six kills, four digs, two aces and one block.
Senior captain Karly Pedbereznak showed how well she could communicate with her teammates through her play with 14 assists, along with three aces and two digs.
Cheshire was all over the ball all night. Libero, junior Nina Montagna, dove for every ball that was near her. She had 12 digs.
As junior Meagan Clyne jumped to block a ball that went just over her fingertips, Jenny Wang, another junior, was behind her, moving to hit the ball that was narrowly missed. These plays happened throughout the night, as the Rams communicated with each other more efficiently.
“When we’re communicating, we’re playing well,” Bavone said.
In the second set, Cheshire got quiet, giving Shelton the opportunity to step up, going on a seven-point run, bringing the score to 7-2. Shelton forced Bavone to call a time out, provoking cheers from the Gaels managerial staff.
“I told them, ‘(Shelton is) starting to pick up their intensity. They’re louder than us right now.’ I told them that we were doing things OK, but the thing that was slowing us down in the second game is that we stopped talking,” Bavone said. “I told them, ‘You’re doing a good job, but now what’s happening is you’ve got two people going for a ball, nobody’s talking, so we’re hesitating and we’re making dumb mistakes’.”
The Rams answered back with a seven-point run, taking back the lead for the rest of the game.
The 6-7 Gaels are a young team just overpowered by the Rams.
“Every game is a work in progress,” Shelton coach LeAnne Bianchine. “I have a lot of young kids. The future’s bright. We may get our butts kicked, but we don’t give up.”
By Sarah Russell
CHESHIRE, Sept. 27 -- Cheshire High School coach Sue Bavone knew her team's volleyball match against Foran would be a tough one, but her team proved it was ready to stay undefeated this season. But, for only the second time this season, the Rams needed to play four sets to get their eighth win.
The Cheshire Rams are 8-0, defeating the 8-2 Foran Lions.
The Rams took the first two sets, 25-15 and 25-19. The Lions came back in the third set, though, 25-18. In the fourth set, Cheshire sealed its victory, 25-11.
“In the first two games I thought we served tough,” said Bavone. “I thought we really stressed their passers and served a little bit tougher than normal.”
Foran coach Julie Johnson agreed.
“They had really tough servers who keep the ball inbounds, you know, not a lot of serving errors. It really kind of messed up our offense,” said Johnson. “We had a hard time getting offense because we just could not get a good pass because their serves were so tough.”
The Rams had the numbers to prove it. Sophomore Lindsey Abramson had four aces on the night, followed by juniors Megan Clyne with three and Elena Piran, who had two aces.
Piran led the team with 11 kills and Abramson had nine.
Clyne added nine kills, two blocks, two assists and two digs.
“We just came into this game pumped, we wanted to win,” Clyne said. “We knew this team was good and we had similar records, so we were like, ‘Well, we’ve got to take this one here. We’ve got to fight through.’ Our passes were on point, I felt like, and (we) had good ups and the sets were there.”
In the third set, the Lions took a lead of 12-8. The Lions did it again later in the set -- this time a seven-point scoring run to bring the score to 24-18.
Bavone didn’t let her team give up after the third set, though.
“I just said they need to get back on a rhythm, they need to treat this as a threat, which it is. I said the momentum now is on their side, we need to get the momentum back and you do that by pressuring them,” said Bavone.
“It’s all in the head, it’s all mental game stuff, so I mean we had to pick ourselves back up,” said Clyne. “We know how to play volleyball, we’ve been doing it for years.”
Cheshire used the momentum to create havoc and Foran struggled with communication, often running into each other or several players diving for the same ball. The mayhem cost the team points and Cheshire used a run of five points to clinch the final set.
The Rams face East Lyme at 6 p.m., Friday.
By Ryan Chichester
CHESHIRE, Sept. 18 -- Prior to Monday night's match, Cheshire High School head volleyball coach Sue Bavone praised the Hamden Green Dragons for their 4-0 start to the season, but believed her Rams would provide a major test for an up-and-coming Hamden team looking to make a statement on the road.
Turns out, it would be Bavone’s Rams receiving the major test.
Hamden pushed Cheshire against the ropes through the first two sets, but eventually succumbed to the favored Rams in three sets, 25-20, 25-20, 25-15, for their first loss of the young season.
The fourth-ranked Rams remain undefeated (4-0) and have yet to lose a set this season. However, this one didn’t come easy.
“They’re the best team we’ve seen so far this year,” Bavone said, who notched the 493rd win of her career with the hard-fought victory. “It’s always good to have a good challenge and to come out of a challenge with a win and build on it.”
It was clear from the opening serve that it would be an uphill climb for the Rams. After jumping out to an 8-3 lead, the Green Dragons responded with a 14-5 run out of a timeout to take a 17-13 lead, causing Bavone to burn both of her timeouts within minutes of each other.
“I basically told them they were playing like they were scared,” Bavone said of her timeout speech. “Nobody was taking charge… I told them they had to come to play. I didn’t like their body language. I wanted to see something different.”
Hamden still held a 19-15 lead shortly out of the timeout, but quickly imploded.
Three consecutive errors on the back line helped the Rams grab momentum before junior Jenny Wang stood tall and led Cheshire to five straight points to seal the 25-20 victory. Wang recorded five of her eight kills in the first set.
“It was nerve-wracking at first, but after a couple points it started to flow and felt better,” Wang said of the first-set scare.
The first set would also have its share of controversy.
At 20-20, a sprawling save by Cheshire's Elena Piran led to a battle at the net that was originally ruled a point for the Rams after the ball made contact with the antenna. The judge on the opposite side reversed the call seconds later, but a collaboration of officials eventually led to a re-reversal, much to the despair of Hamden head coach Patricia Shugrue.
“From where I was standing, when they went to block the ball, it stayed on their side and touched the antenna,” Shugrue said. “At the end of the day, they’re in charge and they call the game.”
Hamden continued to shoot itself in the foot on serves in the second set, committing six serving errors to foil the comeback effort. The Green Dragons rattled off a 6-0 run late in the set to set up another exciting finish, but another service error cut the rally short.
“Serving hurt us tonight,” Shugrue said. “We missed some serves from servers who normally don’t miss.”
After two gritty sets, Cheshire began to flex its experienced muscles while the Green Dragons committed another five serving errors, one that would spark a 7-1 Cheshire run to bury the Green Dragons.
“We have very strong servers and we’re constantly working on consistency,” Hamden captain Sophia Flanders said, “but we have to work through those struggles.”
Cheshire’s big front line kept Hamden busy for most of the night, especially senior Faythe Johnson, who recorded a match-high 14 digs for the Green Dragons.
“We have to take our experiences from today and learn from them,” Shugrue said. “There’s some adjustments that we need to make. But, our girls our fighters, and the next time we play Cheshire it’s going to be a little different.”
Hamden hosts the rematch at 5:30, Tuesday, Oct. 10.
Students in Quinnipiac University's JRN361: Sports Reporting course cover local high school sports competitions. Their work is showcased here.
Banner photo courtesy
Dana Jensen/The Day (2003)