By Dan Bahl
HAMDEN, Oct. 10 -- With the student section’s boisterous chants and the parents’ encouraging cheers raining down from the bleachers, and their rival from just down the street in the building, it seemed like the perfect storm for the Green Dragons to come away with an upset.
The Rams, however, had other things in mind.
Paced by a four-ace, three-kill performance from junior Elena Piran, Cheshire defeated Hamden Tuesday at Hamden High School in straight sets, 25-15, 25-16, 25-20.
The two teams jockeyed for the lead during the first set with Hamden evening the score at 11 apiece on a kill by junior outside hitter Maya Epps and an error by Cheshire’s Meagan Clyne. The Rams responded strongly, however, and the Green Dragons would manage just four more points in the set.
“Cheshire is pretty much one of the hardest teams that we face on our schedule,” said Hamden coach Patricia Shugrue. “(Cheshire) has a lot of strong hitters, and we’re not really used to that.”
Cheshire’s strong hitters picked up where they left off in the second set, tallying seven kills. That, in conjunction with a serving attack that racked up five aces, was too much for Hamden to handle as Cheshire took a 2-0 lead headed to the third set.
The third set followed a similar pattern, with Hamden taking a 13-12 lead on an ace from senior Faythe Johnson. Cheshire once again turned up the pressure, jumping out to a 24-16 lead, and needing just one point to win the match.
Unlike the first two sets, however, Hamden started to mount a comeback. The Green Dragons put up four straight points to close the deficit to 24-20, and the energy in the Hamden High School gym was palpable.
“They’re a really loud team,” Piran said. “We need to learn this from them.”
In the end, Cheshire was – once again – too much to handle, as a carry from Hamden’s Lauren Dooley sealed the victory for the Rams.
The difference between the two teams, although small, was clear. Cheshire handled the pressure that was put on them, while Hamden began to crack under it.
“We have to be able to get our serves in and get the right play over,” said Hamden senior Sophia Flanders.
With the win, Cheshire remains undefeated at 13-0, while Hamden drops to 12-2. The loss snaps an eight-match unbeaten streak for the Green Dragons.
The atmosphere in the gymnasium reminded both coaches of a state tournament match.
Considering that both teams are in Class LL in Connecticut, this may not be the last time that these two powerhouses meet.
“It’s something I told them right after the game,” Shugrue said. “These are the teams that we’re going to be playing in the state tournament.”
“We have our eye on a bigger prize farther down in the tournament,” said Cheshire head coach Sue Bavone said. “We just need to get better every day at something.”
Hamden looks to get back on track this Friday when it hosts Jonathan Law, while Cheshire tries to extend its perfect record to 14-0 when it hosts East Lyme on Wednesday.
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)