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.
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Banner photo courtesy
Dana Jensen/The Day (2003)